How to quickly deploy new CoreOS Image w/VMware Tools on ESXi?

deploy-coreos-with-vmware-tools-on-esxi Thanks to a conversation I had this morning with a Twitter user @BOK, I learned that CoreOS has just recently published a new CoreOS Alpha Image (v490.0.0) that now includes the Open VMware Tools package. In addition, the new image also now uses the optimized VMXNET3 network adapter. From our chat, it looks like this update is not available in the insecure or VMware Fusion image and I can only guess that these images may eventually get deprecated or removed completely in favor for the newer VMware image which can both run on ESXi as well as hosted products like VMware Fusion/Workstation.

@BOK also shared with me a modified version of my script that I initially created to automate the deployment of CoreOS onto ESXi. The original workflow had to be slightly modified as the new image is only available as bz2 (bunzip2) and ESXi does not contain the bunzip2 utility. This means there are now two steps: first is to extract the VMDK and upload to ESXi datastore which is going to be done manually and you can run the script which will automatically convert the VMDK to the proper format and register the VM in ESXi.

I was thinking about how I could simplify this process, even though it is just a couple of extra commands, I always like to see how I can make something easier to consume and reducing the complexity if possible. I of course decided to create a new script called deploy_coreos_on_esxi2.sh which now runs outside of the ESXi Shell. The script requires a UNIX/Linux system that has the bunzip2 utility and will automatically download both the VMX and VMDK file, perform the extraction and then upload it to ESXi host using an HTTP API provided through the vSphere Datastore. Lastly, it auto-generates the configuration shell script that will run over SSH to the ESXi host (SSH is still required) which will perform the same set of operations as my previous script did.

Note: You will be prompted to enter the ESXi root password when it tries to run the script remotely on the ESXi Shell, there is a timeout for 120seconds in case you step away from the console.

Prior to running the script, you will need to edit the following 7 variables:

  • ESXi_HOST
  • ESXI_USERNAME
  • ESXI_PASSWORD
  • ESXI_DATASTORE
  • VM_NETWORK
  • VM_NAME

Here is a screenshot of running the script from my Mac OS X desktop:

install-core-os-with-vmware-tools-on-esxi-0
Once the CoreOS VM has fully booted, we can take a look at our vSphere Client and we should see that VMware Tools is in fact running and we can see the IP Address automatically being displayed in the UI:

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The really nice thing about having VMware Tools running in the CoreOS image, is that you can use VMware's Guest Operations API to be able to perform operations within the guest which are proxied through VMware Tools and can be quite handy, especially if networking is not available or you want to go through a single management interface such as using the vSphere API.

How to get notifications when a component on the VMware HCL changes?

Last night, I received a pleasant and surprising email, you can see the details in the screenshot below:

email-notification-from vmware-hcl-0
This was a surprise because it was something I was tinkering around with back in March (8months ago!) to see if I could some how generate notifications when changes were being made to a specific component/device on the VMware HCL also known as the VCG (VMware Compatibility Guide). I suspect many of you have used the VMware HCL at least once if not many more times and as you can imagine, it would be nice to be able to get notifications or alerts when something has changed for a particular component or device that you might care about.

I was thinking about this problem because at the time I was interested in receiving updates on a particular VSAN disk controller. While browsing through the HCL, I had noticed there was an RSS feed icon located on the upper right hand corner for each component/device as shown in the screenshot below.

email-notification-from vmware-hcl-1
I thought maybe I could do something interesting with that? I decided to use one of my favorite SaaS services IFTTT (If This, Then That) which I have blogged about in the past on how to send SMS notifications using vCenter Server Alarms. I found an RSS to Email IFTTT recipe and created a notification based off of one of the Intel RAID Controllers by specifying the RSS feed URL.

email-notification-from vmware-hcl-2
I knew this was going to be a bit difficult to test given the HCL does not get updated that frequently and even if it does, I have to be monitoring the right device that received the update. I completely forgot about this recipe until yesterday when I had received the email stating an update had been made to this device. I guess it worked after all :D If there specific things you care about on the VMware HCL and you want to be able to receive notifications for any updates, you can create several IFTTT recipes that can either send you an email or notify you through some other method. I think this is a pretty nifty trick instead of continuously checking the VMware HCL every so often for changes, unless you are looking for brand new component/device that has not been added to the HCL.

Want to run ESXi on an Apple MacBook Pro, MacBook Air & iMac? #YesYouCan!

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We all know that ESXi runs pretty flawlessly (for the most part) on Apple Mac Pro's (5,1 & 6,1) and Apple Mac Mini's (5,x & 6,x), but what about when it comes to consumer laptops/desktops like a MacBook Pro/Air and even the iMacs? As you probably have guessed from the the title, you can run ESXi on any of these systems (which has been made easier with the latest ESXi release), in fact over the weekend I had some fun with some of the Apple hardware I had at my disposal.

  • 27" iMac 12,1
  • 13" MacBook Pro 7,1
  • 15" MacBook Pro 8,2
  • 13" MacBook Air 6,2

One of the issues I have encountered in the past when trying to install ESXi on my 15" MacBook Pro 8,2 (shown in the center of the picture) is that the keyboard (both the on-board and USB) would stop functioning once the ESXi installer started up. I could never figure out why and to be honest, I never really looked into the problem. I recently found out this issue has been resolved with the latest ESXi 5.5 Update Patch03 which also enables support for the new Mac Pro 6,1 and other bug fixes. It was good to learn from one of my readers, that the keyboard issue has been fixed using the latest 5.5u2 Patch03 image. If you look below, I actually went through and installed the latest ESXi release on each of these platforms which were all straight forward using a bootable USB key except for MacBook Air 6,2 which required adding the iovDisableIR=true boot option which I have blogged about here.

Whether you need to run ESXi on server grade hardware like an Apple Mac Pro or a tiny and lower power platform like the Apple Mac Mini or a consumer laptop/desktop like MacBook Pro/Air or an iMac where ESXi can be available wherever you go which is great for frequent travelers. As you can see, you have plenty of options for running ESXi on Apple hardware!

MacBook Pro 7,1
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MacBook Pro 8,2
macbookpro-82
MacBook Air 6,2
macbookair-62
iMac 12,1
imac-121

Automating VCSA 5.5 Configurations including SSO Administrator password

As many of you know, I am a huge fan of the VCSA (vCenter Server Appliance), not only for its ease of deployment and setup but also the fact that I can easily automate the entire deployment in just under a couple of minutes. I have written about this topic in the past using the vpxd_servicecfg command to automate both VCSA 5.0 and VCSA 5.1. I figured it was probably a good idea to update this for latest VCSA 5.5 which includes several new enhancements to vpxd_servicecfg command such as the VMware Customer Experience Improve Program configuration (vTelemtry) among other options that you can explore by simply running the vpxd_servicecfg on the VCSA.

The other reason I wanted to update this for the latest VCSA 5.5 is that I was working with Engineering last week on a project and several of them did not know about this capability of being able to automate the VCSA configuration. Instead of providing them with the raw commands, I thought I would create an updated script that can be shared with the community so that others could also benefit from it. Lastly, I also did this for myself as I deploy a large amount of VCSA for all sorts of testing that I am doing on a regular basis and this would allow me to quickly speed up my deployment by simply going to my own blog :)

Below is a shell script that contains several variables that can be edited based on your environment setup and you can run this script over SSH using something like: ssh root@[VCSA-IP] < configureVCSA.sh

 

How to install ESXi 5.5 Patch03 on the new Mac Pro 6,1?

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I have received several questions from customers asking how to go about installing the latest ESXi 5.5 Update 2 Patch03 on the Apple Mac Pro 6,1. Luckily, I was able to borrow one of the Apple Mac Pro 6,1 we had within VMware Engineering for a couple of days to document the process.

Step 1 - A prerequisite that must be met prior to installing ESXi is to have the Apple boot ROM update on the Mac Pro 6,1 running on MP61.0116.B05 or higher. This great piece of tidbit came from Josh who discovered issues while trying to install ESXi and found out this was a requirement after opening a case with Apple Engineering. It turns out that there is not an EFI update and the ONLY way to update the boot ROM was to install Yosemite (OS X 10.10) as it contains an update which can be applied to the Mac Pro. Thanks Josh for sharing this tip with us!

You can check the boot ROM by either following this Apple KB here or by running system info with an OS X image on a bootable USB device which is what I did to verify as seen in the screenshot below.

install-esxi-mac-pro-6-1-4
Step 2 - Once you have met the prerequisite, you will need to download the offline bundle for ESXi 5.5 Update 2 Patch03 which contains the Mac Pro 6,1 enablement along with other bug fixes. You can do so by going to VMware Patche portal and under ESXi, you should find ESXi550-201410001.zip at the very top.

Step 3 - Next you need to convert this offline bundle into an ISO image that you can load onto a USB device, this is the simplest way to install ESXi. To do so, you will need a Windows system as it uses a tool called VMware Image Builder which is only available for Windows. Image Builder is part of the PowerCLI toolkit which can be downloaded here.

Step 4 - Once PowerCLI has been installed go ahead and launch the it and we are ready to start authoring our ISO image

Step 5 - Add ESXi offline bundle that we download by running the following command:

Add-EsxSoftwareDepot ESXi550-201410001.zip

Step 6 - You will need to select the particular ESXi Image Profile to create your ISO image from, you can view the four Image Profiles by running the following command:

Get-EsxImageProfile | format-wide

Step 7 - You will want to select the one that contains the all patches including security and VMware Tools called ESXi-5.5.0-20141004001-standard by running the following command:

New-EsxImageProfile -CloneProfile "ESXi-5.5.0-20141004001-standard" -name "ESXi55u2-p03" -Vendor virtuallyGhetto

Step 8 - We now need to export the Image Profile we have selected to an ISO by running the following command:

Export-EsxImageProfile -ImageProfile "ESXi55u2-p03" -ExportToISO -filepath C:\VMware-ESXi-5.5u2p03-Mac-Pro-6-1.iso

Step 9 - Once the ISO has been created, you can now create a bootable USB containing your ESXi installation. I like to use Unetbootin but there are several other tools you can use, select whichever one you are comfortable with.

Step 10 - Plug the USB device into your Mac Pro and make sure to hold down the "ALT" key so you can select the device to boot from and you can start your ESXi installation as you would normally.

Here is a screenshot of the Mac Pro running the latest ESXi 5.5 Update 2 Patch03 release:
install-esxi-mac-pro-6-1-6

Thunderbolt Ethernet Adapter Support

I know there were a couple of questions from folks asking whether the Thunderbolt Ethernet Adapter would be recognized by ESXi on the new Mac Pro 6,1 and I can confirm, it does as shown in the screenshot below:

install-esxi-mac-pro-6-1-7
The Mac Pro 6,1 has two on-board Ethernet ports and comes with 6 x Thunderbolt connections, so you can connect quite a bit of networks if you need to.

GPU Passthru Support

I know a couple of you have asked whether the two Radeon 7870 GPU's could be passthru into a guest OS such as Mac OS X or Windows and it looks like they can from the ESXi point of view, however this is not officially supported by VMware, so YMMV on whether the guestOS can actually make use of the GPU.

mac-pro-passthrough-gpu-1
For Windows it looks like it was able to properly detect the GPU (as shown in the screenshot) below and for Mac OS X it does not look like it's properly detecting the GPU. I will see if I can investigate this further but there is a good chance that passthru for Mac OS X guest will not work.

mac-pro-passthrough-gpu-2
mac-pro-passthrough-gpu-3
If you have made it this far and realize you rather not go through that long process (which is quite short actually), then I you will be quite happy to see that I have done the hard work for you and have created an ESXi 5.5 Update 2 Patch03 ISO which you can download here. Hope you enjoy your new Mac Pro and running ESXi on top of it!