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VCP Tips Corner

ESX to Diskless ESXi

This week I decided that I’d take a leap of faith and switch from using full fat ESX 4.1 on my home lab systems to using ESXi 4.1 running from USB keys thus allowing me to remove the otherwise hot SATA disks from my hosts. I also used this opportunity to upgrade my home SAN to 2Gb Fibre Channel. That’s right you heard it “home SAN”. Don’t be fooled though, I use a Datacore software SAN to which I have an NFR (for testing purposes of course) to allow me to convert a standard desktop systems into a storage array. Datacore gets some hard press and that is usually from the guys who don’t understand it or don’t know it, I love it though. Enterprise functionality without the tie in. I do have FC switches but I don’t use them (to loud and hot), instead I go point to point with my fabric.

The first thing I did was prepared some ESXi 4.1 USB keys and I followed this thread on vladan’s site >HERE< for the easiest and fastest way of achieving that:

ESXi 4.1 USB keys

Then opened up my 2 main lab servers, ripped out the SATA disks leaving them diskless. Then replaced my 1Gb FC cards for 2Gb FC cards. The spec of my 2 mains systems are:

Quad Core / 8GB Ram / Intel 1000Pro / Qlogic 2Gb FC

 Next boot up ESXi and made the necessary configuration changes to bring back my cluster. The things I did notice was: Whilst my 2 mains systems are almost Identical the motherboards are different. And no matter what I did in the bois system#1 would boot ESXi from the USB key much slower than system#2. Even though I knew the USB keys were USB2.0 the bios would only recognise it as USB1.0.

The main aim of this exercise was to reduce some of the heat generated by my lab, in the summer its unbearable as my lab/office is in the loft.

I do have 2 other systems which are my test&dev systems that I’m selling off so I can have a blow out on some new kit:

If you are interested in purchasing them and live in the UK give me a shout on ricky@virtualizeplanet.com . The Spec of these systems are:

Dual Core / 4GB Ram / Dual Intel 1000Pro/ 160GB SATA

vDisk Informer is here!

Ok in an effort to enhance 2 of my existing apps I created something new and born from the ashes is a new app called vDisk Informer.

vDisk Informer demonstrates which virtual disks have potentially wasted space on them and which virtual disks are misaligned causing a performance impact.

See how it works if my all new sexy GUI >HERE<

And download it from >vDisk Informer 1.2.5 (14657)

Wanna thank the following guys for feedback and beta testing services:

@KendrickColeman
@h0bbel
@afokkema
@gabvirtualworld
@jsvdleij
@vladan

VMware+SSD = Ultimate Mobile Lab

For a few months now I’ve been limping along with my old laptop and more recently I took delivery of a new system plus a 240GB OSZ SSD drive. I picked some serios spec to help me run as other do in the Veeam Teeam a mobile lab with VMware Workstation. Since I purchased system hardware last things have moved on a tad. My new laptop (if you can call it that) is a:

Dell M4500

16GB or RAM

Core i7 8 x logical CPUs (Quad core with HyperThreading)

240GB OSZ SSD drive

So the first thing I wanted to test is a nested version of ESXi as the whole point of a mobile lab is to run a virtual infrastructure. Previously it was possible on my old system (dual core, 8GB ram, SATA) but it ran like a dog, and painful to boot up. In fact for demo purposes we would have all the VMs on standby otherwise it meant waiting an extra 30 minutes for boot up.

First thing I did was haggle with Dell for a while to get the price down to nearly 50% of the RRP. After my hardware arrived I had a bit of fun cloning the preinstalled SATA disk to my new SSD drive.

Next I got VMware Workstation installed and then created a ESX VM.

Now the first thing I noticed was the install time for ESXi nested in a VMware workstation VM was ridiculasly fast.

The next thing I noticed was to boot up time was stupid fast. In fact it boots faster than my physical lab servers running ESXi

My advice to you is bend you bosses arm and purchase the above hardware.. VAVA..VAVOOOM

My next purchase is a modular harddrive bay to put the SATA disk back in the system as a second drive.

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