ESXi 6.0 on low end hardware (part one)

By | January 2, 2016

I recently blew away all my low power vm lab running XenServer 6.5 and installed Vmware ESXi 6.0. Why I am not exactly sure but I just got bored with XenServer. Not that it’s doesn’t work or anything, in fact in my environment it did probably mostly everything I wanted. However I usually do this once a year, ie just blow it all away and start again.

So I was looking on the Vmware compatibility site and noticed that the NICS in my low power server is now supported in ESXi 6.0 where this was a hack in 5.5, so I thought why not. However last time I did this I got a bit annoyed that after the trial period ran out I couldn’t do much. It was here that I noticed vCenter Server Essentials which has a license entitlement for 3 servers with up to 2 processors each. As I have three servers here this looked like a good option to have Vmware legally licensed at home. It also includes updates for 3 years at a small additional cost so I sprung for VMware vSphere Essentials Kit for 3 hosts (Max 2 processors per host) + Subscription for 3 Years at $666.60. I went through this phase of OMG what have done but once I had put up the bucks there was no going back LOL

So I have been busy over the last week getting to know Vmware ESXi a bit better. So time to document a few things.

The hardware :

ESXi hosts is 3 x Intel NUC with i3 Procs and 2 x 8Gb DDR3 1600Mhz memory in each, 2 of these have Intel 256Gb SSD and one has a Intel 80Gb SSD. They can also connect to an NFS share on my Synology but I mostly use local storage as the SSD is much faster and most of my VM are small.

Links : Intel Mini PC – NUC Core i3 (BOXDC3217IYE) 2 HDMI + RJ45 see http://ark.intel.com/products/71286/Intel-NUC-Board-D33217GK (this are old and not made any more)

Vcenter Host is one of these Intel Mini PC – NUC Celeron (DCCP847DYE) 2 HDMI + RJ45 with 2 x 8Gb DDR3 1333Mhz SO-DIMM for 16Gb with a 64Gb SSD drive running Windows Server 2012 R2.

Installing not using a CD see here http://www.hardstaff.com/creating-boot-disks-the-easy-way/

esx-hosts

Three i3 NUC on the left and Celeron on the right. For more information about power consumption etc see here http://www.hardstaff.com/lower-power-vm-lab/  Count on about 10-15 Watts for each one, probably less than your TV on standby 🙂

The Vcenter host caused me the most grief. On first try I tried to run it as a VM, but it’s 8Gb minimum !! and it was a slug as a VM on this hardware. So, I then realized I had this old Celeron NUC I wasn’t using for anything but it only had 8Gb memory in it and Vcenter is totally anal about memory requirements, I got something like this software needs 8192Mb to run but you have 7912Mb !!!!!!! Arghh

So, a quick run around town to find 2 x 8Gb DDR3, had to settle on a Kingston and a Transcend, both 1600Mhz class 11 and they seem to work OK together. So these went into one of the i3 NUC that had 2 x 1300 and the 2 x 1300 went into the Celeron NUC. (that killed a day just there). So, installed OS and then Vcenter would install. Once I had Vcenter installed then and only then I started wiping my three hosts 🙂

So, USB installer was used see here http://www.hardstaff.com/creating-boot-disks-the-easy-way/  and I then installed one host after the other. Was happy to see it recognize my NIC’s

boot

Booting

esx-nic

Intel NUC recognized by ESXi (also works with XenServer but not with server 2012, you have to do a hack on the Windows 8 drivers).

vcentre-host

My poor old Vcenter host. An older Celeron NUC with no case, and disabled fan and exposed heat-sink. It’s mostly cooler like that and I don’t really care what it looks like anyways.

In part 2 I will go into a bit more detail about how all this works in real life (very well actually).

the-dc

The mini DC. I get about 10 minutes backup power from a desktop PC UPS.

vcenter

VM’s running with Vsphere client connected to Vcenter (I don’t much care for the web client to be honest)

Phill

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