Fully managed VMWare ESXi 5.1 with Dell Servers

Update 12/August: There’s new versions of both ESXi 5.1 (Update 1) and Dell VIB. The instructions below should continue to work, just remember to use the updated filenames from the downloads. Download VMware ESXi 5.1 Update 1 Recovery Image (released on April 29, 2013) and Dell OpenManage Server Administrator vSphere Installation Bundle (VIB) for ESXi 5.1 (released on August 12, 2013)

Update 12/April: There’s a problem with OMSA and ESXi 5.1 and (atleast) R710 servers. Check out http://communities.vmware.com/thread/439083 and call your Dell/VMWare rep.

You’ve got a newish Dell server (11th generation or newer) and you want to run a fully managed (OMSA, monitoring, SNMP) free ESXi 5.1 system. Continue reading

Running pfSense nanobsd-vga on VMWare

I’ve a couple old x86 servers. They’re great servers, except for failed old SCSI disks, or controller’s battary has failed, etc. I want to make stable firewall/routers out of them.
Get pfSense (2.0.1+) nanobsd-vga and burn the image via physdiskwrite to a el-cheapo 4gb memory stick.
nanobsd runs entirely from ramdisks, and is quite fast. You can configure pfSense to periodically write configs, RRD’s and other data back to stick, at 1 hour intervals.
nanobsd-vga allows you to enjoy nanobsd’s fully embedded nature, with a traditional x86 VGA console/monitor and keyboard, while nanobsd requires a serial console.
This all works very well on physical hardware, but how can we run this exact same configuration on VMWare, and enjoy full virtual networking for testing? Continue reading

Old DELL CERC SATA monitoring on new Debian Squeeze (PowerEdge PE 830)

lspci says it’s an “Dell CERC SATA RAID 2 PCI SATA 6ch (DellCorsair)”, under “Adaptec AAC-RAID (rev 01)”. Dell OMSA 6.5.x installs perfectly and after reboot detects everything but the CERC controller; so add the repository as per the instructions at http://hwraid.le-vert.net/wiki/DebianPackages and then “apt-get install aacraid-status”. Then run “aacraid-status”. It should output something like Continue reading

Overcoming VMWare ESXi’s 2tb limit with Dell PERC 6 and H700/H800 using disk groups with many virtual disks

VMWare ESXi (version 4, I wonder about what ESXi 5 really brings) has a 2TB limit on datastore size.
So say you just bought a new Dell server and disk array, with let’s say 24 500gb disks, and wanna run it in RAID-6 for a total of 10230gb (22 * 465gb).
You’ll soon discover VMWare will limit the datastore to a little less than 2Tb. I’ll not go into the mess that is the reason for this, just accept it. Or buy ESXi 5 for US$ 10k.
One (poor) solution, would be to setup a few smaller RAID arrays (eg, four 5-disk 500gb RAID-5 arrays); each array totalling around 2tb, and create a few datastores, each with a little less than 2tb.
That’s bad because obviously you’ll waste a lot of disks; but it works.
The best solution is to make use of a little-advertised feature of RAID cards: disk groups. Since PERC 6 (PERC 6/i, PERC 6/E, H700 and H800) the card has 3 concepts: Physical Disks, Disk Groups, and Virtual Disks. Continue reading