If you recently purchased the new 2012 Apple Mac Mini 6,2 which was just released not too long ago and tried to install either ESXi 5.0 or 5.1, you probably noticed a PSOD (Pink/Purple Screen of Death) during the installation. This is currently a known issue and there is an extensive VMTN thread (9,300+ views) about this problem which also includes a fix through a collaboration between VMTN community user zer010gic and VMware Engineer dariusd. Even though the Apple Mac Mini is not an officially supported hardware platform for running ESXi, it is great to see VMware engineers going out their way and trying to help the VMware community find a solution as well as providing an "unofficial" fix in this case.
I would also like to point out that this issue only applies to the new 2012 Apple Mac Mini, for previous models such as the Apple Mac Mini 5,1 or 5,3 you can install ESXi 5.0 or 5.1 without any issues. For more details, please refer to the instructions in this blog post.
Disclaimer: The Apple Mac Mini is not officially supported by VMware. The only supported platform for ESXi 5.0 for Apple hardware is the Apple XServe 3,1 and for ESXi 5.1 is the Apple Mac Pro, which you can get more details here.
Before jumping into the solution, if you think VMware should support the Apple Mac Mini for running ESXi, please provide feedback to VMware by submitting a Feature Request. The more feedback that VMware receives from customers along with business justifications, the better our product management team can prioritize features that are most important to our customers.
Here are the current problem/solutions when trying to install on the new Mac Mini:
Problem: PSOD during ESXi 5.0 or 5.1 installation.
Solution: Add iovDisableIR=true to the kernel option before attempting installation. When you are asked to reboot, be prepared to enter iovDisableIR=true again (SHIFT+O) which is required to get ESXi to boot after installation. Once the system has booted up, go ahead and run "esxcli system settings kernel set -s iovDisableIR -v true" in the ESXi Shell to persist the kernel setting. This is a "temp" workaround while PSOD is being investigated.
Problem: Unable to install new OSX Server on a VM or power on existing OSX Server VMs.
Solution: There appears to be a significant change in Apple's SMC (System Management Controller) device in the newer models that prevents the Apple SMC VMkernel driver from properly loading. A tempoary fix was provided to zer010gic to create a custom ISO until the fix is integrated into a future release.
Note: There may be other minor/unconfirmed issues listed on the VMTN thread, but for basic ESXi installation/usage + OSX Server VM creation/installation, the above solutions should be sufficent.
Instead of having everyone walk through the process of creating a custom ESXi ISO which includes the two fixes mentioned above as well as the bundling the updated tg3 Broadcom network drivers for network connectivity, zer010gic has generously created and is hosting ESXi 5.1 ISOs for users to download and use. It contains some work that I have been doing with zer010gic to create an ESXi 5.1 ISO that does not require any manual intervention outside of the normal ESXi installation. I recently completed the rest of this work which is based off of the oriignal ISO that zer010gic has shared on the VMTN community (unfortunately I have not been able to get a hold of him to provide him with the necessary bits and I have decided to post a modified ISO).
Here is a step by step instruction for zer010gic ESXi 5.1 ISO
Step 1 - Download zer010gic ESXi-5.1-MacMini-SMC-6-2.iso.
Step 2 - Transfer ISO to either USB key or CD-ROM
Step 3 - Perform ESXi installation as you would, but when you get to the very last step prior to rebooting, be ready for some typing when the host boots back up (this is important else you will get a PSOD)
Step 5 - Login to ESXi Shell (you may need to enable it first) and run the following ESXCLI command:
esxcli system settings kernel set -s iovDisableIR -v trueOnce this is set, you no longer have to do this again. If you prefer not to go through these manual steps, please refer to the section below for a modified ESXi 5.1 ISO which automates all this for you.
Here is my modified ESXi 5.1 ISO which does not require any additional user intervention
Step 1 - Download my ESXi-5.1-MacMini-SMC-BOOT-FIX-6-2.iso
Step 2 - Transfer ISO to either USB key or CD-ROM
Step 3 - Go through normal ESXi install and enjoy
Note: For details on how I automated the kernel setting setting, take a look at the very end.
So if you are looking to refresh your home lab, you just may want to consider using the new Apple Mac Minis, especially with small form factor footprint :)
Note: A couple of users mentioned it took a bit of time to boot up, specifically when usbarbitrator module is being loaded. I noticed this too and it took quite a bit of time, probably 5-6 minutes. If you do not plan on any USB pass-through from the Mac Mini to your guestOSes, you can actually disable this service which should help speed the bootup. If you wish to disable usbarbitrator, run the following command:
chkconfig usbarbitrator stop
ESXi ISO Customization Details
If you take a look at the steps required to install the ISO provided by zer010gic, most of the heavy work has already been done for you. The only "manual" part that is required from the user is to enter a kernel option during the first boot and then run an ESXCLI command to persist this kernel setting which will prevent Mac Mini from PSODing. Removing these these manual steps is actually harder than it looks because of when you need to actually perform the changes. After much trial and error, I came up with the following script below (it's not the cleanest, but it works).
Basically the script is loaded from custom.tgz and executed before the installation begins and it generates a script stored in /tmp/customboot.sh which will look for the boot.cfg configuration file stored in the primary bootbank. This is where we insert the iovDisableIR=true parameter so the user is not required to do this after the first boot up. The challenge with this is the boot.cfg does not exists until after the installation has completed, so what I ended up doing was insert a command into /usr/lib/vmware/weasel/process_end.py which is part of the weasel installer for ESXi and is the very last script that is called when a user hits reboot. The command points back to the /tmp/customboot.sh which will perform the insert into boot.cfg right before rebooting. To automatically take care of the ESXCLI configuration, I added the ESXCLI command to /etc/rc.local.d/local.sh which will automatically run after all init scripts have executed. Then finally, I need to clean up local.sh since I only need that that run once which is handled by another script that is also created and stored in /etc/init.d/customcleanup which will just clean up local.sh file as well as delete itself. Simple right? ;)
Note: There is probably a more optimal way of doing this, probably using one of the weasel installer scripts and just set the boot.cfg option and then clean up with an init script, but I decided to leverage some of my earlier work for Disabling LUN Duringn ESXi Installation
Here is the script within the custom.tgz file: