pigbloke
Contributor
Contributor

Vsphere 4 - ESX or ESXi?

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I am in the process of planning a virtualisation project for my company comprising 3 vsphere hosts and a SAN. We are going with vsphere 4 enterprise plus licenses as this will give us HA and FT features plus scope for any expansion we may require in the future and HP DL360 G6 servers. I have had quotes for all our hardware and software costs and I am looking at ways of trimming the total outlay down slightly. One way of doing this would be to remove the hard drives and array controllers from the server configuration and running ESXi from compact flash/usb (our hardware suppliers don't stock DL360 G6 with embedded ESXi).

I have read may articles and threads on the differences between ESX and ESXi but I just wanted to some thoughts from people who have used both flavours.

I understand the main difference is the lack of service console on ESXi. Do people generally feel this is a disadvantage to using ESXi?

Are there any other noticeable diffrences between the 2 or any reliability or performance issues with ESXi?

If I create my own bootable compact flash/usb drive this would then be ESXi installable. Is there any appreciable difference between ESXi embedded and installable?

What do people think of the compact flash/usb drive being a single point of failure as opposed to running ESX on mirrored hard drives?

Many thanks in advance for any opinions offered.

Regards

Nick

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dburgess
VMware Employee
VMware Employee

Yes - I would echo that. Being an employee I'm obviously biased and the forums are not the place to sell you on one approach or another. However, one thing that is certain is that VMware will move completely to the ESXi model in some future release. This has been communicated for some years now.

If there are third party software products that still depend on the COS that is a reality that will drive you toward a traditional ESX model. If not, I can see no reason not to deploy ESXi (certainly with the 4.0 release train). Just also a point of clarication: ESXi is generated of the same source code base as ESX there should be no functional difference between the two apart from the interface options discussed above.

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MHAV
Hot Shot
Hot Shot

We are running our Envirenment on ESXi coming from an ESX Envirenment we changed it because of many reasons from less patches, securtiy issues (Firewall Ports and Lockdown Mode) and most that's the way VMware is going. About 50% of all issues are because of Thrid party software installed in the service console. The difference between the ESXi Emebedded and the ESXi Installable is that the Installable will be installed on Harddrives and the Embedded is on a USB-Stick. Go for ESXi and use the Embedded Version of ESXi. When you are talking about the Hardware you are planing to use you wrote something about HP ProLiant Servers; keep in mind that VMware offers a Version with the CIM-Modules of HP integrated that you get a better view of the Hardware you are using - you even can get the ESXi Servers in HP Systems Insight Manager 5.3SP1.

Regards

Michael Haverbeck

If you find this information useful, please award points for "correct" or "helpful".

Regards Michael Haverbeck Check out my blog www.the-virtualizer.com
dburgess
VMware Employee
VMware Employee

You shouldn't see any difference in intsallable versus embeedded; 4.0 now supports installing onto USB but you must adhere to the kb article that stipulates that the hardware must be on the 4i HCL and you must use an approved USB key. It's possible that some OEM's will bundle different CIM providers as mentioned below with ESXi but these should be available directly from the OEM if you go down the installable route.

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You will see better performance in some extreme scheduling cases when running ESXi versus Classic. Essentially the ESXi bits that replace the SCON are much lighter weight so if you're guests are consuming all the CPU they are easier to schedule/de-schedule etc. Most normal cases this won't be measurable.

On the reliability side. The ESXi kernel stages all writes to a RAM disk files system called visorFS before flushing to the key. If the key fails and you have setup all the logging to a central server (recommended anyway) you should not see an outage in the event of a key failure. You will not be able to make config chnages of course.

Hope this helps.

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pigbloke
Contributor
Contributor

Thanks for your response Michael. This is exactly the kind of information I was looking for and is most helpful.

Do you have any details of where I can download ESXi with the HP CIM modules integrated? I can't seem to find it on either the VMware site or the HP site.

Does anyone have any more opinions on this including any issues with not having a service console, performance/reliability issues and the compact flash/usb drive being a single point of failure.

Does anyone have any negative experiences with ESXi.

Thanks again.

Nick

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MHAV
Hot Shot
Hot Shot

Logon to download ESXi (Freeedition) and you suppost to be able to select it there. A CIM Integration is available for HP, IBM and DELL.

Regards

Michael Haverbeck

If you find this information useful, please award points for "correct" or "helpful".

Regards Michael Haverbeck Check out my blog www.the-virtualizer.com
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pigbloke
Contributor
Contributor

dburgess - Thanks for the info, interesting point about USB key failures needing no downtime.

Michael - On the ESXi download page there is an optional binary with Dell customization and another with IBM customization, but no optional binary for HP. Perhaps I would need to get this from HP.

Am I right in assuming that the general concensus is that ESXi is an equal if not better option to ESX? Does anyone have any negative points about ESXi or valid reasons to stick with ESX.

Thanks

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MHAV
Hot Shot
Hot Shot

I allways got it from VMware website and not from HP.

Regards

Michael Haverbeck

If you find this information useful, please award points for "correct" or "helpful".

Regards Michael Haverbeck Check out my blog www.the-virtualizer.com
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AndreTheGiant
Immortal
Immortal

Am I right in assuming that the general concensus is that ESXi is an equal if not better option to ESX?

ESXi probably will be the future: lite, fast to install (or included with hardware), less update, ...

But is just a 2.0 release, something is still not supported (for example some 3th part plugin require full ESX).

Andre

Andre | http://about.me/amauro | http://vinfrastructure.it/ | @Andrea_Mauro
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pigbloke
Contributor
Contributor

Thanks for the response Andre, I will bear this in mind before making any decisions. Apart from the plugins, do you see any other issues in using the less mature ESXi platform?

To recap:

ESXi has no service console and some plugins aren't supported. So as long as I ensure my hardware and USB key are supported or purchase servers with embedded ESXi, and check if I need any plugins that these are supported also then I should experience no problems or performance issues that I wouldn't otherwise get with ESX.

Are there any 'gotchas' I should be looking into before making my decision on deployment?

Thanks for all the information from everybody.

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AndreTheGiant
Immortal
Immortal

Apart from the plugins, do you see any other issues in using the less mature ESXi platform?

Only the "console" part is less mature: vmkernel is the SAME of ESX.

So I do not need other issues.

ESXi has no service console

ESXi has a limeted (and hidden) service console Smiley Wink

So as long as I ensure my hardware and USB key are supported

As destination of "system" file, not for VMFS datastore.

Andre

Andre | http://about.me/amauro | http://vinfrastructure.it/ | @Andrea_Mauro
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seniord
Enthusiast
Enthusiast

The HP ESXi image with the Insight Management agents is available from the following site:

HP ESXi 4 CIM and ESXi

Hope this helps.

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pigbloke
Contributor
Contributor

Thanks Seniord, I've downloaded the ISO image. The documentation that comes with it informs that the following flash devices are supported for ESXi installation on HP servers:

- Kingston Flash Memory Secure Digital Elite Pro: Description-2GB Secure Digital Card (50x), Part Number: HP-SD/2GB-S

- v100ss 2GB USB Flash Drive, part number FD2GBHP100-BLK-SMA-T

Nick

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kautium
Contributor
Contributor

We were thinking about the same question few months ago and after reading tons of documents and talking to experts we decided to go with ESX (which we boot straight from the SAN-connected HP EVA4400). The main reason to choose ESX was the service console and the fact that the local HP sales manager told us that embedded ESXi is not actually working for the customers the way HP wants it to. Im not sure what exactly he meant by that, but he said that customers have had all kinds of weird issues with the embedded version and that it would be wise to choose "real" ESX .I also like the fact that there is not a single point of failure like there would be with the embedde/USB -version.

We've been more than happy with our system for about 4 months now. We have 3 x HP BL460 G6 servers (with 2 CPU's and 32GB each) and we are thinking about getting more memory and one more server within the next few weeks. At the moment we have about 20 production virtual machines running in our VI 4.0 system, and more and more old physical servers are being migrated to it or created from the scratch almost daily. We also have 3 old ESX-servers (v2.x and v3.5) and basically our only problem is that we still have few Netware servers in them and they might not be that easy to migrate, since Vmware Converter 4 does not seem to support Netware. Converter also has few issues connectig to some Windows servers, but that is a whole new topic.

Oh, and one more thing, using HP Virtual connect with HP blades that boot brom the SAN makes it easy to just hand over the task of a failed server to a spare one. Nice and easy.

Marko K.

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seniord
Enthusiast
Enthusiast

Glad you could access the media. For future reference, the links to the HP ESXi image (which includes the HP CIM providers) and the standalone HP CIM providers is available at the HP VMware website: www.hp.com/go/vmware.

Integrated HP VMware ESXi 4.0

HP CIM Providers for ESXi 4.0

It is also worth refering to the following HP whitepaper which discusses how to manage and monitor HP Embedded VMware ESXi with HP Systems Insight Manager; HP VMware ESXi Management Environment integration note. Again, this whitepaper is available at the HP VMware website.

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pigbloke
Contributor
Contributor

Thanks for your input Marko.

the local HP sales manager told us that embedded ESXi is not actually working for the customers the way HP wants it to. Im not sure what exactly he meant by that, but he said that customers have had all kinds of weird issues with the embedded version

Has anybody else heard of or experienced issues with ESXi on HP servers? I was leaning towards ESXi until this post Smiley Happy

Nick

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seniord
Enthusiast
Enthusiast

I wouldn't change my mind based on a single post that doesn't even highlight what the 'weird issues' are! The fact that that the author didn't bother to ask the sales guy to explain them raises alarm bells... not really firm basis for a decision. It appears that Marko has implemented a boot from SAN solution which would not have been possible with ESXi anyway.

I know many HP customers using ESXi without problems. Their basis of selecting this architecture varies from security (no Service Console), simplicity of deployment (quick), simplicity of management (less patching), cost (SD or USB instead of disks). These are valid reasons for selecting one over the other.

dburgess
VMware Employee
VMware Employee

Yes - I would echo that. Being an employee I'm obviously biased and the forums are not the place to sell you on one approach or another. However, one thing that is certain is that VMware will move completely to the ESXi model in some future release. This has been communicated for some years now.

If there are third party software products that still depend on the COS that is a reality that will drive you toward a traditional ESX model. If not, I can see no reason not to deploy ESXi (certainly with the 4.0 release train). Just also a point of clarication: ESXi is generated of the same source code base as ESX there should be no functional difference between the two apart from the interface options discussed above.

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kautium
Contributor
Contributor

I really do not know what kind of problems that particular HP sales manager meant. We tried to ask for details, but the message was pretty clear at the moment without any particular explanation --&gt; they were not willing to sell embedded ESXi at all because they said that "embedded ESXi is not really working for customers the way HP wants it to". This message came from HP sales manager here in Finland.

At first we liked the idea of servers having just simple embedded ESXi and of course we were not planning to use SAN boot with it (SAN boot is option only with ESX). After weighting all options and suggestions, we decided to go with ESX servers which boot straight from the SAN.

I'll try to dig some more information if I can.

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pigbloke
Contributor
Contributor

After discussions with my colleagues and our resellers, armed with invaluable opinions and insights from this thread, we have decided to go with ESXi.

Many thanks to Michael, dburgess, Andre, seniord and Marko for sharing your knowledge and experiences with me.

I'm sure I'll be back for more once our deployment begins in earnest.

Nick

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DanBriones
Contributor
Contributor

If you are using G6 servers there is a built in SD card slot on the system board; I have purchased 4GB SD cards from HP but you can buy them from Kingston or any other; and I have installed the HP bundle for vSphere ESXi, without problem, performance is great and it behaves as the others in the cluster it integrates without issue once you apply the key.

on another note I have a DL380 G6 and all 6 drive slots are filled with iTB drives; if I configure 2 sets of 3 drives in RAID 5 no issues but if I configure all 6 drives in a single raid5 esx can no longer see the raw space because it is larger than 4 TB has anyone dealt with this?; I realize that I can only create 2 TB extents in VMFS but I should be able to see the raw space to create these extents right?

any help would be greatly appreciated

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