How to build your awesome virtualization home lab with VMware vSphere 6.0 (ESXi & vCSA)

Posted by Paul Braren on Mar 15 2015 (updated on Sep 26 2015) in
  • ESXi
  • Virtualization
  • HowTo
  • May 08 2015 Update - The detailed video is finally here, with very handy chapter markers below! This new video was recorded on April 19th, and was edited down to about 1 hour 20 minutes. It's a detailed step-by-step video, geared toward those who want nice hostnames in a home lab. If you want a simpler approach, choose this earlier, shorter vSphere 6.0 beta video. It demonstrates the easier IPs (rather than host names) procedure. Also note that we're all still waiting to see what happens with 365 day licenses for vSphere 6.0 home labs under, I inquired again on May 7, 2015 with an EVALExperience contact.

    Aug 24 2015 Update - The 6.0.0b versions of ESXi and vCSA are now out, but the installation instructions don't change. Also note that EVALExperience worked out fine for vSphere 6.0 users, detailed here:

    Sep 26 2015 Update - The 6.0 Update 1 versions of ESXi and vCSA are now out, and as far as I can tell, the installation instructions still work, this is good!

    Original article below:


    See Disclaimer below, to help you understand the prerequisites.

    vCenter-Server-Appliance-6.0-Install-button

    I'm working hard on the full recipe for success, to build up your vSphere 6.0 home lab. The focus of this article is on fresh installs, but you can read all about more complicated upgrade options here and here. Note, while I say fresh install, that doesn't mean you are starting from scratch, if you have existing VMs. Those can easily be added back into your inventory, once you get your vSphere 6.0 environment set up, and any additional drivers you may need for networking and storage.

    vsphere-home-lab-may-08-2015

    Overall, vSphere 6.0 is an easier install, once you get to know your way around some of the newness of it all. Installing ESXi 6.0 is much the same as it's been for years, but the vCSA (VMware vCenter Server Appliance) is different, and easier, basically consisting of these 3 steps:

    • double-click to mount the VMware-VCSA-all-6.0.0-2562643.iso file (Windows 8 or later)
    • install the \vcsa\VMware-ClientIntegrationPlugin-6.0.0.exe
    • run \vcsa-setup.html to launch your browser, which begins the install wizard for vCSA

    This recipe for all the ingredients you'll need for your own awesome home lab setup will be soup-to-nuts thorough, with a focus on simplicity, ease of deployment, and ease of use. Once you see the video, it's all so much more straightforward than all the documentation implies.

    Topics will include:

    • slick ways to make login easier
    • FQDN (Fully Qualified Domain Names) instead of ugly IP addresses...
    • create shortcut for your vSphere Web Client on your Taskbar, with no URL or menus cluttering up the top of your valuable browser real estate

    What I'm trying to do is get past vCSA's dislike for using DHCP (which is simplest in a home lab to use for that first install), using a custom procedure for renaming the appliance after the initial install, and re-issuing the certificate after the initial deployment. Alternatively, I may just go with the vcsa-cli-installer method.

    One barrier has been lack of valid documentation this early on. For example, here's a VMware document that hasn't yet been updated since the 5.5 days. See for yourself, visit this article Error When You Change vCenter Server Appliance Host Name, then simply change the vsphere-60 in the URL to vsphere-55, and it still comes up. Yep, that ain't right, they simply haven't updated it for 6.0 yet. The main page, the VMware vSphere 6.0 Documentation Center, currently shows last updated March 12 2015.

    VMware-vSphere-6.0-Documentation

    But you don't have to wait until I have the recipe fully documented, and the solution fully baked. Especially if you're just messing around and plan to rebuild from scratch. Keep reading!

    [all sections below are currently a work in progress]

    Download

    VMware vSphere 6.0 is now generally available, here’s how to download it fast

    Rufus takes 2 minutes to create a bootable USB flash drive for ESXi installation

    Install/Configure

    The procedure is demonstrated in this rough-cut earlier video, from an earlier build, but it's the same install/configure procedure, if you're ok with going with IP addresses instead of host names:

    My revised completely new video includes install, and configure, with a twist. I added tweaks so you have a nice looking vSphere Web Client with a FQDN (Fully Qualified Domain Names) for ESXi and vCSA, instead of merely using IP addresses. Yes, it's all about that home network WiFi router, which doesn't do the forward and reverse lookups that VMware expects (in the datacenter). The work arounds are fairly straight-forward, but not as easy as I would have liked.

    Install/Configure, with FQDN

    Here it is, the detailed, step-by-step video that gets you an awesome home virtualization lab, with lovely names like esxi and vcenter, rather than ugly IPs.

    Want chapter markers, to jump ahead to just the right spot in the video?

    Well, the video is intended to be followed from start to finish, but I realize it's still awfully handy to figure out where you left off by having all the chapters nicely laid out for you.

    1. (0:00) Preparations and Downloads
    2. (0:44) Create the bootable flash drive
    3. (4:52) Configure BIOS and boot ESXi 6.0 installer from the flash drive, installing to same drive
    4. (10:22) Configure ESXi 6.0, set NTP, edit hosts file
    5. (13:28) Edit host file and install vSphere Client and Chrome on client Windows 8.1 PC
    6. (25:35) Deploy vCSA appliance, edit hosts file
    7. (32:45) Configure WiFi router for DHCP reservation and FQDN for vCSA
    8. (46:33) Create Datacenter, add host named esxi.lab.local, create a Datastore
    9. (48:34) Configure vCSA autostart, reboot
    10. (55:40) Install VMRC, test it, allowing certain pop-ups
    11. (1:02:58) Browse Datastore and add some VMs to inventory
    12. (1:04:22) Optionally install LastPass vSphere Web Client autologin administrator@vsphere.local
    13. (1:07:50) Optionally use WinSCP to download cert to avoid nag screen
    14. (1:14:32) Final login test, closing thoughts and practical lab project ideas

    Adding drivers (VIB bundles)

    If you want info on the optional steps needed to add drivers for typical "whitebox" home-built (unsupported) gear, it's all described right at TinkerTry's For ESXi 6.0, those ESXi 5.1 VIBs for ASMedia SATA ports and Realtek NICs still seem to be working (but unsupported)

    Today’s tip is a sneak peek at what’ll probably happen once vSphere 6 finally arrives. Four simple lines of code, and a few minutes to reboot, are all it’s likely to take to get your ASMedia (ASM1061 chipset) AHCI SATA drives visible again. And those Realtek NICs. That’s a relief, ain’t it?

    my-vZilla-servers-ASRock-motherboard-with-ASMedia-SATA-and-Realtek-NIC-circled

    This entire article will, over time, become much more like my very popular Sep 30 2013 post:

    Build your own VMware vSphere 5.5 Datacenter with ESXi and vCSA with step-by-step here

    I want people to have the proper expectations about this video, which admittedly has some constraints. Hopefully this polite warning I have inserted into the video at 1 minute conveys the right message:

    PLEASE PAUSE to read this screen. This video is geared toward experienced PC enthusiasts who may be new to VMware vSphere, and want to either create a new lab, or rebuild their existing VMware lab, re-importing existing VMs.

    If you have:

    • chosen PC hardware that’s compatible with ESXi 6.0, particularly the network adapter, avoiding the "No network adapters found“ message, see also TinkerTry.com/superguide-whiteboxes and note that Realtek NICs have been a problem for many, see TinkerTry.com/asmedia-realtek-on-esxi-6

    • downloaded the 3 big files needed to get started, as explained at TinkerTry.com/downloadvsphere6

    • handled licensing (60 day full trial, $200/yr. EVALExperience, etc.)

    • an understanding that VMware vSphere 6 was intended for the enterprise, and the local monitor isn’t useful once ESXi is installed (no access VMs such as Windows, that’s done on a remote management PC on the network), see TinkerTry.com/esxi-is-designed-to-be-headless

    • an understanding that I cannot provide technical support answers for free, and can’t offer advice on hardware I don’t even own, see TinkerTry.com/vzilla

    • a way to play this video on a 1920x1080 HD monitor, ideally in full screen mode, for pixel-zperfect clarity, making it a lot easier to follow along

    • a decent WiFi router (less than ~5 year old, and purchased for more than ~$100), side-stepping the vSphere requirement for a full-featured DNS server typically found in the enterprise

    then you’ll next see and hear EVERY step needed to create your amazing virtualization lab.

    I’m confident this video will be helpful for individuals wishing to get past some bumps in the, using a consumer WiFi router. It assumes a familiarity with creating DHCP reservations. The idea is to provide the MAC address of your new vCenter Server Appliance to your router, so it’ll then feed out a nice name like vcenter.lab.local (FQDN) and a fixed IP address. This makes vCSA, and you, happy. You can name your host (server) something like esxi.lab.local, but you’ll be to use the vSphere Client or vSphere Web Client to log in using just the short names, like vcenter and esxi.

    If this all seems too complex, and you don’t mind showing seeing IPs instead of hostnames for your vSphere Web client, skip the router tweaks and go with static IPs, as demonstrated in short and simple video at TinkerTry.com/vsphere6preview

    Producing this video took many hours of rehearsals followed by several hundred edits, but there’s no trickery. Based on my similar vSphere 5.5 video that had 200,000 views in 18 months, I can safely say that YouTube ads provide less than minimum wages for this niche, but high-value video. I honestly had no idea what I was getting into back when I started on YouTube, yet I still try to take on such long-form videos with every major VMware release, knowing it’s of high value to the community. I’ll try to keep this video free. A tip jar of sorts is available using the easy Support button seen next to this video on YouTube, or by visiting TinkerTry.com/donate.

    Please consider subscribing, sharing, and reading the main article that goes with this video at TinkerTry.com/installvsphere60 before leaving a comment. Enjoy your home virtualization lab! It’s an incredible way to get the most out of your hardware investment.