Servers

ESXi installable vs. embedded decision points

When deploying vSphere hypervisors, there are a few choices to be made. In this post, Rickatron highlights benefits for each option of ESXi.

When a new server is purchased, there is an option to have an embedded instance of ESXi provided with the server. This is an important step of the server hardware acquisition process, and a few points need to be considered before simply rolling this option into mainstream use.

ESXi embedded is available from OEMs and is different than what we may have used from hardware OEMs like Dell and HP, providing operating systems pre-installed. First of all ESXi isn’t really an operating system, but a simple hypervisor. The ESXi embedded option has a small amount of non-rotational storage (usually a flash resource, like an SD card) on the motherboard fixed into place with ESXi on that storage device. ESXi embedded can save the costs of purchasing traditional hard drives, especially if they won’t do anything other than run ESXi. If you plan on using VMFS datastore locally, then local drives are still an option. Further, you can do both ESXi embedded and a local array for a VMFS datastore, which is actually a cleaner solution.

ESXi installable is another option and is what we all are likely more familiar with. This is where we download an .ISO file and install it on a server, including on motherboard flash resources if present. Many server OEMs provide specific part numbers that are supported for installing ESXi on the system board and not requiring a dedicated hard drive or hard drive array. Further, servers that have internal (and external) USB ports can have ESXi installed on a thumb drive. I don’t recommend using this approach for production ESXi hosts unless using the internal ports.

In both situations, you have options. When it comes to the initial acquisition of server hardware, consider the use cases of the system. Will it be always running ESXi? Will there be any need for local storage? Will there be any chance of an operating system change on the host? These are all factors that should be addressed on the purchase. If the use will be very much focused on ESXi and there are a lot of shared storage resources, purchasing the ESXi embedded option with the server may be a good idea -- and skip the option of any local storage costs. If a local storage resource (which always has pretty good performance) is a requirement, then consider embedded with a separate drive array of SAS, SATA or SSD drives on the server.

Do you purchase servers directly with ESXi embedded or simply go through the installation option with each purchase? Share your comments below.

About

Rick Vanover is a software strategy specialist for Veeam Software, based in Columbus, Ohio. Rick has years of IT experience and focuses on virtualization, Windows-based server administration, and system hardware.

3 comments
mr.vivekananda
mr.vivekananda

Since customization option less in Embeded...we can go with Installer as from Installer we can choose based on our requirement.

tmdelariva
tmdelariva

We have generally gone the installation route but it is a great option to be able to order it embedded on the server. I look forward to being able to offer this to clients

iworsfold
iworsfold

While we opt for the traditional server installation so we can control the patch level that is applied which is particularly important when using VSphere FT. There are additional options such as boot from SAN and now with VSphere 5; Auto Deploy which allows you to boot from network. What I would say with both options is that you would need to setup a centralized syslog collector and in the case of the Auto Deploy option, Host Profiles which I would say are essential for that configuration. Both options allow for diskless server configurations.