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Think IPM

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

ESX 3.5 Console installation

Here is a quick run through of an ESX server 3.5 Console installation. The console installation is probably the fastest and easiest part of the ESX installation. Once documented, it can probably be done in a couple of minutes. It is definitely worth printing out and putting in a binder with the rest of your Disaster Recovery procedures.

The first part of the ESX installation is done at the server's console. This section details that process.

Load up the ESX server CD and Click Enter.

I normally download the latest build from VMware the day of the installation.

If you had any issues installing on particular hardware, support would direct you to add parameters on this screen to boot the installer differently.

Press Enter to begin installation.

This is the screen where you select your language.

English installations dominate my experiences choose whatever makes sense for your environment.

Choose Language and Click Next

This is the section where we choose a mouse. This mouse decision is STRICTLY for this installation period since the ESX console is text based and a mouse will not be used for operating ESX from the console.

Choose Mouse and Click Next

Not much to be said about the EULA. Most people do not read it and just click Accept and Next. If you have second thoughts on that, you can always read the EULA online at http://vmware.com/download/eula/esx_server.html

Agree to Licensing Agreement and Click Next

First time installation on the Drives will yield this warning. Nothing to worry about on new systems. Local storage for the servers should be a standard RAID 1 mirror set. All Virtual Machines should be stored on shared storage to realize maximum VMware benefits. Minimal server drive specs are necessary for the servers. RAID 1 is recommended to use at least 36 GB base drives for the local storage.

Click YES to initialize the Drive

This screen gives us a choice of Recommended or Advanced Partitions for ESX installation. I always choose Advanced and create the partition table below from scratch.

Mount Point


Size (MB)





EXT3 – Primary




EXT3 – Primary




SWAP – Primary




EXT3 - Extended


3rd party Logs


EXT3 - Extended


Temp Space


EXT3 - Extended

/boot – 250 MB (EXT3 - Primary)

The Boot Partition holds the Boot kernel files for VMware. This is similar to the NTLoader files for Windows.

EXT3 is a standard linux file system format. Similar to NTFS.

250 MB is plenty of room for these kernel files. ESX 3i for example uses a 32 MB kernel.

/ - 10240 MB (EXT3 - Primary)

/ or Root is the main file system. If / runs out of space, the system will Panic or Purple Screen (BAD). / is similar to the C drive for windows.

We create all the other partitions to protect / from running out of space.

SWAP – 1600 MB (EXT3 - Primary)

This partition is the SWAP partition. This SWAP partition is strictly for the ESX service console. The Service Console will have a maximum of 800 MBs of memory allocated to it so the SWAP is recommended to be 2 times the memory.

The ESX server and running Virtual Machines will have their own separate swap files and area.


The VMKCore partition is a VMware specific partition format. Used by the VMKernel during a time of PANIC, the Kernel will dump it's memory contents to this partition. The partition is limited to 110 MBs at this version.

/var – 10240 MB

The VAR directory is similar to Windows Program Files. 3rd party programs typically use the VAR partition to write files, logs and sometimes settings to. Since 3rd party programs can be unpredictable, it is essential that we keep VAR as a separate partition to protect the root partition.

/tmp – 10240 MB

This is the Temp Partition. I normally use this for file transfers, ESX Upgrade staging areas and things like that. This is obviously similar to Windows Temp directory.

Once the Partitions have been created,

Click Next to Continue.

Select Boot Specification (MBR)

This screen typically does not need to be changed. The default settings are the correct settings for most ESX installations.

Click Next to Continue.

This screen is where we give the Service Console, its network information. This screen allows us to choose a network device (I normally choose the On Board nics) and set the IP information.

Since this is a Linux Based service Console, you should register the IP addresses with your DNS servers ahead of time.

I uncheck the Create Default network since I want MAXIMUM control over my VMware installation.

Enter TimeZone : Eastern and Click Next

Since this installation is happening in New York, select Eastern Time Zone.

Be sure to also select the UTC offset tab and select Daylight Saving

Set the password for Root. This is equivalent to the Windows Administrator Password. It should adhere to your corporate policies.

To change a root password, use the service console command passwd.

The password can be change at any time for security without issue. No VMware related processes depend on the root password for operation.

Review your installation choices and click Next to begin the ESX Console installation.

VMware Service Console will boot up.

After this point in the installation, Configuration is done through the Virtual Infrastructure Client.

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