The blueprint for this section seems to refer mainly to ESX but I’ve described both ESX and ESXi on the assumption the lab environment used for the exams will move to v4.1 sooner rather than later.
NOTE: Weasel is VMware’s scripted installer. It’s similar to Kickstart as used with Linux, but not identical.
A summary for a scripted install;
- Decide on the bootloader source
- Configure a media repository to hold your source files and scripts
- Create an install script (either from scratch or from a previously built host)
- Perform the scripted install
Use cases for scripted installations
Reasons to use a scripted install;
- Reduce deployment time
- Ensure consistency, reduce human error
- Remove need for local media (when using PXE boot. Very useful for blade and remote environments)
- Delegate installations to junior staff who don’t know how to configure ESX
Along with knowing why you might use a scripted install in the first place you should consider the various types of scripted install and when to use each one. Factors to consider;
- Maintainability. Over time you’ll want to update your install for new releases of ESX, patches, post install steps etc. While a custom CD has the least dependencies it’s harder to maintain compared to a network media repository.
- Dependencies. I created an NFS based install only to find that most of the time the host’s physical networking hasn’t been completed when we want to build the OS, rendering this method useless. I had to convert it to a custom CD instead which was mounted via ILO (it was a blade environment). Another example is USB flash – it’s easier than CD to amend/update but may not be as useful for remote installs.
While the blueprint only refers to installing ESX (not ESXi) I’ve covered both in anticipation of the VCAP-DCA labs going to 4.1.
When to use a customised installation
There are plenty of reasons to use some advanced installations;
- Your hardware isn’t supported in the ‘out of the box’ setup so you need custom drivers
- You want to streamline the deployment process by building a custom install CD, including some post configuration steps, or utilising PXE boot etc
- You want to gain maximum performance from every host, which means performance and configuration tweaks (vmKernel parameters, service console memory settings etc)
- Interactive installations can be done via the GUI or text mode.
- The installer can be located on CD/DVD, USB flash or via a PXE boot. While PXE is typically used for scripted builds it can be used as a source of installation files for an interactive build.
- Scripted methods (PXE boot using HTTP, FTP, NFS are covered in section 9.2.
NOTE: Scripted installs of ESXi were only added to v4.1 – prior to that only ESX classic could be scripted.
- To install a virtual ESX host on ESX (for lab testing) you need some specific configuration tweaks – see the article at vCritical for full details.
- For 64 bit guests you must have a 64 bit chip with Intel-VT support enabled or an AMD chip of revision E or later. Wikipaedia has details and you can check using VMware’s CPU Identification Utility. You cannot run nested 64 bit VMs.
- Boot from SAN is now supported for ESXi (4.1 onwards). This includes iSCSI and FCoE for a limited set of supported adapters.
- Both ESX and ESXi v4.0 will erase all local partitions by default, including existing ESX installs and VMFS partitions (if you’re upgrading an older ESX version for example).