Installing VMware ESXi 4.1 on a HP ML 110 G6 server

About one year ago, I hesitated about what to purchase for my new home lab. One day I discovered Simon Seagrave’s http://www.techhead.co.uk. As a result, some time later I bought a HP ML110 G5, followed by a HP ML110 G6.

And that isn’t all, you buy a server with 1 or 2 GB Memory and a single NIC, so a hardware upgrade is inevitable. Again, TechHead was of great help.

I regularly receive new comments on blog post “HP Proliant ML110 G6 Released – Still a worthy virtualization work or home lab server?” and I notice that people often encounter problems while configuring the G6 or installing ESXi.

So in this post, I will describe:

–          The basic configuration of my G6

–          Hardware Upgrade

–          Important BIOS settings

–          Installing VMware ESXi 4.1 Update 1

The basic configuration of my G6

An actual overview of the components of my home lab can be found here. The HP ML 110 G6 has the following characteristics:

Server 2 (Make/Model): HP ML110 G6
ProLiant BIOS: 027

CPU: 1 x Intel Xeon X3430 @2,4 GHz (processor options: VT-d (Directed I/O))
Memory (Make/Model): HP 2GB 2Rx8 PC3-10600E-9 kit
Memory (Amount): 2 x 2 GB (1 x 2 GB was for free :-))

Hard Disk (Make/Model): WD 250 GB 7200 RPM SATA
No of Hard Disk: 1
RAID Level (if applicable): No
Disk Controller (Make/Model): On Board Ibex Peak, 4 ports SATA plus 2 ports SATA

CD/DVD Drive (Make/Model): HP DVD ROM DH20N SATA
No of Hard Disk: 1

Network Card (Make/Model): On Board NC107i PCI Express Gigabit Server Adapter
Network Speed: 1 GB/s

Hypervisor/Operating System: VMware ESXi 4.1 on SanDisk Cruzer 4 GB USB

Hardware Upgrade

The first upgrade was extra memory. I bought one pair of the specified Kingston 4 GB modules and combined the modules with the HP modules.


Memory (Make/Model): Kingston KVR1333D3E9s/4G (4GB PC3 – 10600 CL9 ECC 240 – Pin DIMM)
Memory (Amount): 2 x 4 GB

The idea was to try this combination, which would give me a total of 12 GB memory. In case of failure, the scenario was to buy another pair of these modules. The combibation works fine.

With VMware it is said you cannot have enough NICs, even in a home lab. This Intel Card is not expensive and it functions well with ESXi 4.x.

Network Card (Make/Model) : Intel EXPI9301CT = Intel 82574L
Network Speed: 1 GB/s

How about storage? Both servers are equipped with a rather small and single harddisk and lack a supported RAID controller. From the moment I decided to buy a second server, it was clear to have some sort of shared storage. There are a lot of possibilities, you can use virtual appliances like Openfiler to simulate iSCSI storage or NFS. Finally I decided to buy a relatively cheap Iomega StorCenter ix2 with 2 x 1TB disks configured in RAID-1.

Network connectivity is provided by a Cisco SLM2008 8-Port Gigabit Smart Switch, see this link for a review.

Important BIOS settings

There are a few important BIOS settings to review, I will not go into every detail, but show some relevant settings to create a nice ESX or ESXi host.

The Main window gives an overview of the BIOS version and the amount of memory.

The Advanced Window overview. I am not sure about the “Processor power Efficiency” option, it should correspond with the Power Settings in the vSphere Client (in the vSphere Client, select ESXi host, go to Configuration Tab, Hardware section, Power Management).

The “Advanced Chipset Control Section”. Make sure you enable the “Intel VT for Directed I/O (VT-d)”. See this link for a demo.

The “Advanced Processor Options”. In my case the “Intel(R) Virtualization Technology” setting was disabled. Make sure it is Enabled. The “Processor Hyper-Threading” setting does not make sense , because the Intel Xeon X3430 does not support hyper-threading.

The “CPU Power Management” settings.

The “Harddisk Configuration” window. In this blog post the reason for choosing the “SATA mode selection” AHCI is explained.

Finally, check the Boot order, we need this for the next section on Installing ESXi.
Update per 10–8-2011, more on CPU settings in this post.

Installing VMware ESXi 4.1 Update 1

Both servers in my home lab run ESXi instead of ESX. I have created a few virtual ESX servers, in case I need to do some testing on ESX. With ESXi, you have the option to install on the local hard disk or on an USB memory stick . I have decided to install ESXi on a USB memory stick (Sandisk Cruzer 4GB). The G6 has a USB connector on the mainboard. However, because I do change the memory stick on a regular basis, I use one of the external USB connectors.

Another concern is the HP DVD ROM that came with the server. You can install ESXi 4.0. But when you try to install ESXi 4.1, you will be presented this window. The DVD ROM is not supported.

I have read that people replaced the DVD ROM for a supported drive.

Another approach is to use the Virtual Media. Unlike the G5, the G6 is equipped with a Lights-Out 100 remote access card.

Out of the box it has functionality to start and stop the G6, review sensors, event logs and alerting, but lacks the remote console functionality. After obtaining an additional license, the remote console and virtual media functionality become available.

Steps to install ESXi 4.1 U1 with Virtual Media. Download the correct .ISO image. Do not download the HP customized .ISO, these images will not work on a ML110 G6.

Now, it is time to mount the .ISO image. In the menu, go to Control en Virtual Media

The Virtual Media Windows opens, choose “Add..”

Search for the correct .ISO, in this case ESXi 4.1 Update 1, Build 348481 and press “Select”.

“Connect” the previous selected media and press “OK”.
After pressing “Connect”, the button changes to “Disconnect” to confirm that you have connected the selected media.

Make sure your media is connected when you fire up your G6. In my case it took me a few reboots before I discovered that the media was not connected at boot time 😦

Boot the ML 110 G6, after a few moments, the boot menu shows up, choose “ESXi Installer” to start the actual installation.

In the next window, press “Enter”to continue the installation.

Press F11 to Accept the licence terms and continue.

The “Select a Disk” windows, shows both storage devices. The first one is the USB memory stick, the second device is the local SATA disk. Of course, we choose the first device.

An extra warning to tell us there is some old data on the USB memory stick, which is OK.

After this last warning the installation will start by pressing the F11 key.

Sometime later we receive a notification that the installation has been finished, the server must be rebooted.

Before reboot, first Disconnect the virtual media and remove it.

The server boots, and after a few moments…

Now you are ready to start the configuration part.

That is the whole story. In case you have any questions or remarks, please feel free to respond.

This post is dedicated to all the people that responded to the post on TechHead. I want to say, thank you to all contributors, it was invaluable and has helped me so much.

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23 Responses to Installing VMware ESXi 4.1 on a HP ML 110 G6 server

  1. Ruben says:

    Good job man,.. Where can i find the Remote KVM Software?

  2. Paul says:

    Hi Paul,

    This is exactly the article I have been looking for! I am starting on my Cisco CCIE Voice and needed a server to run ESXi on. I should be getting the server this Friday and will hopefully have ESXi up and running in no time thanks to your guide.

    Cheers,

    Paul.

    • paulgrevink says:

      Hello Paul,

      Thank you very much for your feedback. The ML 110 G6, also supports vSphere ESXi 5. Even the DVD Rom is supported in this edition. Have fun with your HP server and good luck with your Cisco training. If you encounter issues installing your server, please feel free to respond.

      Regards,

      Paul

      • Paul says:

        Hi Paul,

        I had ESXi 5.0 up and running in no time. I was able to get a free 60 Day License from the HP link you have, and was able to get the advanced iLO features up and running.

        I was able to install the VM Client on an old HP ML115, so I now have everything to install all the Cisco servers that I need.

        Thanks again for the guide, as I am sure I would of missed a few of your BIOS settings and the iLO trick to load the image.

        Regards,

        Paul.

      • paulgrevink says:

        Hello Paul,

        Thanks for the feedback, I really appreciate it. I wish you a lot of success with your Cisco course.

        regards,

        Paul

  3. Brian Doyle says:

    Hi Paul,

    Many thanks for this great article.It’s exactly what I was looking for! Did you ever get the shared storage configured? If so.. I’d love to hear how you have it configured! 🙂

    Brian.

    • paulgrevink says:

      Hi Brian,

      Thanks for your feedback, I really appreciate it. How did I configure my shared storage? My primary shared storage is an Iomega IX2, which can be configured as an iSCSI target, as well as a NFS device. The ML 110 G6 is part of my homelab, so I use both methods. I do not have many NICs in the server, one is configured for almost all services, the second NIC is for experimenting with Distributed Switches. If you want more specific information, pleas feel free to send me an email. See the “About” page for details.

      Kind regards,

      Paul

      • Brian Doyle says:

        Thanks Paul.I’m waiting on my second ML110 G6.I’ll be back with a question or two once I have it configured! 🙂

  4. Toby says:

    Two Questions.

    Has anyone had tried to go over 16GB in these boxes.
    Will Sata3 6GB’/s drives work in ML110G6

    for info I am running two servers 1 x ESX4 and 1 x ESX5 in home lap

  5. sitikantha says:

    hii paul….grt article….just one question, R u still using the KVR1333D3E9S memory module? is it working fine? i m planning to buy one for my hp proliant ml110 7 server. so any info will be helpful.

    • paulgrevink says:

      Yes, in my ML110 G6, I had installed 4 x 4 GB Kingston KVR1333D3E9s/4G (4GB PC3 – 10600 CL9 ECC 240 – Pin DIMM). These have been replaced by 4 x 8 GB Kingston KTH-PL313E/8G (8GB PC3 – 10600) Memory, making a total amount of 32 GB.
      The KVR1333D3E9s/4G worked fine, but I needed more Memory. So, I recommend going for the 8 GB modules.

      Best Regards,

      Paul

      • sitikantha says:

        but there is a limitation of maximum 16gb RAM, i m afraid whether the 8 gb would work?

  6. paulgrevink says:

    The same goes for the ML110 G6, officially it is max. 16 GB.
    It depends on the processor and the chipset. Regarding the ML110 G7, some research needs to be done. Have a look at this post: http://forums.overclockers.co.uk/showthread.php?p=24497769

    • sitikantha says:

      yes they r using 16gb modules also, i will go for the KVR1333D3E9s/4G then. Thank u Paul..

      Regards
      Sitikantha

  7. Cooper says:

    hey paul. I know this post is so old and there’s a lil chance that you would reply but i’ll take my chance.

    I have installed Esxi 6.0 and the exact same server on this post. Its just that i did not do the hardware upgrade that u did. Im still using the build in network adapter.

    And here’s the problem. When i configure the network after installation, the network adapter (vmnic0) is disconnected. When i do “Test Management Network” it fails to ping the gateway and DNS. I can assure you that my ip address and gateway are correct.

    Lookin forward for your reply. thank you.

    • paulgrevink says:

      Hello Cooper,

      Thanks for your mail. My ML110G6 is still running on ESXi 5.5. However, I have scheduled an upgrade to ESXi 6.0 in the next few days.
      I wil report back concerning the NIC after the upgrade.

      Best regards,

      Paul

    • paulgrevink says:

      Hello Cooper,

      Tonight, I switched the USB drive in my ML110 G6 and did a fresh ESXi 6.0 installation. I configured vSwitch0 with the onboard Broadcom NetXtreme BCM 5723 NIC.
      In my case everything worked normal. The NIC is supported and I did not notice any problems.
      So, that leaves the question, why does it not work in your case? Before installing ESXi 6.0 on your ML110 G6, did it run on ESXi 5.5 or another version?

      Best regards,

      Paul

  8. Cooper says:

    Hello Paul,
    Yes, the server did run an Esxi 5.1 before i did a fresh install of Esxi 6.0. I did not do an upgrade. I wipe out the disk and do a fresh install on it.

    and im using On Board NC107i PCI Express Gigabit Server Adapter. Not Broadcom NetXtreme BCM 5723 NIC.

    test network mgmt result
    Ping gateway – failed
    Ping dns – failed
    Ping localhost – OK

    • paulgrevink says:

      Hello Cooper,

      You’re correct, the ML110 G6 onboard NIC is the HP NC107i. I had to check my own “About” page. 😦
      But the weird thing is, I did not notice before, but running ESXi 5.5 or 6.0 on the ML110 G6, under Configuration, Hardware, Network Adapters, the NIC presents itself as a Broadcom BCM5723 !!!
      I did NOT install HP customized ESXi software, but the “normal” version. For this moment, I am clueless.

      Paul

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