Configuring the ESXi management interface via the Direct Console User Interface (DCUI) is the first step, post installation, needed to make your ESXi host accessible (unless of course it obtains an address via DHCP). Once the management interface is setup and working you can then log into the server from the host based client or use tools such as PowerCLI to manage and configure the host. In fact, since the basic features of ESXi are free, you could start virtualizing with just 1 host and the management interface configured.
If you have not already done so, create the appropriate DNS records for your host(s). You should now be able to access the Welcome page and download the Windows client. You could also connect to the host using PowerCLI at this point.
The basics are now in place for you to start creating virtual machines!
Before you get started with virtualization in your environment there are a few things you will need to have in place.
First and foremost you will need a working network in place to provide the various components of you vSphere solution connectivity to one another. A working DNS solution must be in place, in most cases this is provided by the Domain Controllers in a Windows Active Directory environment. DNS and AD will support both name resolution of your hosts as well as Single Sign-On (SSO) used by vCenter.
In addition to DNS, NTP is very important, especially if you plan to introduce solutions such as vRealize Automation. Even if virtual machines are just a few minutes off, products may not work properly.
Here are the components in a typical setup:
Once the above items are in place, you can now create DNS records for each of your ESXi hosts. With DNS records created, you can breeze through the installation and configuration of ESXi via the Direct Console User Interface (DCUI). Additionally, kickstart files can be used to configure your ESXi hosts during installation by pressing “shift-O” during startup to access to the boot options or by using Auto Deploy. If you do opt for Auto Deploy, consider a management cluster built on ESXi hosts installed to local disk or SD/USB drives. In this cluster you would run your critical services such as AD, DHCP, DNS, and vCenter so that during an outage you have the ability to recover core services that do not rely on the very services you are trying to restore. Once the management cluster is restored, Auto Deploy can service. Rob Nelson covers Auto Deploy nicely on a #vBrownBag over at professionalvmware.com.
Other components you need to also consider installing during production builds include a centralized syslog server (vCenter provides one for free, or Log Insight which is an enterprise grade solution. You can also use syslog-ng, Graylog, Splunk, or Nagios Log Monitor. Other tools that ship with vCenter include the dump collector, VMware Update Manager, the VMware Support Assistant and some type of monitoring solution such as Nagios, Realize Operations (vR Ops) or Hyperic. With a working environment ready, you can move on to installing your first ESXi host.
Of course this is a basic list, even the 5 bullet points I listed could consume months of learning if you’re not familiar with VLANs, or for planning IP schemas. If you’ve read though this list and not overwhelmed, you shouldn’t have a problem virtualizing if you have not already.
**Please note that the installation steps here and requirements are based on beta and release versions of ESXi 6.**
Installing VMware ESXi 6 is just as straight forward as ever, of course you’ll want to make sure your hardware is on the VMware HCL and you meet the necessary system requirements:
Of course those are minimums and you won’t get much virtualized with those specs, but alas that is likely fine for lab and testing purposes. For the installation, I typically suggest USB or SD card. This saves your physical disks, either locally or in a boot from SAN configuration free for VM related IO. If you have local disks and flash based drives in your system, you can enable VSAN for example to provide shared storage in from the local storage in your hosts. There are other requirements for VSAN that I’ll touch on in another post (or check out yellow-bricks or cormachogan.com/)
The local storage is the bare minimum required. With only 1GB there are a few extra steps after the installation to define a location for log storage but its a simple step. If you want storage for log files as part of your boot media, you will need at least 5.2GB. When you reach the root password step, usually I start with something easy to type so when I log into the console interface (DCUI) after the installation and add the hosts to vCenter I’m not “infomercial bumbling” for the password. Later I can then rip a PowerCLI script through the environment to change to a more complex password.
Burn the ISO do a CD or mount it in your remote console (e.g UCS, iLO, DRAC or vSphere/Workstation/Fusion for your nested home lab) and power on the computer.
The ISO will launch into the installer:
Once you have restarted, you will be at the Direct Console User Interface, aka the DCUI. That is it, installing ESXi, assuming you have the prereqs in place is quite straight forward, configuration on the other hand – well that depends on your environment and your business requirements. If you are installing ESXi in your lab as a nested virtual machine you may also want to consider VMware Tools for ESXi.