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Stateless VMware ESXi Server Version 3.5 Update 4 Using PXE Booting (1008971)

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Details

The configuration described in this article is very generic, outlining how you can boot the ESXi Server version 3.5 Update 4 Installable image using PXE. The description provided outlines how you can boot from the network by PXE booting ESXi Server version 3.5 Update 4 Installable. This installation is completely stateless (it does not rely on the presence of a local disk). Therefore, the installation and post-install configuration are not persistent across reboot. If you want to automate the sever configuration at boot time, use the VMware Infrastructure Toolkit (VMware Infrastructure SDK). See the following page for links to VMware documentation related to SDKs: http://www.vmware.com/support/pubs/sdk_pubs.html

VMware Experimental Feature Support

PXE booting VMware ESXi Server version 3.5 Update 4 Installable is an experimental feature and is supported as such. For more information about VMware's support for experimental features, see http://www.vmware.com/support/policies/experimental.html.

Overview of PXE Booting

The configuration described in this article is completely stateless with no local storage or operating system requirements. Furthermore any post-installation configuration is non persistent across reboot. This article is intended for experienced Windows or Linux system administrators who are familiar with virtual machine technology, data center operations, and PXE booting.

Benefits of PXE Booting

The main benefit of PXE booting ESXi Server version 3.5 Update 4 is that it allows you to run the deployment on systems with no disk or other local persistent storage. Furthermore, PXE booting greatly simplifies both the booting and upgrading processes. Therefore, scaling to many machines is greatly facilitated. No manual installation steps are necessary when the system is fully-realized.

Prerequisites

This article assumes that you are able to configure a DHCP environment with PXE.

To PXE boot an ESXi Server version 3.5 Update 4 installation you need the following:

  • A PXE Server (with TFTP)
  • A server with a hardware configuration that is supported with ESXi Server version 3.5 Update 4 (refer to the Hardware Compatibility Guide for supported hardware configurations)
  • Network security policies to allow TFTP traffic (UDP port 69).

A description of the configuration of the network policies and of DHCP with PXE servers is outside the scope of this article.

Solution

The following are the steps for PXE booting an ESXi Server version 3.5 Update 4 installation:

  1. Download the ESXi Server version 3.5 Update 4 Installable image into your PXE boot environment.
  2. From the image, extract the files as listed in this step to a directory of your choice.
    1. mboot.c32
    2. binmod.tgz
    3. boot.cfg
    4. cim.tgz
    5. environ.tgz
    6. license.tgz
    7. oem.tgz
    8. vmkernel.tgz

      You can extract the necessary files in many ways. An example of the extraction process is provided in
      Extracting ESXi Server Version 3.5 Update 4 Installable Image Files (1009034).

  3. Download and extract the latest version of the SYSLINUX files to the same directory as the ESXi Server version 3.5 Update 4 image files.
    This step enables the remote ESXi Server version 3.5 Update 4 host to boot from these image files. Refer to the SYSLINUX/PXE Documentation for installation and configuration options.
  4. Modify the default file in the syslinux.cfg folder to create a boot menu for the remote ESXi Server version 3.5 Update 4 host that appears as follows:

    default menu.c32
    menu title PXE Boot VMware ESXi
    timeout 100

    label ESXi
    menu label Boot VMware ESXi
    kernel mboot.c32
    append vmkernel.gz PBHOST=PXE-BOOT-IP-ADDRESS:3333 — binmod.tgz — environ.tgz — cim.tgz — oem.tgz ipappend 2

    label Hard
    menu label Boot from local drive
    localboot 0

  5. Boot ESXi Server version 3.5 Update 4 using DHCP with PXE, passing it the address for the configuration server.
    If everything proceeds properly, the ESX Server starting screen appears on the new ESXi Server version 3.5 Update 4.

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