I have been out-of-town for a while, first at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, then visiting a customer in Dallas. I am back now and really just started on the installation tonight. A shortage of disk space required I stop by Fry’s Electronics in Oxnard where I picked up a pair of Seagate Barracuda 1.5TB SATA drives ($89.99 each) for my data stores. While I was there, I grabbed a new 850W UPS to hold the system up for a couple of minutes for a graceful shutdown ($64.97 at the register, plus there will another $15.00 off from a mail-in rebate).
The basic system is a Dell PowerEdge T105 server with 4GB of RAM . I realize this is the minimum amount of RAM needed, and I hope to bring it up to 8GB soon (the platform maximum). I had been playing with Windows 2008 x64 (Server Core) on it and it should do fine. Though the system is listed as a supported model in the HCL, I had a bit of trouble getting it going. I installed ESX4i Update 1 (installable) to the first hard drive and when I rebooted the system displayed a “failed to find boot partition” message.
Google it my friend, so I quickly found a number of links, but this one http://communities.vmware.com/message/1403836 seemed to be the best. The problem appears to be that the built-in SATA controller isn’t supported. Their solution was to install the embedded version to a USB stick. My T105 has an internal USB slot on the motherboard (probably for things like this, or for “ready-boost”). I grabbed a 4GB SANdisk Cruiser I had in my backpack and redid the install pointing to it there. The hack was successful. The supported version on the HCL didn’t work, but I was able to get the unsupported release installed.
Looking at this in retrospect, it isn’t such a bad solution after all if I can get it to work reliably. There are some real security advantage to this route, and I couldn’t find any downside apparent at present. I may install my second server as an “installable” to really understand the differences (it is different, older hardware and more likely to be supported). Something odd that I noted was the physical interface ended up selecting 100BaseT half-duplex instead of full. Since this is a switched environment, it should have auto-negotiated, but setting it manually worked and sped things up noticeably.
The biggest issue I am seeing is that the environment is extremely slow, as if it were using the flash drive for swap or having severe problems with a driver. Everything is proceeding at an unbearably slow pace. One of the other alternatives listed in the extended thread (including the referenced threads) was to purchase a cheap, supported Promise SATA RAID controller and use that. If I can’t find a solution for the slow state I am in, I’ll try that next.
Wish me luck.