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.

Download ESXi 5.1 from Dell, not from VMWare. Here’s the link: VMware-VMvisor-Installer-5.1.0-799733.x86_64-Dell_Customized_RecoveryCD_A01.iso. Burn it to CD or use iDRAC virtual media to install it. Enable SSH and ESXi Shell after installing.

Download the “Dell OpenManage Offline Bundle and VIB for ESXi” from Dell. It’s a ZIP file. Don’t extract it. Using FileZilla or an SCP client, upload it to /tmp on the ESXi server.

Using VMware vSphere Client, put the server in Maintenance mode. Log in to SSH (using PuTTY) and run the following commands. One installs the VIB, and the other enables SNMP (obviously change ‘public’ which is the community name):

# esxcli software vib install -d /tmp/OM-SrvAdmin-Dell-Web-7.2.0-6945.VIB-ESX51i.zip

# esxcli system snmp set --communities=public --enable=yes

Now reboot the server. Exit maintenance mode. Create and install a Windows Virtual Machine (2003, 2008, 2012, whatever, as long as it’s 64-bit). It could also be a real physical server, maybe running Linux. For the Windows VM case, download and install DELL OpenManage Server Administrator Managed Node. It will complain about not having real Dell hardware and that it will only install the webserver. That is exactly what we want. Hit https://127.0.0.1:1311/ on the machine you installed the managed node, accept the certificate warning, then input the ESXi server’s IP address and username/password, and check ‘ignore certificate’. Enjoy full OMSA management.

PS. Most of this comes from a Whitepaper from Dell, which was made for A00 versions which did not actually work, and I just corrected a few things for the new versions.

PPS. ESXi 5.1 rocks. The free version is limited to 32gb of physical RAM on the server. VMWare and Dell (after A00) got it right, and this is super simple compared to 4.x. These guys keep delaying my all-out migration to libvirt and KVM. BTW, ESXi 5.1 removes the 2Tb LUN limitation I blogged before.

PPPS. This has been tested on T410, PE 2950 and R720xd and works.

PPPPs. To disable the built-in ESXi firewall run # esxcli network firewall set --enabled=false. This is not recommended, but sometimes (NTP server) called for.

2 Replies to “Fully managed VMWare ESXi 5.1 with Dell Servers”

  1. Up to this point I thought it was just VMware being lame and trying to force us to use licensed ESXi, which I still think they are. Never thought about using the Dell build. I’m going to try this out on my next host build and see if the change sticks. Thanks for this!

    Regarding the 2TB LUN limitation, it’s still there. You can present a 2 TB LUN to ESXi, however you must still maintain VMFS volumes under 2 TB (2 TB – 512 bytes). So the only way you can use a 2 TB LUN on VMware is by using passthrough/physical RDM to the VM, which bypasses all the great features of VMware. VMware at this point is unsure when they will be able to provide greater than 2 TB VMFS datastores.

  2. FYI, I used the stock ESXi 5.5.0 update 1 build from VMware and it seems to work fine (using a CentOS linux box for the openmanage server instead of windows also). This site has useful info on setting up Linux for an OSM web box.

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