After having run a few servers under VMware Server 2.0 for about a year, I thought it was about time to move over to ESXi. The benefits of ESXi is that it’s a bare metal hypervisor which does not depend on any host OS and that it can easily be administrated by the free vSphere Client. Oh, did I mention ESXi is free?
Since my old VMware Server 2.0 is running on a rather unnecessary large (physically) machine in my closet, I decided to take the opportunity to get some new hardware suitable for ESXi. Not all hardware works without a hitch with ESXi 4.0, so I headed over to http://www.vm-help.com//esx40i/esx40_whitebox_HCL.php to see what parts were suitable. I finally settled with a Shuttle SG33G5 which has a small case, can easily be moved and low power consumption (250W PSU). I fitted the case with a Intel Core 2 Quad Q9550 2,83 GHz, 4 GB RAM, WD 750 GB drive, DVD player and an Intel Pro 1000GT NIC (since the internal NIC is not supported by ESXi 4.0).
Installing ESXi was a breeze, just registering to download a copy of it from http://www.vmware.com/products/esxi/ then burned it to a CD and installed it on the computer. I selected the drive I wanted to install it on, and when the install was done ESXi reached out and tried to acquire a DHCP address so it could be managed from another computer. I manually changed the IP address of the computer because I like to know what address each and every computer has. The complete ESXi installation took about 15 minutes and then I logged on to my main computer and pointed the web browser to the url of my new ESXi machine, from where I downloaded the vSphere Client so I could manage the host.
Now the more intricate process of converting and moving a guest from VMware Server 2.0 to ESXi started, since I was running a virtualized copy of FreeBSD 7 and I had it setup the way I needed and did not want to install it from scratch again. For this purpose, VMware supplies VMware vCenter Converter. It lets you convert physical machines to virtual (P2V) and virtual machines (GSX, VMware Server, Virtual PC etc) to virtual (V2V). I was running VMware Server on top of Ubuntu, and had to download the converter software to the host OS and install it. The installation was straightforward, unpack the .tgz archive, run the setup file and then run the vmware-converter-client from the desktop. From there, I specified the source type (which was “VMware workstation or other VMware virtual machine”) and browsed to the source virtual machine (FreeBSD.vmx). I made sure it was powered off (an option for converting powered-on machines exist, but does not work with FreeBSD yet) and then clicked next. But then, “A general system error occurred: unknown internal error.” greeted me. I tried powering on and off the machine again, checking for forgotten lock files, etc but nothing seemed to help. I finally unsinstalled and then installed the converter again and to my surprise (and happiness) I did not get the error message when I clicked Next. I specified the destination type as VMware Infrastructure virtual machine and supplied the IP address of my new ESXi host, along with name and password. A few clicks and some settings later (Virtual machine name, datastore, virtual machine version) the conversion was underway.
20 minutes or so later the conversion was complete and I logged on to the ESXi machine and confirmed that the FreeBSD host had been migrated successfully. I powered it on and it booted ok, the only problem was the driver for the NIC. In VMware Server I had used the em0 driver and in ESXi the default driver is le0, but I quickly changed it in /etc/rc.conf on FreeBSD so it would use the le0 driver. After a reboot it worked like a charm. The only other snag I had was with the vSphere Client, since it installed itself in evaluation mode, which expires in 60 days. I got a key when I registered and I could not for the life of me find where to add this key to the software. It was not completely obvious, but under the Configuration tab, Software, Licensed features, Edit… (far on the right side) I finally found where to put the license key. In most other software you register from the Help menu, but why make it easy :)?
Some links that contains some tips and tricks..