Sunny Chan blogs Can you see the Logic in my Madness?

VMWare ESXi 3 experience

by schan

Posted on Saturday May 02, 2009 at 04:04am in Anything

I recently have upgraded my desktop machine to a Core 2 Quad - that by itself is quite a big change because I have been using AMD CPU for nearly 10 years, but it seems like Intel finally has a better product, so I voted with my Wallet.

Anyway so with a working Dual Core AMD Athlon x2 3800+ CPU as well as 4G DDR RAM, what shall we do with it? Of course try some new stuff. I always fancy the idea of having a hypervisor in the BIOS - althought we are not quite there yet, but the closest product we have right now.

So I downloaded the VMWare ESXi from VMWare website, burn it onto a CD and run installer. ESXi consists of a modified Linux kernel and some VMware modules. It took a minute or so to boot up. When I tried to run the installer, it comes back with an error with unsupported device. I did a quick Google on the topic and found that the installer just doesn't support IDE hard drives (which is the one that I have lying around!). You need to go to the virtual console and start hacking their installation script. That's not very nice.

Anyway, once I have installed it on the hard drive I reboot the machine - however it doesn't seems to be able to format the hard drive. After trying for half a Sunday I figure out that my drive was used to install Windows 7, and instead of standard old school partition table it now has a EFI GUID Partition Table. VMWare doesn't seems to know how to handle them. In the end I cleared the GPT using diskpart off my hard drive and now VMWare can install properly.

The one really annoy thing for me is that VMWare ESXi can only use drives formatted with VMFS - as a result I can't really share my external SATA hard drive with another Linux installation. BAD. Also it seems like you once you have created a VMWare Virtual hard drive on a data store it won't be able to shrink the disk size. Arghhhhhh. Why can't they have a straight pass through SATA? or USB? Searching in Google suggested that the only way you can let your VMWare to use a drive "natively" is to share it from a remote machine using a iSCSI intiaitor. BAD

At the moment when I need to install OS onto the server I either use a CD image or my local CD drive. This is another annoyance as I just cannot convince VMWare to assign the server's DVD ROM drive onto the virtual machine. Make it a bit slower to install the packages..

Another thing that I don't like is that there is no console directly on the server itself-  you will have to use the management client in order to connect to those console. This is okay for a headless server but for developer like me I would still prefer to have full console access to my VM the server itself.

Other than these annoying details it works pretty well with the stuff I throw at it. The CPU I use for this VMWare test machine doesn't support Pacifica technology (AMD's Vritualisation instructions set) but is still achieve a decent performance

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