MAC mini ESXi Custer (5.1a)December 2nd, 2012
Over this weekend I had the chance to play in my VMWare lab at home a bit. Earlier this year, I was able to cobble together a small lab using mac mini’s. I originally did this with VMWare 5.0 but I’ve been wanting to play with 5.1 for a while now so I decided to go ahead and upgrade this weekend. I also respun an iso that includes the network drivers needed for mac mini on ESXi 5.1a.
(tl;dr??? - ESXi-5.1a-macmini-838463.iso )
(Let me preface this this with that I am not a VMWare specialized guy. I touch it a lot at work but it’s extremely superficial. YMMV on what I write below)
After reading through some of VMWare’s kb, I found that there are a few ways of going from 5.0 to 5.1. I ended up trying two complete different ones just to learn a little. Plus, I wanted to keep my users happy… (Ok, other than maybe a minecraft server for my kids and a few of their friends, there really isn’t any “mission critical” apps running in my home network. I wanted to minimize any downtime while I did the upgrade to get some idea of what’s involved. Five nines FTW.)
Method 1: VmWare Update Manager (VUM)
So according to the link above, VMware’s recommended method is using the VUM. Ok, easy enough… I remember using something similar to this when I upgraded from 4.0 to 4.1 a few years ago. Just an app you download, ran, it connected to the host, downloaded the upgrade files, upgraded, rebooted, done, easy. I didn’t use this when I went to 5 as I was needing to slipstream drivers into the installer (mac mini) and was starting a new cluster anyway. Well…it’s not as simple anymore (or at least I couldn’t find the old updater method anymore). The VUM is now a persistent server app, requires a 64bit server OS (that’s not a dc), and a full on database instance (express for smaller installs).
Initially, I was frustrated after finding this out… but… I read some more about the process and this actually ended up being pretty cool. VMWare was able to integrate the VUM into vcenter and the esxi client. After spinning up a 2008 server and upgrading the vcenter appliance from 5.0 to 5.1a, the install of VUM was fairly straight forward. I might add that I am using the vcenter appliance and not the windows server version). I’d guess that most orgs use the normal vcenter server and already have a dedicated 2008 running there. Following this logic, it makes sense that you find the VUM installer on the ISO for the windows version of vcenter. Fortunately for me, VUM works with the appliance version too. During the install you just point it at your vcenter appliance ip and it does the integration for you. On the esxi client, a plugin is published that you select and download from the plugin menu. This adds several admin screens to esxi client to let you build profiles for updating your hosts. It allows you to not just do major updates (i.e. 5.0 -> 5.1), but also lets you setup polices for pushing out minor patches. Using this method I was able to migrate 2 of my 3 mac mini’s over to 5.1 with no issue.
I wasn’t sure if it was keeping the Broadcom drivers for the ethernet that I originally embedded in the 5.0 installer, or if 5.1 simply had those drivers natively now, but everything worked fine. I may never have found the answer to how that worked if one of the mac minis didn’t like the automated process. So on to method 2… manual upgrade…
Method 2: Manual install from host console
So this is VMWare esxi 101. Boot off install CD, configure, reboot, done. If the installer finds a preexisting install, it will upgrade it for you. Nothing magical here. In my setup though.. I am running on non supported hardware. When I did 5.0, I had to embed drivers in the ISO so that the installer could see the NIC and load up. Would I need to do this with 5.1 ?
Attempt number one involved attached a usb DVD drive (apple) and just booting off that. Maybe I’d get lucky and 5.1a has broadcom drivers already. The install went normal, I was able to pass all the validation steps and it looked like it saw my NIC. Yay. Easy. Well…not really. After the install finished, the host rebooted, I set my ip addresses… but no network connectivity. VMWare said the link was up… my switch said the link was up… no connectivity. Well shit… Apparently the VUM maintained drivers during the upgrade. Manually did not.
This (ESXi-5.1a-macmini-838463.iso) worked like a charm. I didn’t even bother loading it to a USB drive. I just burned a cd and booted from a USB attached drive on the mini.