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Get full control over your ESXi Server

As you probably know ESX 3i is the embedded version of ESX, mainly run from usb flash disks build-in servers from HP, Dell, IBM and FSC, but you can also install this on your own servers. I really love this version as it is so easy and simple and adds extra (and less) functionality to ESX. The main thing about 3i is that the Red Hat service console has been removed and replaced by a small busybox linux version. To keep this service console tiny, 3i comes with build-in hardware monitoring, something a normal ESX server does not have (wish it did). When connecting to a 3i server with your VC client you can see fan speeds and temperatures in your system and you can of course put alarms on them, in case something breaks.

By default the 3i server gives us no access to this small service console, but there are some down sides to this, as certain things can only be done from the service console :-( and until VMware builds those missing functionalities into the VC interface you still need to get yourself console access. In the beta versions of 3i there was an option in the advanced settings, but this has been removed in the final releases. VMware has published a knowledge base article that describes how to get console access (this is not officially supported by VMware). See the KB Article. In short you just hit Alt-F1 and then type in ‘unsupported’. The article also explain how to disable this Tech Support Mode, in case you want to.

Getting console access

Of course you do not want to be in the server room all the time and your server might not have some kind of remote access facility, so the first thing you probably want to do is enable SSH access to your server. (Thanks to Lee for this information, and again this is not supported by VMware)

  • edit /etc/inetd.conf (using vi)
  • remove the # (remark) sign in front of the SSH line
  • kill and restart the inetd process (or just reboot your server)
  • So why do you need console access?
    There are multiple reasons why you want to have console access. One of the most common reasons is that you might want to change HBA driver options. To get better performance out of your Qlogic or Emulex HBA most people increase their queue depth (see for instance VMware 100.00 io blog post). To find out what options you can set on your drivers you can use the command vmkload_mod:

  • display your loaded drivers: vmkload_mod --list
  • display parameters for your driver: vmkload_mod -s /mod/your_driver
  • Another reason why you definitely still need console access (unfortunately) is if you want to use thin provisioned virtual disks, a new feature in ESX, but for some reason not exposed in the VC interface yet (i think because it is still experimental supported). Any virtual disks created via the normal interface are pre-allocated disks, so a 100GB virtual disk will use 100GB on your VMFS. With thin provisioned disks the actual virtual disk file will start very small and only grow when you will actually need the disk space. Note: this only works for Virtual Disks on iSCSI and FC SAN, not NFS!

    With the vmkfstools command you can create new virtual disks as ‘thin’ disks. After you created the disks, you can then use the normal VC interface to add that disk to your VM.

    Creating a 100GB thin disk:
    vmkfstools -c 100G -d thin /vmfs/volumes/san_vmfs/my_vm/thin_disk.vmdk

    If you already have a pre-allocated disk, you can convert it to a thin disk as well. Well it is not really converting, but creating a new copy as thin disk. After you have done that, you will need to remove the old disk from the VM and add the new converted copy.

    ‘convert’ copy a existing virtual disk to thin format:
    vmkfstools -i /vmfs/volumes/san_vmfs/my_vm/large_disk.vmdk -d thin /vmfs/volumes/san_vmfs/my_vm/new_thin_disk.vmdk

    Well I am sure there are more reasons why you still want to ‘play’ on the service console, as I am born with a commodore 64, I always want a command prompt :-)

    The Unofficial Upgrade Guide to VMware Infrastructure 3

    Mike Laverick of RTFM-ed in the UK has just released a new Upgrade Guide to VMware ESX Server 3.x and VMware VirtualCenter 2.x. The guide is pitched at someone who knows ESX 2.x and VirtualCenter 1.x very well – and wishes to quickly update their skills to the new release. Currently it’s a version 1.1 release so the guide still needs some work, but the author promisses that he will do that in the next two weeks. This release is still based on the Release and Beta Candidates. The updates that will be made to the document are based on the full product that was recently released by VMware. Future revisions will hopefully also cover iSCSI support with Fedora Core 5 and Windows with Stringbean software.

    You can download the current version of the VMware Infrastructure 3 Upgrade Guide here:
    http://www.rtfm-ed.co.uk/docs/vmwdocs/ESX3.x-VC2-upgradeguide.pdf.

    More Virtual Machines thanks to the Community

    The concept of distributing an application thru a complete installed virtual machine is great ofcourse and thanks to open licensing of some linux distributions more complete virtual machines are comming to life. The VMTN site from VMware is not posting a list of the Virtual Machines created by the community.

    Soon you will also find on this site a complete virtual machine, with the Virtual Machine Order Hotline running in it :-)

    If you have created a cool virtual machine, that legally can be distributed, feel free to drop me a note and I can publish it on this website.

    Check out the community virtual machine

    FOR SALE: Virtual Machines :-)

    Why buy an operating system with install disks, if you can just buy a complete build Virtual Machine. The company 4pi1 sales Virtual Machines with operating systems installed. Currently they sell all foms of Linux Virtual Machines like Fedora, Red Hat, Debian and OpenBSD but they also claim that they soon will offer Windows 98, Windows 98, Windows ME, Windows NT, Windows 2000 and Windows XP!!! The Virtual Machines are available for VMware en Qemu.

    The Cheapest Virtual Machines they have to offer are Puppy Lunix and Damn Small Linux, both cost $9.95.

    More information Click here

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