Sunday, May 20, 2012

HowTo: Install VMWare ESXi 4.1 on ASUS P5Q-E

Overview


VMWare's ESXi is a bare metal hypervisor that can host your virtual machines. ESXi is meant to be installed on server hardware, but it will run on most PC hardware. The issue you will run into when installing on PC hardware is driver support. The ESXi installation will fail without a proper LAN driver, as was the case when I tried to install it on a white box machine running a P5Q-E motherboard. When booting the installation CD, I would get the "Failed to load lvmdriver" error message. I was able to successfully boot and install by adding a custom oem.tgz package containing support for the Marvell 88E8056 NIC to the installation CD.  

Note: Customizing the installation CD might not be necessary for your hardware, see the following page for a comprehensive ESXi 4.x hardware compatibility list:
http://www.vm-help.com//esx40i/esx40_whitebox_HCL.php

Download ESXi and vSphere Client


First, you will need to download the ESXi 4.1 installation ISO and the vSphere Client installer from the following page: 
https://my.vmware.com/web/vmware/evalcenter?p=free-esxi

Note: If you don't have a VMWare account, you will need to create one in order to download these products. ESXi, the vSphere Client, and account registration are all free.   

Obtain or Create a Custom oem.tgz


-Create a Custom oem.tgz-

Instructions for customizing oem.tgz can be found on the following page, along with some community-created oem.tgz packages:
http://www.vm-help.com/esx/esx3i/customize_oem_tgz.php


-Obtain a Custom oem.tgz-

Here is the package I used to get ESXi installed on the P5Q-E:
http://dl.dropbox.com/u/80436122/oem.tgz

Caution: You can also find custom oem.tgz packages by performing a Google search, but be careful where you download them from. Drivers directly interface with the kernel of the OS.

Add oem.tgz into installation ISO


Download  ESXi-Customizer v2.7 from the following location:
http://esxi-customizer.googlecode.com/files/ESXi-Customizer-v2.7.exe 

Run the installer. Open the "ESXi-Customizer.cmd" file to start the program. Point it to the ISO and the oem.tgz package. Choose the "Force repacking" option, specify an output directory, and click "Run!".

Install ESXi


Once you have the customized ISO, burn it to a CD. If you need a program to do this, consider downloading and installing InfraRecorder. Make sure the PC you are using has a blank hard drive or a hard drive that can be written. 

Caution: All information on the hard drive will be overwritten when ESXi is installed! 

Boot the PC with the CD in the drive and install. The installation is pretty straightforward. Here is a video walkthrough of a typical installation (not made by me):


Notes


  • This guide will add support for only the Marvell 88E8056 NIC. The ASUS P5Q-E has two NICs, the 88E8056 is the topmost one. 
  • I have read that software RAID is not supported on this board and that only SATA ports 5 & 6 will work with ESXi. I have not had a chance to test this myself.

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