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My ramblings on the stuff that holds it all together
Getting ESX (in it’s various versions) to run under VMware Workstation has proven to be a very popular article on this blog, if you are a consultant who has to do product demos of VI3/vSphere or are studying for your VCP it’s a very useful thing to be able to do on your own laptop rather than rely on remote connections or lugging around demo kit.
Good news; the RC build of vSphere will boot under the latest VMware Workstation build (6.5.2) without any of the .vmx hackery you had to do in previous versions and it seems quite fast to boot.
Bad news: the RC build of vSphere needs at least 2GB of RAM to boot, this is a problem for a laptop with 4GB of RAM as it means you can only really run one at a time.
Luckily: Duncan Epping (or VCDX 007; licenced to design :)) has discovered how you can hack the startup script to allow it to run in less than 2GB of RAM – details here, this isn’t officially supported – but it does work.
In the interests of science I did some experimentation with VM’s with various amounts of decreasing RAM to see what the bare minimum RAM you can get away with for a VM’d version of vSphere RC.
The magic number seems to be 768Mb of RAM, if you allocate less than this to the VM then it results in a Purple Screen of Death (PSOD) at boot time.
Note – this may change for the GA/RTM final version – but these are my findings for RC
The relevant section of my /etc/vmware/init/init.d/00.vmnix file looks like the following (note it won’t actually boot with 512mb assigned to the VM)
Some screen captures of the vSphere RC boot process below
And finally the boot screen once it’s finished – it takes 2-3 mins with 768Mb of RAM on my laptop to get to this boot screen.
I am doing this on a Dell D620 with 4Gb RAM and Intel VT enabled in the BIOS, running Vista x86 and VMware Workstation v6.5.2 build 156735
I haven’t tried, but I assume I can’t power on VM’s under this instance of vSphere but I can connect them to a vCenter 4 machine and practice with all the management and configuration tools.
VMWare ESXi (aka ESX 3i) is about to be available free, pricing kicks in 28th July and the attached doc shows an overview of the features in each edition as you step up.
Basic principal is you can start with ESX3i for free (rather than full ESX @$1k), then add licence keys to enable production features like VMotion, HA etc.
It’s useful for dev/PoC projects which could then move to production later on by adding licences but with a reduced upfront cost. It avoids having to use and migrate from the free Windows/Linux version of VMWare Server when moving into a production class system and this gives a further one-up on Microsoft’s Hyper-V release a couple of weeks ago.
You should note that ESX3i is currently a bit more limited than the normal base ESX installation as there is no service console so no ability to install host based HPSIM/backup/etc. agents. That said, it’s been speculated that the next major release of full–blown ESX (4.x) will move to this model as well.
ESX3i is available from some HW manufacturers as embedded boot from flash in specific server models or is a downloadable installer with a small disk footprint (c.32Mb).
I have to wonder if the name change is a bit OTT – VMWare ESXi said fast in an English accent is“VMWaresexy”? 🙂
As noted here there is a doc that has been jointly produced between VMWare and Cisco which has all the details required for integrating VI virtual switches with physical switching.
Especially handy if you need to work with networking teams to make sure things are configured correctly to allow failover properly between redundant switches/fabrics etc. – it’s not as simple as it looks, and people often forget the switch-side configurations that are required.
Doc available here (c.3Mb PDF)
Following on from my earlier post I upgraded my installation to the new build of 6.5. it un-installed the old build and re-installed the latest without a problem, took about 30mins and required a reboot of the host OS.
All my previously suspended XP/2003 VM’s resumed ok without a restart but needed an upgrade to the VMTools which did require a restart of the guest OS – all completed with no problems.
Now, onto installing ESX….
I used the settings from Eric’s post here to edit my .vmx file
ethernet0.virtualDev = “e1000”
monitor.virtual_exec = “hardware”
monitor_control.restrict_backdoor = “true”
Note – you need to select an x64 Linux version from the VM type drop down, if you have to go back and change it via the GUI after you’ve edited the .vmx file it overwrites the Ethernet card “e1000” setting to “vlance” so you need to edit again otherwise the ESX installer won’t find a compatible NIC and won’t install.
it was initially very slow to boot; 5mins on my dual core laptop with only one error – which was expected..
To improve the performance I changed my installation to run the non-debug version of the Workstation binaries (rename the vmware-vmx.exe to vmware-vmx-debug.exe)
note: this isn’t recommended unless you know what you are doing, VMWare will rely on the output from the debug version of the code if you need to report any issues)
It also seems to work for the installable version of ESX 3i… (although I’ve not quite figured out the point of that version yet :)).
it did fail with an error the 1st time round..
this was because I had specified an IDE disk as per the ESX instructions, I changed it to a SCSI one and it worked ok.
The ESX 3i install has a footprint of about 200Mb on disk, and ESX 3.5 uses 1.5Gb.
I’m going to keep the 3.5 install on my laptop and will try to use linked clones to maintain a couple of different versions/configs to save disk space.. I’m sure I could knock up a quick script to change the hostname/IP of each clone – if I do I’ll post it here.
Why would you want to do this? well because you can, of course 🙂 and its handy for testing patch updates and scripts for ESX management etc.
I will also try to get a ESX DRS cluster running under workstation with a couple of ESX hosts and shared storage over iSCSI using something like OpenFiler as shown here. won’t exactly be production performance, but useful for testing and demo’ing.