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SolutionBase: Install VMware ESX Server directly onto server-level hardware

Follow the steps in this article to install VMware's ESX Server as mainframe software that can run a variety of virtual servers.

VMware ESX Server is mainframe-class virtual machine software that runs on a Linux kernel. It is a highly scalable platform that increases the efficiency of Intel-based hardware. I'm going to show you how to install ESX server.

System requirements

VMware ESX Server has some hefty minimum hardware requirements:

  • Two CPUs (supports up to 16)
  • Processors must be at least 900 MHz Pentium III Xeon
  • 512 MB of RAM
  • At least one Ethernet card
  • SCSI, Fibre Channel, or RAID controller

These are minimums, so obviously you'll need to have more power than that. VMware recommends lots of RAM, multiple Ethernet cards (some virtual machines may run best with dedicated cards), and a separate disk controller that is dedicated to hosting the virtual machines. For more on the system requirements, see this page from the VMware Web site. VMware has also published information on supported hardware.

In addition to the hardware support for installing VMware ESX Server, you should also be aware of the supported guest operating systems:

  • Windows Server 2003
  • Windows XP Professional
  • Windows 2000 Server
  • Windows NT 4.0 Server, Service Pack 4 and higher
  • Windows NT 4.0 Terminal Services Edition
  • Novell NetWare 5.1 and 6.5
  • Red Hat Enterprise Linux (AS) 2.1 and 3.0
  • Red Hat Linux 7.2, 7.3, 8.0, and 9.0
  • SuSE Linux 8.2
  • SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 8.0

Installing ESX Server

If you have installed a Linux distribution such as Red Hat Linux, then you'll notice that several parts of the ESX Server installation are very similar. That's because ESX Server is built on a Linux kernel, as mentioned above. You will install ESX Server just like you would an operating system because it is a stand-alone operating system. Unlike VMware Workstation and VMware GSX Server, ESX Server does not have to be installed on top of an OS.

Put the ESX Server installation CD into the server's tray and boot up the computer. You are presented with the ESX Server Welcome screen (Figure A). Click Next and then keep the default installation option and choose Next again.

Figure A

Your next two screens allow you to accept your license agreement and enter your serial numbers, one for VMware ESX Server and one for "Virtual SMP." The Virtual SMP serial number allows your virtual machines to take advantage of multiple processors.

After you enter your serial numbers, you will then allocate the reserved memory to your virtual machines (Figure B) and partition your ESX Server (Figure C).

Figure B


Figure C

You can use the automatic partitioning or choose to manually partition your server, as shown in Figure D.

Figure D

Now you are ready to enter your IP addressing information (Figure E) and set your Time Zone.

Figure E

Next, set the "root" password and add any additional user accounts that you need to set up (Figure F). Usually at least one user account should be added so that you don't always have to log in as root.

Figure F

The final screens allow you to simply complete the installation. Remember to reboot at the end.

Log in to ESX Server

After the machine has rebooted, you can log in to the server with the IP address you specified. Simply open up Internet Explorer and type in the URL. After you log in, you are presented with the screen shown in Figure G.

Figure G

The first thing you need to do is to create a swap space file. Next to where it says "Warning: No swap space is configured or none is active," click the Reconfigure link. A new window will pop up for Swap Configuration (Figure H). Click the Create link and then follow the steps to set up the swap file.

Figure H

After you are finished with the swap file, you need to create a virtual switch. Next to where it says "Warning: No virtual Ethernet switches found," click the Reconfigure link and you will be presented with the window shown in Figure I. Give the virtual adapter a name and then select the physical Ethernet card(s) to bind to it.

Figure I

Last word

The core of ESX Server is now set up and ready to go. You can review and tweak your configuration by clicking on the Options tab or you can begin to install virtual machines from the Status Monitor tab.

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