nested-esxi-on-vchsToday I was granted access to VMware's vCloud Hybrid Service and the first order of business for me of course, was to provision a Nested ESXi VM! After going through the vCHS UI (which is very slick and easy to use by the way) and the vCloud Director UI, I realized the ESXi guestOS type has not been enabled on the backend of the vCloud Director Database. This totally makes sense, as vCHS is a production ready service and they definitely would not want to run anything that is not officially supported.

Having said that, I can see the benefits to customers who would like build out a Nested ESXi environment on vCHS for lab purposes instead of having to manage their own. Some customers even leverage Nested ESXi as part of their development and testing of software and it can be challenging at times to quickly spin up a brand new environment. Instead, they go to vCHS and with just a couple of of clicks in the UI or automatically using the vCloud APIs, provision a couple of Nested ESXi instances for testing. You can easily discard the resources once you are done or keep them running a bit longer.

Having worked with vCloud Director in the past, I knew that you could import an OVF/OVA and I thought maybe I could just import the Nested ESXi OVF templates that I built and potentially workaround vCHS "limitation" 🙂

Disclaimer: Nested ESXi and Nested Virtualization is not officially supported by VMware nor is it supported on vCHS

I tried to upload one of the OVF templates that I built, but it turns out vCloud Director does not supported the Dynamic Disks feature, so I had to perform two additional steps.

Step 1 - Download one of the following Nested ESXi OVF templates

Step 2 - Import the OVF template in an existing vSphere environment and ensure you are doing so using the vSphere Web Client, as some of the properties may not be imported properly

Step 3 - Once deployed, go ahead and re-export the image to an OVF/OVA (I choose OVA as it is a single file) and this will generate the empty VMDKs for you so the image should still be very small (< 1MB)

Step 4 - Login into to your vCHS account and  click on your Virtual Datacenter. Select Virtual Machines and then click on Manage in vCloud Director. Import the OVF/OVA that you have just exported

Step 5 - Once the import has been completed, you now have a Virtual Machine that has been configured with the correct guestOS type which should be VMware ESXi 5.x as seen in the screenshot below

nested-esxi-on-vchs-2
Step 6 - At this point, you can either mount an ESXi ISO over your browser or upload it into the vCloud Director Catalog so you can mount it locally and begin your installation of ESXi. Below is a screenshot of 3 Nested ESXi VMs running on vCHS

nested-esxi-on-vchs-3
Note: It looks like some of the advanced VM settings that are part of my OVF template are ignored as part of the vCloud Director import. This means that if you would like to run a Nested VSAN environment on vCHS, you will not be able to rely on the SSD emulation setting but instead, you will need to run through the ESXCLI claim rules to mark particular disks as "SSD" devices. It would have been really nice if vCloud Director would preserve all the advanced VM settings but at least you can still run a Nested VSAN environment.

So there you have it, Nested ESXi running on vCHS! I am kind of curious if this is the first instance of a Nested ESXi VM running on vCHS without having admin access on the backend system?

Note: One limitation to be aware of is that since the backend of vCloud Director is not properly enabled for Nested Virtualization support, this means you will NOT be able to run Nested VMs on top of the Nested ESXi instances. This is due to the lack of having Network Pool which has both Promiscuous & Forge Transmits enabled which is a requirement for proper Nested VMs connectivity. I wonder if vCHS should provide Nested Virtualization capabilities? I know I definitely would like to see it, what do you think? Leave a comment if you have some thoughts on this topic.

UPDATE (05/4/14) - If you wish to run a Nested VSAN environment on vCHS, you will need to take a look at this blog post here on how to "fake" an SSD on one of the devices by using ESXCLI claim rules. The rason for this is that you will not be able to leverage the other method of emulating an SSD device via advanced setting as that requires access to the underlying vSphere environment which you will not have in vCHS.

7 thoughts on “How to run Nested ESXi on the vCloud Hybrid Service?

  1. Running nested VMs in nested ESXi in vCHS would be huge for our Solutions Lab environment. It would greatly help the resellers we work with.

  2. Yes, would really love nested VM support. That would be most advantageous for DR purposes using a 3rd party solution such as Veeam.

  3. A nested ESXi support on the vCloud Hybrid Services, would be very nice if it were officially supported. It could be used as reserve resource, in a VCAC managed Cloud environment, with the advantage that no additional blueprints have to be created to provision a service to vCHS. The control could be made ​​through the reservations and their priority

  4. For Step 3, why can’t you just make that .ova available for download, and save us from having to import then export your Template?

  5. It would be awesome of you could create trunked networks within vCD to which you could map vSphere hosts. This would open up the door for the ability to run guest VMs inside of nested vSphere hosts. Totally not supported for Production environments, but for educational purposes and making oneself familiar with products such as vRA and View, this would be huge.

Thanks for the comment!