Well all my ESX servers at home are now migrated to ESX 3i and I have to say what a great concept. Just stick in a memory stick and you are up and running. After playing with it for some days now I wanted to share some tricks with you.

First ESX 3i is based on the new ESX platform and therefor now supporting SATA drives 🙂 Yahooooo! I can run ESX now properly and native on my laptops. I have tested this with my IBM X60 (Centrino Dual Core) and Dell Latitude D410 (Pentium M single core) and on both it works fine. It sees my drives and I can format a VMFS partition on it and it supports the build-in NICs in the laptops.

Getting a command line
The cool thing about ESX 3i is of course that it is small and no longer has the Service Console.. but this means also NO command line on the ESX server anymore 🙁 But being a techie, I love command lines! And after some searching I did find out you can still get a command line on the ESX 3i Server. Sure it does not run a full blow Linux, but most of the VMware commands like vmkfstools and esxcfg-* are still available.

So how do you get this command line? Well easy, follow these steps:

  • Power on your ESX Server
  • On the Boot menu, hit shift-O, you will get an advanced option line now at the bottom
  • type in the advanced option: shell
  • Continue now the boot of the ESX server, after it is powered on hit Alt-F1 and you have now the option to login.
  • If you want this command line permanently available to you, you can set this up in the Virtual Infrastructure client that is connected to your ESX 3i Server..

  • Open the ‘Configuration’ tab of your server
  • Click on ‘Advanced Settings’
  • Open the VMkernel variable and then the Boot list.
  • Scroll down to the VMkernel.Boot.Shell option and enable the select box
  • Now everytime you reboot your 3i server, the shell will be activated. On extra nice option directly below the shell option is the VMkernel.Boot.smallFontForTTY, this will change the shell from 80×25 characters to a 50 line font, which will allow you to much easier work on the shell.

    Customizing the ESX 3i Main screen
    Checking the advanced options list, I found one other nice option called Annotations. Here you can specify the Annotations.WelcomeMessage. What ever message you type here will be displayed on the ESX 3i main screen (when not logged in), so you can specify who is responsible for this server or something creative like that.

    Hacking the ESX 3i Server Root Password
    In case you every are called in to manage an ESX 3i server, but nobody know the root password, here an easy way to ‘fix’ this challange.

  • Again when the ESX 3i server boots and is on the main boot loader screen, hit shift-O
  • In the advanced option line type in: passwdReset="TRUE"
  • Continue the boot process.
  • The root password is now reset and you get full access. Always handy trick to know 🙂

    Well that is for now, if you find more cool tricks let me know and I will add them to the list.

    Enjoy playing with your ESX 3i server.