ESXi White Box Adventure – Part IV, The Install

With the hardware up and running x2 with no problems to speak of, it was time for the ESXi install (never mind that video card thing!)  I decided to go ahead with ESXi 5 beta.  I really like playing with betas in the home lab.  It causes more pain, which is good, and gives you a head start on most customers.  It can be problematic when going for cert practice, but the tradeoff is usually worth it.  Firing up the first machine, it is time to examine the BIOS:


SATA in AHCI – go for the gold!


Checking the integrated peripheral setup, I leave SATA in AHCI mode.  Might as well go for the gold.  If there is a problem, we can always revisit and try IDE before giving up.  Everything else stays enabled.  As a side note, if they video card had worked, VGA would stay enabled anyway making the ATI a secondary card.  This would allow ESXi to own the onboard for console video and allow the PCI-E card to be configured for IO passthrough to the guest.  Next stop, boot order!



Standard stuff...


Quick stop to set the boot order to CD first, HDD second.  Pretty standard stuff.  Network and USB boot are both available which is cool.  Card slot boot is not which kind of sucks, but not a big loss since I plan to be booting ESXi off local disk (assuming it works!)  Next stop, advanced chipset features (fingers crossed)



We have a winner!


Setting is there for Intel VT which is a good sign.  Hopefully there is D support.  If there is, mapping the video card to a VM should be no problem (as well as 64 bit guest support), assuming I can get a video card that fits!  If there isn’t D support, well then those are two things that won’t work.  Another crap shoot here.  The G43 Express chipset should be good to go (G43 Express Chipset Docs), and Gateway doesn’t exactly do a lot of tweaking to the standard parts, but the AMI BIOS is only exposing a blanket “On/Off” for “Intel VT” and not giving granular control to enable or disable IOMMU remapping. We shall see!

With the BIOS all set it is time for CD bootski!  The first thing that greets us is the ESXi boot loader:


And so it begins... Fingers pretty much staying crossed now...


After a few minutes of initial installer load, a familiar sight greets us:



Hi there!


So far so good, so time to move forward:



A good sign!


As portents go in the ESX/ESXi world, this is a good one.  VMware installer sees the SATA disk and is willing to nuke Windows 7 and lay down some ESXi love.  Let’s authorize that and see what happens:



No going back!


Confirmation comes through…  Looking good so lets pull the trigger.  No turning back now!  Say goodbye to the Win 7 OEM build.



And we're off!


Progress bar up, fingers pretty much permanently crossed, won’t be long now one way or the other.  ESXi installation is very quick.



Woo hoo!


After about 10 minutes, a beautiful site… Installation complete!  Now lets see if she starts up:



Almost up!


Multiextent loaded successfully, we’re pretty much home free:



We have liftoff!


And…. we’re golden.  About 10-15 minutes of ESXi install.  Less than a half hour total including hardware tweaking.  Double that for the two machines and we have two enterprise class hypervisor foundations up in under an hour.  That is pretty damn good so hats off to VMware for some impressive design (once you have the right hardware).


In summary, the SX2801 is a great white box machine for ESXi 5.0

  • Onboard NIC: working
  • Onboard SATA: working

Shame about the video card, but now that the systems are up, it should be a small matter of getting a properly fitting low profile card and popping them in.  I left the cases open for just that event tomorrow.  Once they are in, it will be time to configure some VMs and see if 64 bit guess and IO passthrough are working!  Then on to VDI and, possibly, GPU acceleration inside of a guest.  Stay tuned!!!


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