After upgrading the amount of RAM in the HP Microserver to 8GB (the maximum) allowable, I decided to install ESXi on it so that I could run several virtual machines efficiently upon it. For now I want 2 virtual machines (more shall be added later don’t worry!), namely a Windows Home Server v1 (WHS) and a Linux based IP telephony server based on Elastix.
I wanted to install the ESXi Hypervisor to a spare 1GB USB Flash Drive so I could take a backup of the ESXi install and configuration simply by copying the contents of the USB stick to another machine from time to time. To facilitate this type of install the HP Microserver has an internal USB port on the motherboard which looks like it was specifically designed to take a USB Flash drive, and setting up USB boot in the HP Microserver BIOS is a piece of cake.
There are several good articles out there on the web that talk about installing ESXi to a flash drive so rather than repeat what they have said I’ll link you to a good one here. Suffice to say it is really easy to install.
I have 4 hard disks in my Microserver, the default 160GB HP disk, a 250GB disk and 2 x 1TB Samsung drives. I’ve created 4 datastores, one for each disk. On the 160GB datastore I have approximately 2 x 80GB VM Disks for the virtual OS installs of WHS and Elastix, and I will use 1 of the 1TB datastores as backup space for WHS. **THIS IS IMPORTANT** If you want datastore sizes to be greater than 256GB you must increase the block size of the datastore from it’s default of 1MB to something applicable for the size of disk you are wanting to provision. Since I have 1TB disks a block size of 4MB is perfect in order to be able to provision a virtual disk of approximately that size (after VM overheads it’s limited to 931GB)
The install of WHS was not entirely trouble free. Providing you have the correct LSI driver file loaded as a floppy disk image in ESXi (see article linked to above for LSI file) the install runs OK (you will have to load the drivers from the floppy when prompted). However I had a tremendous problems getting my mouse input working correctly during install. I don’t know if this is to do with Logitech’s drivers for the mouse etc, but I had lots of problems getting the mouse to correctly move within the console. Messing with the myriad of buttons on the mouse I managed to regain control enough to complete the installation but it was intensely frustrating! After installation of the VMTools for the guest OS the mouse then behaved normally.
Following WHS install the outstanding patches and windows updates were carried out and the storage for the backup of my network was provisioned. Next came the re-install of the WHS connector on the client PC’s (the server was previously used solely as a physical WHS box). However there was a problem with one of the client PC’s upon backup. When it hit a certain percentage complete the client PC would blue screen and reboot itself. An article on the web here described the same issue I was having but sadly the fix indicated in the thread did not work for this machine. The end result for that client PC was a complete factory reset and re-install. I have several other backup sources (and so should you!) so that wasn’t a problem and following re-installation the WHS connector worked as it should backing up the machine to the server.
For small scale deployments the HP Microserver makes a great platform for consolidating low utilisation physical servers upon ESXi. Windows Home Server runs very well as a virtualised system and I’m looking forward to getting other server systems installed on ESXi in due course.