Since I have a tutorial on how to install XPenology on ESXi I should probably also make a post on how to install ESXi.
While trying to configure the perfect server I’ve been testing out a lot of different hypervisors and configurations. After much trial and error I finally decided on using VMware ESXi which is a popular type-1 hypervisors which isn’t just awesome, but also available for free. Two of the main points for me is ease of use and compability, both in which ESXi excels in. Compared to Hyper-V, ESXi supports both hardware in passthrough mode and virtualizing of non-standard operating systems such as Mac OS X.
In order to install VMware ESXi you’ll need a physical computer/server with compatible hardware and a USB flash drives larger then 4GB to install the hypervisor from and on. The ESXi installer is loaded into memory, so it’s possible to use a single USB flash drive as the source and destination. While it’s possible to install ESXi on a harddrive, it’s not recommended to do so. There’s just no point of wasting precious hard disk storage space on the hypervisor itself as it will run from memory once booted.
If you want to give virtual machines access to particular hardware such as a SATA or USB controller I also recommend to buy this as a separate PCIe card. Enabling DirectPath I/O (passthrough) on hardware on the motherboard may or may not work in many cases, especially on consumer grade hardware.
Install the server
First of all you’ll need to get a copy of the installation medium and a valid license. Fortunately it’s easy to obtain and the only thing you’ll have to do is to register at VMware.com. Follow the registration process carefully and you should be able to download the ISO file. Once you have the ISO file you can use a utility such as Rufus to create a bootable USB drive from it.
Next step is to insert both USB flash drives into your server and boot from the bootable USB drive you just created. From here it’s just to follow the on screen instructions, grab a coffee and wait. The installation procedure is one of the most beautiful, simple and intuitive I’ve ever encountered and you should have no trouble installing ESXi. When done remove the bootable USB drive and reboot the server. After the reboot you should configure the basics such as setting a static IP address and proper hostname.
Install the client
In order to be able to manage the server may either download the VMware vSphere Client from the VMware portal or directly from you server by navigating to it’s IP address in your web browser. The free version of vSphere is quite limited and you shouldn’t have any problems navigating around, configuring new virtual machines and other basic tasks as long as you are somewhat familiar with other hypervisors.
A big thank you to Proxy5 for suggesting ESXi Embedded Host Client as an alternative to the desktop client. While it’s still in development with a few known bugs on the list, it’s definitely worth checking out!