Viarengo.com on ESXi


My virtualization journey continues.

Quick recap: I created a Virtual Disk File (luckily 3 days before the hard drive of the server died)  containing my web application plus all related data. This will turn to be a management challenge later on given the size of the VM (120GB).

My alternatives now are to deploy this Virtual Machine file on
  • Options 1 – VMware Server (vistualization server hosted on Windows) or
  • Options 2 – VMware ESXi, the bare metal hypervisor
I decided to pursue Option 2 as it offers more opportunity to learn (and to go to Fry’s and buy some hardware new hardware components, and I can tell the wife it is work related. Yeah!!!).
Later I will explore Options 3 – deploy the virtual machine to a VMware-enabled hosting provider.
The goal today: to run my web application as a virtual machine on VMware ESXi.

Hardware Upgrade

I am not going to buy a new server. I am using a HP desktop that I have had for 6 years (an interesting compatibility challenge for ESXi).

  • Hard Drive: First of all I had to fix my hardware. My hard drive failed, so I went to Fry’s and bought a 500 Gbyte EIDE drive.
  • I also found some 512 Mb or Ram laying around in my hardware drawer, so I brought the total memory of my server to 2GB
  • I ended up with HP Pentium 4 280Mhz, 500GB EIDE drive, 2Gb memory

Software

Next I had to install ESXi and deploy the VM file that I created with VMware Converter earlier on (before the hard drive failure).

Here are the steps I followed:

  • Download VMware ESXi, the free hypervisor from VMware. It is a ISO CD image
  • Create a boot CD with ESXi on it
  • Install ESXi on the target machine

Here I ran into my first trouble. The ESXi installer gave the following error:

Unable to find a supported device to write the VMware ESX Server 3i 3.5.0 image to“.

EIDE Support Problem

It turns out that ESXi does not support my EIDE disk controller (I don’t think it supports any really, see Hardware Compatibility List here).
After some research I found this great workaround for EIDE controller and I managed to install ESXi just fine.
The workaround required me to use VI 20 years later… I forgot the feeling of using an editor that works like it has a glass in front of the text and you have to press the Ins key to actually edit it.
Oh well… :wq
ESXi installed just fine after this. Note that at this point I am pretty much on my own as I am running a hardware configuration that is not officially supported by VMware. The price to pay for re-using my old piece of hardware.
  • Reboot
  • Press F2 to customize the server
  • Configure the network.
I am planning on assigning a static IP address to this server (your usual 192.168.1.2) and later put it in the DMZ within my home NAT. This probably does not matter as what it really matters for the DMZ is the IP of the VM. I will figure this out later once the VM is up and running.

Network Card Compatibility problem

Here I ran into my second problem. The changes I made to the network configuration did not take. When trying to run the network management diagnostic, I would get an error.
After inspecting the logs, I realized that the network service did not start.
Back to google-ing the user groups for answers.
It turns out that the network card on my motherboard was not supported. After trying few other cards from my hardware drawer without success, I made another trip to Fry’s and bought an Intel-based network card as suggested by the people on the user groups.
After installing the new network card and rebooted, everything worked fine and I could configure my ESXi network parameters just fine.
BTW, here is a useful trick to access the Linux control for ESXi newbies like myself.

Managing ESXi

ESXi is super lightweight. It does not embed high level management tools. So, here is what you do next:
  • Access http://192.168.1.2 from another desktop
  • The web page at this address has links to download location for VMware management tools
ESXi Managemnt Web Page

ESXi Managemnt Web Page

  • Download  Vmware Infrastructure Client
  • Connect to the ESXi server
After connecting I could see the server and storage.

Uploading a Virtual Machine file

Now all I ad to do was to upload the file containing my web site image that I create earlier with VMware Standalone Converter.
After poking around the VI Client interface to find the “Upload VM File” functionality, I realized that the way to do it was using the Converter itself.
  • Run VMware Converter
  • Load the load VM wizard
  • Select my new ESXi server as target
  • Finish
VMware Converter Running

VMware Converter Running

Oh man, do i regret having created a VM file that includes all my pictures…. 100Gb work of them. This makes the deployment process kind of slow. It took around 9 hours to deploy it.
Once this is up and running I need to figure out how to separate my storage from my Virtual Machine and shrink the VM file size significantly.

Success!!!!

At the end of the conversion/deployment process, I launched the console within the VMware Infrastructure Client and:
  • Log in the running virtual machine
  • Change the network configuration from DHCP to 192.168.1.2 so that the VM would be put in the DMZ by my DSL router
Virtual Machine Console

Virtual Machine Console

Tada!!!!! Success!

http://Viarengo.com is back online just like it was before my hard drive failure

It is fun to (pretend to) be a Geek

Man, how fun was this??? I got to mess around with hardware (and go to Fry’s twice), use VI after 20 years, browse all these techies forums, learn a ton and most importantly recover smoothly from a hard drive failure!!

Summary

If you factor out the two hardware compatibility problems I encountered due to the need to reuse old and unsupported hardware, the process was *very* smooth overall.

  1. Turn a physical server into a VM file using VMware Converter
  2. Install ESXi on the target server
  3. Install VMWare Infrastructure Client to manage and configure VMs on the server
  4. Deploy the VM file onto ESXi using VMware Converter

In my case the server to be virtualized was also the server that I use to run ESXi. If this was not the case, I could have combined step 1 and 4.

I am now officially virtualized.

What’s next:

  • Separate storage from my virtual machine and shrink the size of it.
  • Learn how to back up my VM regularly and without service interruptions
  • create another virtual machine from scratch on the same server and see how the process works and what is the impact on the existing viarengo.com VM
  • learn what kind of management and monitoring tools are included in the VMware Infrastructure client by looking at the running instances on my server.
  • create a second ESXi server and start playing with Vmotion and other VMWare Infrastructure capabilities
  • see how I can make my web site highly available using virtualization capabilities.
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2 thoughts on “Viarengo.com on ESXi

  1. Impressive work Vivi! I didnt understand half of it, but I’ll be calling you soon to virtualize me… 🙂

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