VMware ESXi 3.5 and my home network experience

I recently got a decommissioned HP ML 350 G3 server to use for my VMware ESXi 3.5 environment at home. I have been bumping into a couple of challenges with it. Even though the server is supported according to their hardware specs, some of the stuff I am trying to attach doesn’t seem to be. I am trying to build this environment with only equipment I have, not purchasing anything. First off, here is the existing server configuration:

  • Dual Xeon 2.8 Processors
  • 4 Gigs of memory
  • About a 280gig RAID5 partition (with hot swap drives)

Server works fine as is, but I really wanted to add more external disk space so I could house images on a separate drive array, plus want to setup a backup routine as well (another article on that later). As I have been finding out with VMware ESXi, there are certain challenges, one big one being hardware. It seems VMware has taken the approach that it will support only newer Server hardware, which is fine if you are buying new stuff, but not fine if you are doing the piece meal approach like myself. One of things I would like to attach is a SCSI drive tower box with 6, 72 gig drives and I wanted to do a RAID5 configuration for backup/storage.  After about a week of trying different SCSI cards I had laying around at home and extra from work, I was finally able to get one to work, but the drive array itself was not stable and literally took 48 hours to format a RAID5 partition!  So back to the drawing board for the external storage.

I found somebody that was willing to buy my 72gig drives for about $50/piece, and I had 8 of them.  So after some paypal exchanges I had some extra cash to get my drive array.  I went and found an Adaptec 2410SA SATA RAID card on ebay, and 2 500gig SATA II drives over at newegg.com, all for a reasonable price.  So I went against what I wanted to do originally and not buy anything, but since I was able to sell the unusable SCSI drives, I was able to purchase what I needed and actually had a few bucks left over.  Nice!

Now I am in the process of testing out the external mirror array, I am putting on it the latest beta of Windows 7.  So far it seems to be working OK.  I also started to load a Windows 2008 image to see how it works out.

Now, if I could only find 2gig chips so I could get this server up to 8 gigs of RAM (well, I did find them, but at about $150 a stick).  4 gigs works, but I can tell the performance hit when I have too many VMs running on it.

Hey, at least the price has been right.

Using a Personal Mozilla Weave Server for Bookmark syncing

icon_weave_sWhen I found out Google Browser Sync (for Firefox) was going away I was bummed. I really like how I could sync up my bookmarks using my Google info, basically all in one easy place. Well after some digging around, I was able to find Mozilla Weave (this was before GBS put links on their page to it). Unfortunately when I did find it, it was closed for new users due to too much traffic/users. Bummer. Well alas, I found that I could run my own server via Mozilla Weave forums, here is the link to the info on how to build your own Weave server. Fortunately it is not too hard to setup and looks pretty easy to maintain.

Using vmware-vmrc with ESX3

One of the things I have missed from Virtual Server is the desktop VMRC utility. We have a few machines in our environment where we have help desk or developers access virtual machines (usually workstations), but don’t want to load the entire VI client for them. Well, I found this article about pulling out the vmware-vmrc applications from a VMware Server 2.0 install, and using it to replicate what we where doing before. I am going to try it out now, this will help eliminate a couple more Virtual Server machines that we have had to keep around because of this.

VMware ESXi is what we are going with

This is basically a wrap up of my previous blog posts here and here. A couple weeks ago we decided to go with VMware ESXi. The performance factor was probably a deciding point. Our Windows 2000/2003 servers were probably running up to 2 to 3 times faster on our VMware ESXi servers as opposed to the Hyper-V servers. Deployment was easier as well. Hyper-V had some advantages though, such as backups were easier and migrating Windows Virtual Server machines would be easier. Those few advantages though was not enough, and we decided to go with VMware. Hopefully my company will pony up the cash so we can go to the Enterprise edition. That is another battle altogether :).