Running ESX 3.5 Hosts in Workstation 6.5 ……..

Servers, storage, and networking components are key when creating a test lab, especially when you want to try out the latest tools in the virtualization industry. Unfortunately mobility of your test lab becomes an issue when everything is up and running. Airport security might think oddly of someone carrying 400lbs of gear in an oversized carry on. Now there’s a solution for a portable test lab that works (and very well!) VMware just released Workstation 6.5 Beta II Build 99530…..and with that now you can run ESX 3.5 within it AND your VMs don’t crash. Of course it is not as easy as installing your favorite OS but in a few steps you can have your new portable test lab up and running in no time.

Before we begin I like to thank xtravirt and Eric Sloof at NTPRO.NL for their great insights to the topic at hand.

First, make sure you have a copy of the latest version of VMware’s Workstation Beta Build 99530, ESX 3.5, and Virtual Center 2.5 (if desired). Also, if you are also looking for a great iSCSI SAN solution download a copy of openfiler 2.2.

Now, install Workstation but don’t start the application quite yet, there is some tweaking that needs to be done. Workstation Beta only runs in Debug mode by default which can cause some performance issue when running multiple VMs. Explore into your VMware folder within Program Files. Locate two files one being vmware-vmx-debug and its smaller counterpart vmware-vmx. Rename vmware-vmx-debug to vmware-vmx-debug-orig and then create a copy of vmware-vmx and rename it to vmware-vmx-debug. Now you have successful disabled debug mode.

Now it is time to create the ESX 3.5 VM(s)…….

Create a custom VM with the follow attributes:

Guest OS – other/other

Virtual Machine Name – ESX01

# of processors – One

Memory – 1024 MB (or as much as you can up to 1024 MB)

Network- Host only (to create a internal lab…Bridged if desired)

SCSI Adapter- LSI Logic

Create a new pre-allocated 8GB SCSI virtual disk

Click finish but make sure that the power on option is not select. (Installing now will crash ESX)

Now let’s edit out VM’s configuration a bit more in the “.vmx” file. Open the configuration file in Notepad and add the following lines to the very bottom of the file:

ethernet0.virtualDev = "e1000"

monitor.virtual_exec = "hardware"

monitor_control.restrict_backdoor = "true"

Save the file and now you can open the VM in Workstation and install ESX. You can customize your lab any way you want. My current set-up is:

Openfiler 2.2 (for an iSCSI SAN)

Two Windows Servers (one for Virtual Center 2.5 and one for demo software)

Two ESX 3.5 Servers (running two VMs each)

Networked on internal VMnet9 network.

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