Getting my mitts on the vSphere 6 bits including ESXi and VCSA, already enhancing my home lab

Posted by Paul Braren on Feb 2 2015 in
  • ESXi
  • ESXi-6-and-vCSA-6-This-isnt-quite-the-RTM-code
    ESXi 6 and VCSA 6 [This isn’t quite the RTM code]

    Feb 2, 2015 disclosure added at 5:40pm EDT - the code used for this article isn't quite RTM (Release To Manufacture), so the GA product you see could vary slightly. VMware press releases from today's Online Launch Event here.

    It's been a long wait for vSphere 6.0, and in the home lab, that likely means ESXi 6.0 coupled with VCSA 6.0. The question for IT Pros/home lab enthusiasts: will my efficient/affordable/unsupported equipment still work with this major new release? Wait no more, catch a good glimpse of all that vSphere 6.0 goodness coming soon to your our home lab.

    Exciting months ahead for TinkerTry, which will become pretty evident as you read along.

    It's been a long wait for vSphere 6.0 / ESXi 6.0, and even longer for those of you who didn't join the beta. Once the downloads are done, my slant has always been toward building my home lab up in about an hour, seen in Build your own VMware vSphere 5.5 Datacenter with ESXi and VCSA. You can also guess that my focus remains on simplifying build procedures for the home lab, using a USB Flash drive and the incredibly popular Rufus of course. These techniques aren't at the expense of any functionality, and are appropriate for an efficient test lab you might leave running 24x7.

    Despite the considerable allure of an affordable way to avoid coping with 60 day time-bombs, described below, I'll still be focusing on simplicity, trying to keep the build procedure as slim and trim as possible. As a VCSA, Exam prep is one thing, and leaving something running efficiently and simply is another. Remember, it's "TinkerTry IT @ home" with a focus on IT at your home, for the busy IT pro that wants something simple, and easy to troubleshoot in what little spare time they have.

    So far, ESXi 6.0 is still looking to still be the only single bare-metal hypervisor that can also run your Hyper-V and Hyper-V VMs as well. All on one server.

    With super-efficient Broadwell-U finally here this year, perhaps 3 new Intel NUCs or 3 Mac Minis can be turned into affordable mini clusters of vSAN M.2 SSD goodness this year, we'll see! Stay tuned by following TinkerTry.

    Got my paws on the beta vSphere 6 code back in the middle of 2014

    You could probably guess that I signed up for the vSphere 6 Beta Program last July, when I shared the news with you that VMware vSphere 6 Beta Program is now open to the public!. Naturally, I was very interested in whether the vSphere Web Client had gained some of the promised speed I told you about, as promised by fellow VMUG presenter, VMware's own Mike Foley, on Eric Sloof's video interview here:

    vSphere 6 features previewed at VMworld 2014, including much better vSphere Web Client performance

    Sep 04 2014

    Eric:  The vSphere Web Client, I hear people complain about the web client a little, me as an instructor, I get students who have to cope with sometimes a bit sloggy web client, are there any improvements?

    Mike:  Sure, a lot of improvements are here, we have gone through the web client soup to nuts, it?s still Flex based, but we?ve optimized it, we?ve optimized a lot of the workflows, we?ve optimized the response time significantly. I played around with an early beta about a month or two ago, and I was amazed.

    The speed of getting VCSA installed, without DNS, without SSO errors

    Install and Upgrade

    VMRC works nicely to show off VCSA’s new UI

    VMware's focus on using VCSA (vCenter Server Appliance) instead of a Windows+SQL Server VM that you add vCenter services to, is evident. More capable than ever, with a bit more complexity, the nicer VCSA install experience boasts an improved local UI too, finally consistent with other VMware appliances.

    In early October 2014, I helped other beta testers with a streamlined install summary. I'll need to revisit that process once I have the GA level of vSphere 6, but suffice it to say for now, it's gotten better, easier, and a bit faster to configure. Putting it on an SSD, and choosing the Thin disk option, works nicely too. A nice friendly web-based wizard to get the appliance installed and configured is a very nice touch.

    I'll still need to think long and hard about whether hard-coding IPs and calling it a day, eliminating many steps for creating a simple home lab, is the way to go, still working on that...

    The speed of vSphere Web Client

    vSphere Web Client Enhancements

    was one of the first things I was eager to try, now that I had my VCSA built. Specifically, how would the VCSA (vCenter Server Appliance) perform installed on an SSD, when using Chrome, Firefox, and/or IE to connect to it, using the new simplified URL (no more port number 9443 to remember):


    And I'd have to say, things have been looking pretty promising, with an improved responsiveness. Will reserve judgement until I have the GA bits, so understand that everything I'm saying here in this article is really about the latest beta drop.


    There were some UI issues I quickly spotted that put it below the vSphere Client, as far as usability, but instead of merely whining about those concerns, I reported them. That's right, I joined the bug hunt, reporting details through privately-shared videos that clearly demonstrated numerous issues for VMware's development teams. There was a very real collaborative feel to the responses I got to the various tickets I opened, with a genuine interest in squashing bugs before the code goes GA. Also good signs.

    Here's the elephant that was in the room for some of the SR#s I was working. I confessed that I was using completely unsupported hardware for some of the bug reports. This didn't stop VMware from giving me best effort beta support, since they were easily reproduced in their labs, on supported equipment. Also good signs.

    How robust is the improved USB 3.0 support

    Yes! So far, appears to be much the same as the goodness VMware snuck into 5.5 U2, and that's a good thing:

    VMware Oct 2014 patch allows ESXi 5.5 server?s USB 3.0 devices to work in VMs at full speed

    launch VMRC for remote console

    You'll need the VMRC for proper console access, including USB 3.0 support and other goodies, a free download from VMware here.

    Can ESXi 6.0 handle consumer-centric (unsupported) Realtek NICs and ASMedia AHCI SATA ports?

    Yes! Trying to coordinate my efforts with Andreas Peetz of VMware Front Experience, and so far, things are looking promising. While Realtek support has never been claimed to be perfect for my Realtek 8111E NICs on my vZilla build, it works as well as it ever did on 5.5, so far. I'll bundle the seems-to-work-perfectly AHCI support in whatever technique I settle on documenting/demonstrating/using.

    VT-d / VMDirectPath / Passthrough

    VT-d (described here) worked for me for USB 3.0 support, back on 4.1U1 and 5.0. Then things got dicey in 5.1, improving slightly with 5.5. It all just works fine in 6.0. I no longer need to bother with pinning individual ports from my Highpoint USB 3.0 PCI card (see improved USB 3.0 support above), but I do very much appreciate the ability to pin one of my beloved Intel I-350 NIC ports to my OpenVPN appliance.

    Content Library

    It's really cool, and very helpful for a lab or production environment. See Chris Wahl's Content Library Provides Snazzy New Home for Templates, ISO Images, and More.

    Everybody gets the GA bits soon, likely from 60 day trials, or $200 for 365 days of EVALExperience

    click the image above to join

    Last week, the big EVALExperience surprise, with the tag line "VMUG's Ready to Help You Build Your Home Lab"

    While some questions have come up about the freshness of the versions offered, I'm confident Mike Laverick's remarks:

    This issue has been picked up by the folks behind the EVALExperience - and its being looked at as matter of urgency...

    Watch this space...


    from his infamous November 11 2011 Bring back VMTN Subscription? thread, there are signals of some good news coming soon. Mike was even a part of testing EVALExperience before roll-out.

    Meet others and learn more at VMUG USERCON

    click the image above to see conference locations

    What is USERCON?

    In 2015 VMUG User Conference will be sporting a fresh new identity - VMUG UserCon! This new name and logo keeps the emphasis squarely on you, the VMWare user, and reflects the fresh ideas and perspectives you gain every time you attend a local event. The new UserCon logo is part of the ongoing evolution of VMUG, the industry and you.

    Each UserCon will still provide opportunities to learn from VMware employees, a broad base of VMware partners and, most importantly, other VMware users just like you. There?s no better way to stay ahead of the latest technology trends than by attending one of VMUG?s events to connect with users in your area. Swap insights and share the industry?s best tips and tricks at an event near you.

    See also

    vSphere 6 - Clarifying the misinformation

    VMware will take the wraps off vSphere 6 on Feb 2 2015, TinkerTry will be ready!

    VMTN reincarnated! EVALExperience is to VMware Professionals what MSDN/TechNet is to Microsoft Professionals.

    Best parts of VMware?s ESXi 5.5 free hypervisor rely on vCenter, which isn?t free. Uh oh?

    With the recent suspension of Microsoft TechNet, is the return of VMware VMTN less likely?

    VMware ESXi 5.1 can run Microsoft Hyper-V Server 2012 VMs, nice!

    vCenter Server Appliance 5.5 in a home lab, without SSO errors