Getting started with Nutanix Community Edition the easy way - using Rufus on Windows to create bootable USB for automated server install

Posted by Paul Braren on Jan 1 2016 (updated on Jan 6 2016) in
  • Storage
  • Virtualization
  • ESXi
  • HomeServer
  • HomeLab
  • HowTo
  • nutanix-discussion-with-eric-over-twitter

    I recently found myself involved in a Twitter discussion about getting Nutanix Community Edition going in my home virtualization lab environment. My thinking went something like this. Instead of more tiny tweet replies, how about I just figure it out using one of my SanDisk flash drives and my Supermicro SuperServer Bundle 2, and record video as I go along? That's exactly what I did, given I happened to be in the middle of rebuild season anyway, with this handy server exceeding Nutanix minimum specs. Phew, and wow! A away to get a first-hand look at a very popular way converge datacenter infrasture into one turnkey solution, using my own hardware.


    Building a Nutanix single-node cluster with this Nutanix Acropolis hypervisor is yet another amazing thing you can do in your home lab, especially if you have intermediate sysadmin skills, a beefy server, and a desire to learn more about hyperconverged infrastucture, nice overview here:

    Nutanix Acropolis is the industry’s leading turnkey infrastructure platform that delivers enterprise-class storage, compute and virtualization services for any application. Acropolis offers IT professionals uncompromising flexibility of where to run their applications, providing a path to freely choose the best virtualization technology for their organization – whether it is traditional hypervisors, emerging hypervisors or containers.

    You can install CE on bare metal, after setting your ESXi USB drive and all storage devices aside temporarily. Alternatively you can install a cluster as nested VMs, to see more Nutanix CE functionality, but taking a hit on performance. This article focuses on the former approach, installing directly on the server for top performance, as well as for the reasons so nicely described by Marco Broeken here:

    Do we really need to wipe our current lab that runs ESXi? But the more we thought about it the more we did like the way Nutanix designed it. This way we can “properly” test their software. Also the possibility to run a one node cluster is just awesome. You can just have one node configured to run Nutanix CE and play around with NOS and NCLI. Nutanix CE is definitely a great idea and I hope it’s going to be a big success. I would like to say thanks to the Nutanix CE team for the experience and releasing such a cool product to the community!

    Here's a look at the snazzy and effective web based HTML5 UI.


    The basic steps, as seen in the Nutanix video. [click the image above to start that video]

    for Community Edition

    • Servers 1, 3 & 4 servers
    • CPU Intel CPUs, 4 cores minimum, with VT-x support
    • Memory 16GB minimum
    • Storage Subsystem RAID 0 (LSI HBAs) or AHCI storage sub-systems
    • Hot Tier (SSD) One SSD per server minimum, ≥ 200GB per server
    • Cold Tier (HDD) One HDD per server minimum, ≥ 500GB per server
    • Networking Intel NICs

    Note, AMD CPUs not listed!

    Step-by-step instructions

    Unlike the Installing Nutanix Community Edition video that assumed Linux or Mac OS X, these instructions I've created don't assume you have either. You won't need to know what dd is, for example. Instead, I use a Windows 10 PC for the downloads of the code and the right tools, to get your bootable install media created, then I use a server that exceeds Nutanix minimum specs, which is my SuperServer SYS-5028D-TN4T equipped with 64GB of RAM and 4 built-in Intel NICs.

    1. Download the latest Nutanix CE from this NEXT forum area.
      Currently, the latest is this 2GB download here:

    2. Download Rufus.
      Currently, that's Rufus 2.6 Portable here:
      Always a nice bonus when you don't have to install. You just run it. Fast, and effective. Same great tool you may be using for creating ESXi and Windows installation media.

    3. Download and install 7-Zip.
      Currently, that's 7-Zip 15.14 (2015-12-31) for 64-bit Windows x64 (Intel 64 or AMD64) here:

    4. Right-click on:
      choose "7-Zip" "Extract to"

    5. Insert a USB flash drive at least 8GB in size, I used this SanDisk 32GB USB 3.0 model that costs merely ~$11 USD, and is easy to label.

    6. Launch Rufus, say not to one-time question about "application updates" then click the CD icon to select an image, navigating to
      then click Start, and wait about 7 minutes for it to write about 6GB of data

    7. Eject the flash drive properly, using Disk Manager/Right-click eject, since there's no system tray based drive removal for driver-letter-less-devices.

    8. Remove all HDDs and SSDs from your server that you'll be using for Nutanix to install on because this current stable build auto-formats any storage it can see. You've been warned! See also a wonderful discussion about this here, with constructive ideas for safer approaches in future releases.

    9. Insert at least one HDD and one SSD that you don't mind getting wiped, so it has storage to automatically format then use for its own installation and use.

    10. Power on your server.

    11. If your BIOS won't boot the media properly by default, you may need to revert to factory defaults, and ensure CSM is turned on. I went with defaults with CSM on for my SuperServer. From the Supermicro SuperServer SYS-5028D-TN4T manual page 108:

      CSM Support
      Select Enabled to support the EFI Compatibility Support Module (CSM), which provides compatibility support for traditional legacy BIOS for system boot. The options are Enabled and Disabled.

    12. Select the SanDisk as primary in the boot order, as the video demonstrates, save BIOS settings and exit.


    13. Once you've successfully booted from the USB drive, some basic questions come up, as pictured at right. Then it's hands-off for 5-10 minutes, which is also when it auto-formats all drives it sees. When it's done, it'll tell you, just point your browser to the assigned IP for that first login. Here's a guide that will help you with NCE installation questions, and another useful resource for using the PRISM web interface after the install is done, Nutanix Community Edition Primer.

    14. If you were just testing Nutanix CE temporarily, and you're now done, don't forget to reverse the first steps above. Eject the Nutanix CE USB drive (don't forget your labels, for easy idenfication/re-use later). Then reinsert your ESXi USB drive (also hopefully labeled), and your original SSD and HDD drives. Now power up and configure the BIOS the way it was before you started this Nutanix CE test. If that was with this same Supermicro SuperServer, here's just the right spot in the step-by-step article, which most importantly turns UEFI mode back on.

    Step-by-step video

    Step-by-step video about getting started with Nutanix CE.

    Jan 02 2016 Update

    I noticed that Acropolis doesn't currently support NVMe storage. So if you have something like a Samsung 950 PRO M.2 NVMe drive, or an Intel 750 Series PCIe NVMe card, you technically don't need to reach for a screwdriver to remove them, with this particular Nov 2015 Nutanix CE build. But be careful. What if Nutanix both:

    1. adds NVMe drivers in the future
    2. doesn't add a drive selector to the installer and keeps all drives found as the default targets to autoformat

    then you're better off removing those NVMe drives during Nutanix CE testing anyway, just in case.

    See also at TinkerTry


    See also