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Advantage of installing ESXi on a USB Flash Drive over Local Disks ?

Posted on 2013-12-19
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In my first installation of VMWare, I installed ESXi on my 4GB Flash Drive and I keep that USB on the VMware box all the time.

That said I started thinking, as I prepare to set up another VMWare box, if it is really necessary to create ESXi on the flash drive ... it comes with the hassle to keep a duplicate (which I have not done yet). Since I am doing RAID 1 on two 4TB HDs, space is not an issue and redundancy is already there. So I wonder now if I should install ESX on the local hard drive.

Thanks.
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Question by:sglee
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Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2) earned 1220 total points
ID: 39730090
The biggest advantage is, isolating and keeping the OS seperate from the Virtual Machine datastore.

If in the future, you want to increase your VMFS datastore, it's difficult if not impossible without a re-installation.

Since, the design of ESXi, to a small footprint of 1GB, it became possible to create installations on USB flash drives or SD cards, that most common servers now have internal USB flash drives for this purpose, and recent Servers now have Dual SD Card Slots for Mirrored SD Card installations.

We've been installing ESXi on USB/SD cards since 2004, with no issues.

I would save your valuable local storage space, and use primarily as VMFS datastore, storage, which will allow for easier expansion in the future.

You can also easily Backup ESXi installations on USB/SD card

How to Backup an ESXi installation on an USB Flash Drive or SD card, for security or redundancy.

Last versions of ESXi 5.x use http://www.alexpage.de/usb-image-tool/

There is also no need to backup or keep a duplicate flash drive.....just keep reular backups of the ESXi configuration, and then if a USB flash drive should fail, and can restore the config, to a fresh installation of ESXi!

Also note, that the USB flash drive, is only used and read at OS Boot, and then the ESXi OS, is resident in memory, with very little read and write occuring to the flash drive.

As the flash drive is not removed from the server, or kept in your pocket, with your keys, inserted in and out of PCs, is not likely to corrupt as easily as traditional "usb moveable storage" that we use on a day to day basis, so it should not be compared to such.

I've seen more ESXi installation, issues with RAIDed Local Storage, than USB installations, since 2004!

Here is the VMware KB on installing 5.x on USB/SD:
http://kb.vmware.com/kb/2004784

Do you also keep spare disks, in the event that one should fail, or both fail, because they will be of simialr age?
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by:sglee
ID: 39730154
I see the reason now. I will continue to use USB Flash Drives in the futrue and leave them on the servers.

'Do you also keep spare disks' ---> if you are referring to local HDs, Yes I have set up a hot spare available to two HDs on RAID 1 on LSI MegaRaid SAS/SATA Controller.

You mentioned ESX OS size is barely 1GB. Can use 2GB USB Flash drive then instead of 4GB?
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LVL 123
ID: 39730227
Yes, you can use 2GB. (make sure it's a good quality, e.g. HP, SanDisk, Kingston).

Technically you would need two hot spares, as disks of similar age, usually fail at the same time, and when the RAID is Rebuilding, this is also the most stressful time for a disk....
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