Friday, 22 May 2009

VMWare ESXi Hypervisor

Server virtualisation is something I have been using for a few years now both at work and at home. I mainly use VMWare Fusion on my MacBook Pro and VMWare Workstation / Player on an old Windows Laptop. For everyday tasks these products are amazing as i can run an XP VM on my MacBook Pro for all those times I need to open MS Project or run TOAD.

On my server at home, I didn't want to install a host OS and then install VMWare Workstation / Server to host several Linux VM's. Instead I explored the option of a "Bare Metal" hypervisor from VMWare (ESXi 3.5 Update 3). A hypervisor is a very small linux kernel that runs natively against your servers hardware without the burden of having to install a host OS. From here you can create and manage all your VM's remotely using the VMWare Client tool.

For more information in ESXi, check out VMWare's website here

Reading the documentation suggested that ESXi was very particular about the hardware it supports and so began the quest to build a "White Box" ESXi server at home. Whilst this is not supported by VMWare, I wanted to share the process and components utilised in case anyone else was thinking of building there own ESXi Server.

Step 1. Download the ESXi 3.5 ISO from the VMWare Website (You will need to register for an account)

Step 3. Create a Bootable USB Stick (yes you can boot the Hypervisor from a USB stick if your Motherboard supports it) by following this concise guide

Step 3. Plug your USB stick into your server and configure the IP Address, DNS Server, Hostname and Gateway.

Step 4. Open a Browser window on a client machine and navigate to: http://ip address to download the VMWare Client tool.

Step 5. Enjoy using ESXi

My Server Configuration:

CPU: Inter Core i7 920
MOBO: Gigabyte GA-EX58-UD5
Memory: 12GB of Corsair DDR3 XMS3 INTEL I7 PC10666 1333MHZ (3X2GB)
SATA Controller: Sweex PU102
NIC: 3Com 3c90x

The following sites list loads of compatible hardware with notes and issues encountered:

With the setup outlined above, I can run 5 Linux machines running Oracle Database, Application Server, APEX and OBIEE without any issue.

If this is something you are interested in evaluating, i can recommend spending a few hundred pounds on the components as its beats spending thousands on a supported Server from HP.


Moona Malai said...

Hi Duncan,

I am trying to install Oracle's VM Server on an Intel i7-920 ASUS P6T Mobo. Have you tried that combo?

Next is to install Oracle's Enterprise Linux in a Virtual Machine and of course followed by Oracle 10g and/or 11g.

I am running into an issue at the third Question: What type of media contains the packages to be installed? I am of course installing from a bootable CD. Selecting OK prompt me with: No drive found. Choosing "use a drive disk" gets me no where and neither does any of the obvious one from the default selection list.

Any pointers?


Unknown said...


Have you upgraded to ESXi 4 ? I'm looking at building a whitebox and am considering using the ex58-ud5 motherboard as well.



Harley said...

Hi Duncan,

I've followed your advice and went with very similar configuration. I just realized that both 1Gbps network adapters that come along with the board GA EX-58 UD5 are not recognized by the ESXi 4. I hope it will work with Intel's NIC I will buy tomorow morning. Did you manage to make the built in network adapters work with ESXi in the meanwhile?

Unknown said...


I never expected the onboard NIC to work in either ESXi 3 or 4 to be honest.

Instead, I bought a 3COM NIC off ebay for about £8 and there are plenty of Intel ones on there that will do the job. Just have a look at the unofficial white list of components posted in my blog for a list of compatible NIC's.

Hope that helps


Unknown said...

Hi Duncan,

Just wondered if you have a power meter and can you advise on how many watts the system draws (both on idle and when all guest VMs are running).
This is important if the ESXi server will be on 24x7.