I've been tearing my hair out with a future build of ESX for a couple of weeks. Now my system is decidedly NOT on the HCL. It's one of my home-grown ESX 3.5 u2 systems - an Intel G33 motherboard, Q6600 CPU, 8GB of RAM, bunch of Intel 1000 Pro GT NICs. To boot, I've been using an old-school QLA4010c (thanks qlogic for sending me the new QLE4062s and the cool 8042 10GbE converged adapters!).
OK - this system boots FINE under 3.5u2, but under... let's say... ESX.next, not so much. NOTE - we're talking pre-release here, so don't extrapolate ANYTHING from this.
- During install, it would hang while loading the network drivers - I eventually isolated this to the Intel GT cards. PTs, OK. MTs, OK. Interesting. ?If I don't disable the onboard NIC, same deal - hang during install. They all use the e1000 driver, but mental note - I'm using MTs and PTs going fwd.
- the internal SATA controller looked like it installed fine, but then looked like the MBR wasn't configured right - at the end of install, the HDD wasn't bootable. I found this long ago with non-supported controllers, so poked around with this.
- So, the QLA4010c (and this seems to be true with the QLE4062 too) boot from iSCSI SAN wasn't working right (BIOS loads, drives found, but don't show in the install screen).
I poked, prodded. I tore my hair out. I was stuck with no bootable controller/drive combo, and was considering a trip to Fry's for another MB whose SATA controller I would know would work (an older nvidia MB for example).
Then, I had an idea.
I've used a bootable USB ESXi 3.5 image on my laptop, and suddenly thought - "why don't I just do that?"
A few minutes later with DD for windows and the dd image I had my ESX image on USB.
BTW - The always excellent Duncan's got a little post on how to build your USB key here: http://www.yellow-bricks.com/2008/07/29/esxi-35-update-2-on-a-usb-memory-key/
So, why am I so pumped on this? It's more powerful than immediately apparent.
- Simple. The process of dd takes a few minutes, and configuring the system after boot is short and easy - faster and easier than the installable image
- Portable. I'm carrying it around with me now and am doinking around with ESX.next on the road on my laptop.
- Compatible. All those driver issues I was struggling with? NON EXISTANT this way - I've got my iSCSI HBAs, my NICs, and I'm up and running.
Nothing earth shatteringly new here, but rather a real "aha" personal moment where the power of this technology and approach.
I'd strongly recommend that anyone out there who manages a VMware environment play with this. If you're used to installing systems off DVDs, you might just find yourself considering a new way.