PXE ESXi Virtual Machine (ESXi 5 and ESXi 4)

VMWare ESXi 4 and ESXi 5 Server is available in two editions; embedded – the version that comes pre-installed with your server and installable (ESXi).

Installable comes on a CD or it can be downloaded as an image (ISO file) however in case where you need to do multitude of ESX Server installations or perhaps repeated ESXi installs, it really is a bit of a troubles to consistently have the actual Cd / dvd always ready and mounted. Additionally within out particular environment, my newer servers do not to contain a CD or DVD-ROM, so we have got to search up the portable CD/DVD-ROM each time we need to install VMWare ESXi 4 or 5.

The actual solution is installing VMWare ESXi over the network and this can easily be done in case you have a PXE server on your network.

An agile PXE ESXi infrastructure may easily turn you IT organization efficiency a be new real force multiplier within your technological set of tools. PXE ESXi fully-automated installations no-doubt are great time-savers, nevertheless there is also benefit in being able to perform an interactive (manual) set up of VMware ESXi, Linux, or Windows over the network.

Actual physical installation media is definitely becoming less important and not as much viable in these days of lights-out datacenters, and virtual media capabilities offered with remote boards, for example DRAC or iLO. CD/DVD install option tends to be most effective way reserved for punishing junior users of the team.

It’s easy to set up a Linux-based PXE ESXi deployment server that coexist with Windows Deployment Services – that would be useful for environments which require various operating systems to be deployed on a single VLAN.

There are lot’s of blogposts about how to build and set up fully-automated PXE ESXi deployments, and other people have provided recipes for setting up VMware ESXi servers without using installation media and completely rely on PXE server for interactive PXE ESXi installation.

PXE-ESXi-Virtual-ApplicanceWe’ve got a great news! We’ve built a Virtual Appliance that does that with VMware ESXi 4 and even VMWare ESXi 5 and this simplifies your life and you don’t have to  work on building your image.tgz file in oreder to set up manual PXE ESXi installation. This way the whole process of building PXE ESXi Server got down to downloading the PXE ESXi virtual appliance, importing the appliance into your Virtual Machine inventory and changing the network settings to reflect your current environment wich makes the whole process of building PXE ESXi server easier and cleaner and give you the freedom to organize multiple installation sources on that PXE server.

Once you’ve the PXE ESXi virtual machine downloaded and your networking configuration has been changed, deploying a new ESXi 4 or ESXi 5 host is a piece of cake. In our lab, I was able to automatically install and configure an ESXi box within minutes.

The PXE ESXi virtual machine has four menus to choose from. The first one allows you to install ESXi 5 in an Interactive mode – which is basically speaking similar to the situation were you dropped the install media into the physical host and booted your ESXi server off the media. You will be asked the standard questions during ESXi Server install procedure. The second menu allows you to install ESXi 4 in an interactive mode, and the last two menus are scripted (preconfigured) installations of ESXi 5. You can change these settings to reflect your environment and have ESXi hosts boot off your PXE server and automatically get installed!

PXE-ESXi-boot-menu

PXE booting ESXi opens numerous hypervisor management and deployment possibilities that previously didn’t exist.

Ready for PXE ESXi interactive installation

With the PXE ESXi virtual machine you are now ready to PXE boot your physical hosts or VMs for an interactive or scripted installation of VMware ESXi 4 or ESXi 5.

With this ESX PXE deployment appliance (virtual machine) you boot your physical or virtual servers from the network and install:

1) ESXi 5

ESXi-5-PXE-Boot

And my ESXi 5 Server install went through with no issues…

ESXi-5-Installed-with-PXE

2) ESXi 4

There are four menu options:

1) Scripted install with pre-configured IP’s
2) Interactive install (the user just boots off the PXE and manually selects the OS install options)

The PXE ESXi Server has been built on Linux (CentOS) and it it’s available for download in ESXi compatible format (OVF or OVA) ready to be deployed in your production environment.

It’s configured with two network interfaces. NIC1 has IP address 10.1.20.8 and DHCP scope 10.1.20.60-10.1.20.120.

Description

Pre-Configured PXE Server. The solution is installing ESXi 4.x and ESXi 5 over the network.

Features & Benefits

Pre-Configured PXE, TFTP and DHCP Server to install ESXi 4.x and ESXi 5 over the network.

Application Version: PXE ESXi 2012-02-17
PXE ESXi Version: 1.7.2 (release notes)
Short Name: PXE ESXi
OS Version: CentOS
Updated: February 02, 2012
Download Size: 206 MB (system requirements)
Amazon EC2 AMI Available: Yes
OVF Available: Yes
Documentation — User Discussion