Virtualization is an influential player in IT these days, no matter what sector you are in. Most businesses can benefit from ESXi USB install with server consolidation – and to a greater extent, server convergence, storage, and network infrastructure for centralized management and scalability.
When it comes to consolidating servers with their virtualization, the industry standard is VMware, with its broad software and support offerings for businesses of all areas. There’s even a free offer of ESXi, which is a primary hypervisor that can work on any bare metal server hardware to introduce the product to the IT professionals, and help organizations on their way to migrate their servers to virtual ones.
Many people know that ESXi can be installed from a CD and a bootable USB flash drive. What’s more, the USB flash drive can be used not only as an installation medium. On the other hand, ESXi can also be installed on a USB flash drive or SD flashcard, and it can be booted from these removable devices.
When you boot a server with this USB flash drive, ESXi Installer will copy the full installer to memory, which means you can install USB ESXi on the device you are already performing the installation process. Just select it during installation. It also works for diskless ESXi hosts where you want to install ESXi on an SD card.
Now, let’s look at the installation process.
- workstation or laptop with Windows 10 (Rufus-like imaging tools available for Mac, see UNetbootin or UUByte ISO editor)
- supported ESXi server, such as Supermicro SuperServer in SYS-5028D-TN4T package two based on Xeon D-1541,
- The USB installation disc, such as SanDisk Ultra Fit, included with any SuperServer package
- at least one available hard drive or SSD for VMware’s VMFS file system where your VMs will live, such as insanely fast M.2 NVMe SSD
- The ISO file to use for installation:
Step-by-step ESXi USB install
- on a Windows system, such as a laptop, insert a USB flash drive of 32 GB or higher, such as the Sandisk Ultra Fit 32 GB USB 3.0 flash drive that still comes with Wiredzone Bundles, and use Rufus to create a bootable installation media ESXi utilizing the method shown here
- insert your marked, now bootable USB drive into your server
- use your browser to connect to the IPMI management features of your SuperServer using your browser
- BIOS 2.1 and IPMI 3.88 update
- Use the recommended BIOS settings for the Supermicro SuperServer SYS-5028D-TN4T. Note, if you purchased a package from Wiredzone, this is already done for you (except for a few systems shipped directly from Supermicro during September and October 2020 during Wiredzone Warehouse Change). Make sure UEFI USB is at the top of the boot order
- start the Remote Console function, aka, iKVM and
- Click Power Control to restart the server
- Press F11 to call up the boot menu (if UEFI USB is not at the top of the boot order)
- from the menu, Please select a boot device, select DVD, and press Enter
- resume normal ESX installation
- choose Select a drive to install or upgrade menu
- SanDisk Ultra Fit (mpx.vmhba32: C0: T0: L0) (or similar)
- now you can press Enter to restart, and you are done
Pros and Cons
There are pros and cons to knowing before you decide to start ESXi from a USB flash drive. There are three main pros and one con that will be elaborated on below.
Disks with SAS interface are not very low in price. You should expect to incur additional costs to install ESXi on a standalone drive or array of drives. Using a USB flash drive to boot ESXi can save you from buying different drives.
Easy maintenance when you need to replace disks used for data storage
You can replace data storage disks without reinstalling ESXi because ESXi is installed on a USB flash drive (SD card). In cases where ESXi is installed on a disk that is also used as a data warehouse, you may need to reinstall ESXi on a new disk or clone the installed ESXi system to a new disk.
Upgrades and installations can be much more affordable
Clone your USB flash drive and upgrade your ESXi for a smooth ESXi USB install. If something goes wrong, replace the USB flash drive on the flash drive with the pre-installed ESXi version working correctly (without wasting time reverting to the previous version). Even if you need to reinstall ESXi on your USB flash drive, you do not need to copy data from the data store. Hence, it takes less time and effort to do this.
ESXi boot time
ESXi boot time lasts pretty much longer when ESXi is installed on a USB device or flashcard. The input/output is not decreased while regular ESXi operation is on because the ESXi is fully loaded into the computer’s RAM. The flash drive/card is only used to load ESXi and save configuration files when needed. The input/output is not going to be reduced during regular ESXi operation.
This set of flash usage is not too intense, which allows the flash drive to be used for quite a long time in this mode of reading/writing processes. Boot time can be crucial for ESXi servers operating in a high availability cluster where even an extra minute spent loading ESXi can be vital in the production environment.
Although not CD / DVD or remote KVM, some servers will need to use a USB flash drive from an associate to insert ESXi into the hardware.
Moreover, you are able to save money on server hardware by installing VMware ESXi on USB instead of using your host’s internal drives. You do not need any wealth of knowledge or skills; all you need is an ISO image of the ESXi and a USB device.
VMware ESXi is a reliable, popular hypervisor. Supports critical features such as traffic shaping, role-based security access, and vSphere PowerCLI, which require minimal hardware resources. You can use free software like Rufus or VMware Workstation to install ESXi on a flash drive. And now you are able to run ESXi on almost any system.
If you already use ESXi on local drives, switching to the ESXi USB install method may not be worth it. But for newer servers, installing ESXi on USB may be the cheapest and most efficient installation option.