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We had two Dell Poweredge servers donated to us yesterday which I want to install ESXi on. I'm used to HP servers, but I understand that it is possible to buy Dell servers with ESXi pre-installed. I've seen a lot of references to OpenManagement and Drac and other monitoring and installation tools, and I'm confused as to the best way to install ESXi on a Dell Poweredge server.

Do I install ESXi from the iso downloaded from VMware and then add Dell management tools? Do I install some management tools first? Is there a special Dell version of ESXi? Do I configure raid first, and what tools do I use for that?

What Dell tools should I be using and installing alongside ESXi?

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4 Answers 4

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Given your clarification on the Server models the only choice you have for ESXi is to download the generic ESXi Installable version, boot from that ISO and follow the instructions. A base ESXi install is very simple - all you need to know is you host name, main management network ip-adress and network info. Optionally you can plug in an ntp server address and a license key if you like at this stage, or do that later.

It's not possible to add custom management agents to ESXi - you have to get a version with the management tools built in. The ESXi "Console" is just a busybox enabled set of tools running on the hypervisor, it's not an environment that you can or should significantly modify.

That is if you want to use those agents - that will only matter to you if you have a systems management console that you want to use for full hardware management. Even without that you will get a significant amount of hardware level diagnostic data via ESXi (and visible in the VI Client) telling you things about the health of the hardware (various temps, fan speeds, failure stats from the Systems Management and Power Management buses for example). You would get more data and more active control via the Open Manage agent but how useful that would be depends on your needs. If the machines have a DRAC then you will have most of that data and active out of band management capability available directly that way.

As far as RAID is concerned, yes you should configure RAID in advance via the RAID Firmware utility during boot. ESXi doesn't absolutely need local storage but it's a good idea to have some storage visible to it as it likes to configure some scratch partitions (around 5GB in total IIRC). Having these available makes future upgrades and debugging much easier. You wont lose much storage and the install will configure all of the remaining blank space on the boot volume as a VMFS datastore for your VM's.

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I believe there is a special Dell version now. I have a 29** series Dell for our ESXi server, but I am just using the standard ESXi 4 install. Make sure your raid is installed and configured (I have 3 300gb in a RAID5). Then just install the ESXi OS on the the local raid. You then give it a ip address and a Password in the EXSi configuration page that comes up after install. Lastly you get the client software from VMware, and install it on a seperate PC. You can then connect to your sever and start building VM's and making your configuration from there.

There are servers that have it preinstalled, or you can plug in a thumb drive and install ESXi on to it. This takes the IO for ESXi off of your Raid, which can help performance, but not a requirement.

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There is a specific ISO download for Dell servers. +1 –  Matt Simmons Mar 4 '10 at 15:55
    
The Dell-customised versions of ESXi don't list the 1800 or 1600 in compatability. So I guess just a standard ESXi install from the vmware site and then add openmanagement tools? –  kaerast Mar 4 '10 at 16:40
    
VMWare's site has a very extensive list of compatible hardware, I would consult this list if you had any questions about compatibility. The link is vmware.com/resources/compatibility/… –  Charles Mar 4 '10 at 16:50
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Dell's management utility's usually come in 2 forms, either integrated into the hardware on a management card, where you would access this via a web interface, or a client app on another machine, or as a management app that would be installed on top of the servers OS.

You may want to take a look at this article that discusses Systems Management of ESXi servers on Dell hardware.

Anyway, in general the steps for setting up your servers would be:

  • Setup your disks and RAID the way you want them.
  • Download ESXi from the VMWare Website
  • Install ESXi on your server
  • Profit!!
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You forgot the most important step: ? –  rob Oct 26 '10 at 1:15
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So this was a multipart question, but I have several servers setup in the same way so this would be my suggestion. First, I would suggest downloading the Dell SUU disc from support.dell.com. This is the Software Update Utility and will contain all of the most recent FW upgrades. Next go ahead and install ESX from the CD you downloaded as you will need the OS installed to many of the other things you want to do. Once ESX is installed, you can install Dell's OpenManage software failry easily which will let you manage most hardware from a GUI instead of having to reboot the box and get into the BIOS/RAID/ETC. At this time you would also want to make the SUU disc accessible to ESX for running the updates. A DRAC card may or may not be installed on your server, if it is you basically have remote console access to your server (Dell Remote Access Card). You will see a prompt during boot to login and setup the card's IP and then you can hit it through a web browser. I haven't found a concise place on the web for instructions on how to install Open Manage and/or the SUU on your server, but I basically made my own as the steps are all easy to find on the web. If you need them leave a comment and I can add them here as they are fairly straightforward. Lastly, you should receive a prompt during boot to login to the Raid card and configure your raid array and yes, you would need to do that before you install ESXi.

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The SUU disk seems to be three DVD-sized iso files, and it seems I need different ones for the 1600 and the 1800. Do I really need to download all of this? –  kaerast Mar 4 '10 at 16:33
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All three files are merged into one DVD to create the disk, the command to combine them is: copy /b OM* OM_620_SUU_A01.iso [Windows] cat OM* > OM_620_SUU_A01.iso [Linux] You can always download each driver/firmware upgrade manually, the disk just combines them all in one place and makes the upgrade process painless. Basically, you will run the disk from esx with the command sh suu -c, this will show you available updates. sh suu -u will then proceed to process all updates at once, reboot and your system is fully updated. –  Charles Mar 4 '10 at 16:46
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