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I've acquired a Dell PowerEdge R710 server a few days ago, which includes a PERC 6/i RAID controller. The server is now fitted with a SATA SSD, one SAS drive and four SATA HDD's, all of which I would like to be passed through to ESXi in an "as-is" state, without creating any logical drives in the RAID controller.

Now, the ESXi v5.5 installation image I grabbed from the Dell homepage starts just fine but only lists the logical drives and connected flash drives as possible installation targets, not any of the physical drives.

If I create a small logical drive on my SSD (which the PERC 6/i detects as SATA-SSD type), the ESXi install wizard lists the SSD value on that drive as false; which is far from optimal. I have also tried disabling the RAID controller entirely in the setup, but that also did not help. Everything that should enable passthrough is enabled in BIOS, but that shouldn't be a concern at this early stage of the ESXi installation.

How would I be able to install ESXi v5.5 to a part of my SSD that is connected to the storage controller, while giving it entire physical access to the disk (to allow for SMART values to be read etc.)?

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You won't be able to bypass the RAID controller here... or at least you shouldn't.

ESXi is a minimal operating system and has a specific list of supported storage controllers and devices. Hardware RAID controllers are the norm for this type of deployment.

Things to note:

  • S.M.A.R.T. is overrated. You have a hardware RAID controller that considers many factors in determining drive health, including S.M.A.R.T. Stick with that.
  • You have to tell ESXi when you're using an SSD; usually when using an SSD attached to a RAID controller. Also see: VMware ESXi SSD on RAID showing as non-ssd
  • If you really need a single device passed-through to the ESXi host, you need to use an appropriate HBA or system/motherboard connection.

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