The voyage begins….

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.

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One Comment on “The voyage begins….”


  1. Hehe, good luck Neil! I’m personally much more into KVM but it also has it’s quirks. Hey, don’t know if you noticed a comment I made on Facebook before but as you’re probably well aware by now I also started my own wordpress server. I asked you earlier if you would like to collaborate on that server and sometimes write articles on there instead. I try hard to enable all kinds of features technical contents writers may enjoy so that a group of people together could bring some gravity together. I’ve found in the past that it’s very difficult to get visitors to really get interested in reading blogs on wordpress.com (or get people to even respond :).

    If you prefer to keep on writing here instead, maybe we could link exchange through our blogroll. Let me know!


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