7 Replies Latest reply on Nov 7, 2008 9:55 AM by STTH

    ESX / ESXi 3.5 on a system with Intel ICH8 / ICH9 SATA and 82566DM-2 NIC

    STTH Novice

      I am trying to figure out if ESX 3.5 and ESXi 3.5 are capable of installing on a system equipped with an Intel 82801HR/HH/H0 SATA RAID Controller (ICH8R), which can be configured (through the BIOS) as either SATA, RAID or AHCI. Although I have been able to boot the CD with no problem, I was not yet able to have the installer detect any hard drives (I tried to switch the BIOS settings but it did not help), which prevents me from installing ESX.

       

      It seems logical that the system would be compatible with ESX because I have heard of people who are running Linux with no problem with the same system ; so I am guessing it is just a matter of getting the appropriate driver for the disk controller. As it fails to continue the setup, the bootable ESX installer offers me to pick a driver, but I do not know where to locate the appropriate version (Linux, or ideally VMware native ? Unless I can alter the install process itself).

       

      Then, I am not sure whether or not ESX is capable of running on SATA and AHCI (or both), especially since I only have 1 drive (no RAID available, even though the system is RAID capable). And if both SATA and AHCI work, then which is best ?

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

      Lastly, given the way ICH8 is designed, in case there were 2 drives and the BIOS was set to RAID, does it mean that the controller will actually present the LUNs already RAIDed to the ESX installer, or is it the kind of controller that still required a piece of software RAID driver, in which case ESX might not be able to detect a RAIDed LUN but but just a bunch of drives (JBOD) instead ? If so, how could a compatible (even non-supported) RAID driver for ESX be installed, once we can get it to at least detect the drives individually ?

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

      Thank you.

        • 1. Re: ESX3.5 & ESX3.5i setup with Intel 82801HR/HH/H0 SATA RAID Controller (ICH8R)
          Dave.Mishchenko Guru

          Welcome to the VMware Community forums.  You may be able to get ESX(i) to install, but it will not be supported.   But there are others able to create VMFS on the ICH8 controller.   The drivers that come with ESX(i) are modified Linux drivers so you won't be able to use native Linux drivers.   Also the drivers that come with ESXi don't support soft-RAID features so you wouldn't be able to run a RAID set on this controller.

           

          A few things to try

          1)  For ESXi there is a custom oem.tgz file here - http://www.vm-help.com/esx/esx3i/customize_oem_tgz.php

          2)  Get the PCI ids for the controller (http://www.vm-help.com/esx/esx3i/find_PCI_ID.php)  and then post them here.

          • 2. Re: ESX3.5 & ESX3.5i setup with Intel 82801HR/HH/H0 SATA RAID Controller (ICH8R)
            STTH Novice

            Thank you for your response.

             

            I noticed that you posted a lot of information about this subject throughout the various VMTN forums, and I tried to read and implement as much as possible ; but unfortunately it is not working yet. I am getting purple screens even though I believe I followed each step provided by these detailed explanations. Any idea what might be causing that ? I made sure I used a bin/hex text editor to modify the PCI files, and I carefully respected the tree structure while updating the OEM files. But I probably missed something, or there might be something else interferring, but I cannot figure out what.

             

            Also, are you suggesting that the ICH8 is not really a RAID controller, but simply a chipset designed to "present" the drives to the OS (as "JBOD"), which itself needs a dedicated driver to perform software based-RAID (thus impacting performance and compatibility) ?

             

            Given the important and growing community of users who own a system with a disk controller based on the ICH8 chipset (or all SATA in general), and who would like to run even a non supported version of ESX in that kind of environment (if VMware has no plans to support anything other than SCSI and SAS), are you aware of any company that might take up the challenge and provide a module for ESX that would offer just that, or even of an easy to use, freeware patch or bootable ISO to fill that increasing need ?

             

            Thank you.

            • 3. Re: ESX3.5 & ESX3.5i setup with Intel 82801HR/HH/H0 SATA RAID Controller (ICH8R)
              Dave.Mishchenko Guru

              I noticed that you posted a lot of information about this subject throughout the various VMTN forums, and I tried to read and implement as much as possible ; but unfortunately it is not working yet. I am getting purple screens even though I believe I followed each step provided by these detailed explanations. Any idea what might be causing that ? I made sure I used a bin/hex text editor to modify the PCI files, and I carefully respected the tree structure while updating the OEM files. But I probably missed something, or there might be something else interferring, but I cannot figure out what.

               

              It might be easiest to extract ESXi onto a USB flash drive and boot with that.  Your ICH controller may not be recognized, but you'll find out if the rest of the PC will work Ok.  You could at that point run ESXi with storage on iSCSI or NFS.   But once you have ESXi booted, you can look at changing oem.tgz if necessary.

               

              Also, are you suggesting that the ICH8 is not really a RAID controller, but simply a chipset designed to "present" the drives to the OS (as "JBOD"), which itself needs a dedicated driver to perform software based-RAID (thus impacting performance and compatibility) ?

               

              Here's a good explanation - http://linux-ata.org/faq-sata-raid.html.   If you do need performance,  then you would want to go with a true RAID card that has a battery backed write cache.  That'll give you the best DAS performance.

               

              Given the important and growing community of users who own a system with a disk controller based on the ICH8 chipset (or all SATA in general), and who would like to run even a non supported version of ESX in that kind of environment (if VMware has no plans to support anything other than SCSI and SAS), are you aware of any company that might take up the challenge and provide a module for ESX that would offer just that, or even of an easy to use, freeware patch or bootable ISO to fill that increasing need ?

               

              VMware has made some significant strides to support SATA devices.   With ESX 3.0 your only SATA option was controllers like the LSI MegaRAID 150-4 that worked because they were simple SATA version of true SCSI RAID cards.  With ESX(i) 3.5 VMware included drivers for SATA controllers from the Intel ICH,  nVidia MCP and Silicon Image family of SATA controllers to name a few.  These devices aren't supported,  but they significantly increased the number of whiteboxes that could then run ESX(i).   The controllers aren't supported officially and the drivers tend to be older (hence the problems with newer ICH models).  But the cautious approach with drivers in meant to ensure system stability.  In contrast you could consider the approach taken with Win95, etc and how badly written devices gave the impression that the OS was unstable.   With ESX 4.0,  rumor has it that there will be official SATA support, but specific details are still not public.  But as mentioned above,  if performance is a concern,  then you would want to go with a good RAID controller.

              • 4. Re: ESX3.5 & ESX3.5i setup with Intel 82801HR/HH/H0 SATA RAID Controller (ICH8R)
                STTH Novice

                Actually... I did just that and, even though it took me a while to get the flash drive to boot (since I don't have any Linux box to prepare the boot loader), I managed to get it to boot just like the CD would (through a freeware, third-party tool). If I boot the flash drive with the original VMware files (ESXi 3.5 ISO installer), then everthing loads until I get a warning that there is no storage ; but no crash. Whereas if I boot the flash drive with the 4 modified files (specifically oem.tgz containing the modified pci.ids and simple.map, as well as the modified VMware-VMvisor-big-3.5.0_Update_2-103909.i386.dd also containing the modified pci.ids and simple.map), then I systematically get a purple screen right after the installer has completed the "yellow screen" progress session.

                 

                I was able to run the same Flash drive against a different type of hardware, just to see how it would react, and I had the same crash, but at least I have a static purple screen which allows me to read what the problem is. It states the following : "Cannot set up ramdisk : Boot image is corrupted" and also "Tar header is invalid for etc/" (as you can probably tell, I am not a Linux expert). Any idea...?

                 

                This concept of software-based RAID is interesting (thanks for the link), but frustratingly reminds me of the Windows soft-modems... But I am sure there are varying forms of software RAID out there. So, as a general observation (since I am guessing you probably are not an Intel expert), with the ICHx chispet specifically : is the CPU handling most of the processing load ? Or instead, is the processor only being made aware of the existence of a RAID LUN, but then offloads the processing back to the chipset (thus retaining excellent performance) ?

                 

                Provided I at least got ESX to recognize the drive controller (RAID mode in particular), would these customizations (http://www.murty.net/ataraid/ and http://people.redhat.com/~heinzm/sw/dmraid/), which are meant to get the OS to use and manage the RAID LUNs be applicable to ESX, since they are primarily meant for Linux ? Or would it be too incompatible to implement on ESX ?

                 

                I cannot wait until VMware releases its new major version of ESX and ESXi. Although not confirmed, my intuition was telling me they could not just close their eyes on SATA when the whole entire hardware industry (as well as VMware's own competitors in the OS virtualization realm) makes significant moves in that direction.

                 

                Also, if I can get my system (or any system) to boot ESXi via a Flash drive, then are you suggesting it is possible to have it run just like that ; as is (even though it might not recognize the built-in drive controller initially), as long as it can manage a different form of storage (such as iSCSI, NFS or ideally SAN through FC) ?

                 

                Thank you.

                • 5. Re: ESX3.5 & ESX3.5i setup with Intel 82801HR/HH/H0 SATA RAID Controller (ICH8R)
                  Dave.Mishchenko Guru

                  Whereas if I boot the flash drive with the 4 modified files (specifically oem.tgz containing the modified pci.ids and simple.map, as well as the modified VMware-VMvisor-big-3.5.0_Update_2-103909.i386.dd also containing the modified pci.ids and simple.map), then I systematically get a purple screen right after the installer has completed the "yellow screen" progress session.

                   

                  So how exactly did you create the flash drive image.   You just  have to copy the DD image to the flash drive and you then have a bootable image.  You don't have to copy anything else from the install CD.  If you have another method that might explain the error that you had booting on the other hardware.

                   

                  This concept of software-based RAID is interesting (thanks for the link), but frustratingly reminds me of the Windows soft-modems... But I am sure there are varying forms of software RAID out there. So, as a general observation (since I am guessing you probably are not an Intel expert), with the ICHx chispet specifically : is the CPU handling most of the processing load ? Or instead, is the processor only being made aware of the existence of a RAID LUN, but then offloads the processing back to the chipset (thus retaining excellent performance) ?

                   

                  In the case of RAID 1 I'm not sure that there would be much CPU hit with this type of controller,  but if you were using an ICH7R which supports RAID 5, then you would see a slowdown as the ICH7R would be offloading the parity calculations onto the CPU. 

                   

                  Provided I at least got ESX to recognize the drive controller (RAID mode in particular), would these customizations (http://www.murty.net/ataraid/ and http://people.redhat.com/~heinzm/sw/dmraid/), which are meant to get the OS to use and manage the RAID LUNs be applicable to ESX, since they are primarily meant for Linux ? Or would it be too incompatible to implement on ESX ?

                   

                  Some of the drivers that come with ESXi are derived from Linux versions, but they do have to be modified to work with the vmkernel.  You're not able to add native Linux drivers to ESX(i) - unless you want a new hobby and know how to program :).

                   

                  Also, if I can get my system (or any system) to boot ESXi via a Flash drive, then are you suggesting it is possible to have it run just like that ; as is (even though it might not recognize the built-in drive controller initially), as long as it can manage a different form of storage (such as iSCSI, NFS or ideally SAN through FC) ?

                   

                  Yes - that is essentially what ESXi Embedded is.   The host can have no internal drives and storage for VMs can be on the forms of storage you mention.   For test or home,  you can easily put up Openfiler or similar products for an iSCSI or NFS datastore.

                  • 6. Re: ESX3.5 & ESX3.5i setup with Intel 82801HR/HH/H0 SATA RAID Controller (ICH8R)
                    STTH Novice

                    I was finally able to get my system to boot the modified ESXi 3.5 CD and install on a drive managed by the non-supported, internal ICH8/9 SATA controller.

                     

                    My next question relates to networking. The installer does not detect the built-in NIC. The NIC on the system is an Intel 82566DM-2 Gigabit LAN controller.

                     

                    Is the same procedure required to add support to the NIC (by modifying the oem.tgz file on the CD), or is it more complex ? How can this be implemented ?

                    • 7. Re: ESX3.5 & ESX3.5i setup with Intel 82801HR/HH/H0 SATA RAID Controller (ICH8R)
                      STTH Novice

                      The good news is... the latest ESXi Update 3 Build 123629 released this morning (11/07/08) natively detects our Intel ICH9 built-in SATA controller and its drive ! The associated Release Notes mentioned that this latest build was supposed to provide support for ICH7 controller, but it apparently also supports ICH8 and ICH9 chipsets (hopefully the ICH8R as well...), which really is great news since we won't need to tweak the oem.tgz to get it to work ; plus we can now benefit from VMware's full assistance for those chipsets.   

                       

                      Now we need to get both the built-in Intel 82566DM-2 and the Realtek GbE & FE Ethernet PCI-E network controllers to work... that's another story !

                       

                      Any idea ?