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Upgrading USB boot VMware ESXi 4.00 free version to newest ESXi version on disk instead

I have a physcial host that currently runs off a USB drive with a HP branded free VMware install.  This seemed like a good idea at the time, but now I realize I have no redundancy for the VMware running install.  This is running ESXi 4.00.

I have purchased 6 drives to fill up the server now, and I want to start from scratch.  I've migrated all the VMs off and onto some SAN storage that is attached to the server.  I'd like to remove the USB stick, add the new drives in RAID5, set the server to boot to disk instead, and put on the newest free version of ESXi.  I realize when I do the new install, I'll need to disconnect the SAN storage so it doesn't get overwritten by the new install creating a datastore.  

Questions are these:
1.  Is it a benefit to stick with the HP branded VMware install vs the normal one from VMware?
2.  When I am done installing, and i reattach the SAN storage and migrate the VMs back onto the server disk, since they were last existing on version 4.00, will I need to do anything to have them work in the newest version that I'll have on?
3.  Is there anything else I'm missing here?
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jpletcher1
Asked:
jpletcher1
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3 Solutions
 
Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
We complete all our ESXi embedded installs for years on good quality USB flash drives. It's true that there is no redundancy, but flash drives very rarely fail. (and we make sure that we image the Flash Drive installation with Winimage, and keep copies of the image on a backup flash drive, and also write the image to DVD, we hand this over to clients). When any changes are made to the configuration of ESXi, we use the RCLI to backup the configuration.

If you install ESXi onto a RAID array, we always like to isolate datastores and working operating systems.

So personally, I think it's a backgward step you are taking. Modern servers are also using USB flash drives or SD cards for embedded installations. (which is how most SANs/Cisco routers operate the OS boots from FLASH)
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Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
1. Stick with the branded HP ESXi installation, because it provides the CIM providers, that interface correctly with the Hardware, and provides correct Health Status. HP version of ESX can be downloaded from the HP website.

2. Upgrading to a newer version of ESX, you'll just to need to upgrade the VMware Tools, the verion of Virtual Machine version 7, should be the same. Any reason why you are not using the SAN for shared storage rather than local disk, do you only have a single ESX host server, no vMotion, HA, or DRS requirement.

It's very easy to upgrade you installation on the flash drive to a later version of ESXi.
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coolsport00Commented:
1. Well, you could instead create a 2nd USB stick using an imaging tool, like WinImage. That will cover you in the event your USB fails, but you obviously have to do a manual replacement of the USB
2. Yes, you can simply reattach your storage and all should be well; you will only need to rt-click on the .vmx files and re-add your VMs to Inventory
3. Not really; if you were to use the disks for your new install, as "hanccocka" mentions, separate your install from your datastore storage. It will save you potential headaches if needing to do maintenance (or reinstall) of your ESXi. I know you say you have SAN storage, but it's nice to have local for testing purposes.

Regards,
~coolsport00
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jpletcher1Author Commented:
Thanks for the response.  This host is for our test/dev environment.  We have a three physcial ESX servers for our production environment using the pay for version and vCenter to manage.  I'm just trying to keep our test/dev environment in it's own area and leave the expensive SAN disk for more production things.

Is there a way to make an image of the flash drive without removing it?  I assume I'll have to take it out.  Also, would it be better probably if I upgraded first with the USB drive, then delete the local datastores, remove old small disks, and install new large disks in RAID5, then add it as a datastore?

How often do you need to re-image the USB drive?  Can you explain the backup of the configuration with the RCLI a little more?

Thanks
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Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
No the flash drive must be imaged in a PC. (ESXi embedded runs out of RAM when the server has booted, so you can remove it, and ESXi still runs!, however VMware Tools runs from the flash drive). I wouldn't recommend removing from a production environment.

No need to delete local datastores, unless you need to change block size. (and you could have left your VMs on the datastore as well, and just upgrade the ESXi version of the flash drive).

We don't ever re-image the USB flash drive, only if it fails!

Backup and Restore of config is performed as follows

backup-esxi.bat

set DATESTAMP=%DATE:~10,4%_%DATE:~4,2%_%DATE:~7,2%
set filename= "F:\Isos\Hypervisors\server_%DATESTAMP%.bak"
vicfg-cfgbackup.pl -save -server 192.168.1.2 -username root -password bugbear123 %filename%

restore-esxi.bat

set filename= "F:\Isos\Hypervisors\%1%"
vicfg-cfgbackup.pl -load -server 192.168.1.2 -username root -password bugbear123 %filename%
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Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
we run these scripts weekly on a schedule using the VMWare CLI from a server, it's good to have a valid configuration backup of ESXi (many Admins forget to make a backup, of changes they make on a weekly basis!)
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Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
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coolsport00Commented:
" assume I'll have to take it out.  Also, would it be better probably if I upgraded first with the USB drive, then delete the local datastores, remove old small disks, and install new large disks in RAID5, then add it as a datastore?"
- Yep, you'll have to take out the key...sorry :(
- Yes, it would be better to upgrade, then install the new, larger disks and and them as a DS
- "hanccocka" has provided a good link for imaging your USB stick; the vCLI Guide also has the reference.

Regards,
~coolsport00
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jpletcher1Author Commented:
Thanks guys.  One last question.  What is the procedure to upgrade ESXi 4.00 to 4.1 U1 on a flash drive?  In my production environment I just use the Update Manager part in vCenter.  Here I assume there is more to it since this is the free version.
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coolsport00Commented:
If you don't have too many intricate configs to your ESXi, just simply do a full (clean) install of ESXi 4.1. Just document your ESX configs so you can mirror them on your new/upgraded install. That's pretty much it.

~coolsport00
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Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
It's exactly the same. The only thing that distinguishes free to not free e.g. licensed, is the license assigned to the host server.
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Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
ah, this is free and not in vCenter.

you have to use the vihostupgrade.pl from vcli, see here

http://blog.jargontech.com/how-to-preform-an-vsphere-esxi-4-0-to-4-1-upgrade/
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Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
it's very quick!. (quicker than a re-install, and it's keep's your config!).
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coolsport00Commented:
How fitting since you're now going to be on 4.1 that a blogger I follow writes up how to b/u your ESXi configs for 4.1 :)
See: http://tinyurl.com/3qrzbrq

Regards,
~coolsport00
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