Running VMware vSphere 4.1 on a MacBook Pro with dual disks (incl SSD)

I’ve been using my Intel i7  MacBook Pro daily for work and then during the evening for the past couple of months and have found it, on the whole, pretty good.  I bought my MacBook Pro with a 5400rpm SATA based internal disk as to buy a MacBook Pro with a 7200rpm SATA or SSD drive a special order was required which would have taken a number of days to come through which at the time I didn’t have the luxury of.  Disappointingly my MacBook Pro hasn’t been quite as responsive as I’d expected.  Now I don’t mean it’s sluggish it’s just a case of it lacking that extra sharp responsiveness I’d hoped for from a laptop of this specification and price. 

vSphere SSDAdding an SSD to get the required IOPS to allow me run an effective portable vSphere lab was the logical option but the price of an SSD large enough (ie: >256GB) to accommodate the OSX install, OSX apps including VMware Fusion, ESX/ESXi VM and associated nested VMs was unfortunately way beyond my budget.  No doubt in a year or so 256GB and 512GB SSD’s will be the norm as far as SSD drives are concerned, but for now I had a requirement for IOPS and to some extent capacity – all on a limited budget.

Having dual drives in a laptop is an idea I have always quite fancied because of the flexibility around resilience (if in a RAID configuration), mixing of drive types (eg: SATA and SSD) and for increased capacity if required.  A quick Google search looking to see if there was an option to add a second drive to a MacBook Pro brought back a number of results and forum based reviews/comments.

The general consensus from the various forums seemed to be that by removing the CD/DVD SuperDrive in the MacBook Pro and replacing it with a 3rd party produced hard drive caddy which in turn utilised the SATA connection used by the SuperDrive was the best way.  After more research online I decided to go for a MCE OptiBay which seemed to be a popular choice in the online community.  Although the MCE OptiBay is not the cheapest at US$99 it sure beat buying a 256GB or 512GB SSD.

Along with the drive caddy the Optibay kit comes with an external CD/DVD housing in which to mount the SuperDrive which is removed from the MacBook Pro.

For the remainder of this post I will run through what is included in the MCE OptiBay kit and how I installed it into my MacBook Pro.    I should point out that there are different kits for the various models of MacBook and MacBook Pro, past and present, so if you end up doing similar make sure you buy the correct one.

IMPORTANT – INSTALLING AN OPTIBAY WILL VOID YOUR APPLE WARRANTY!

The Optibay comes well packaged in a small box.  If ordering it from outside of the UK be prepared to pay import duty.  I ended up paying having to pay an additional UK£21.00.

MacBook Second Hard Drive 1

 

In the box, there was the OptiBay caddy, the external CD/DVD case along with USB and USB power cable, an instructional CD and a rather useful screw driver (which will no doubt also come in useful in the future).

MacBook Pro extra disk

 

Here is a close-up shot of the OptiBay.  It fits in perfectly where the SuperDrive occupies in the MacBook Pro and has the necessary hard disk mount points and a SATA/Power connector.

MacBook Pro Caddy

 

To install the OptiBay you need to remove 10 screws from the base of the MacBook Pro.  These are very small so be sure not to lose them when removing the base cover.  Check out this video to find out in more detail how to install an OptiBay into a MacBook Pro.

MacBook Pro Screws

 

Once the base cover is removed the SuperDrive can then be removed (below) – this can be a little bit fiddly.  Make note of where you remove the screws from.  Also, as you can see I have already installed a 120GB OCZ SATA disk into my MacBook Pro.

MacBook Pro SSD OptiBay

 

I added a 500GB 7200rpm hard disk into the OptiBay housing and secured the hard disk using the usual mount points.  This was straight forward to do.

MacBook Pro Extra Drive SSD

 

With the hard disk mounted into the OptiBay (below) and the SATA and power connectors connected all that needs doing is the base plate to be secured.  The entire process took about 25 minutes with an inexperienced OptiBay n00b such as myself installing it.

MacBook Pro Two Drives

 

Upon starting the MacBook Pro and it booting into OSX I am now presented (see below) with both the OCZ SSD drive (primary) and the 500GB 7200rpm SATA drive (Secondary).  I can now move my photos, music and other space hungry files onto the slower SATA disk thereby providing sufficient spare space on the SSD drive from which to run a VMware ESX/ESXi VM and nested VMs from within it.

OSX Dual Drives

 

So how quickly does VMware ESXi 4.1 take to load off of the SSD drive in my MacBook Pro?  The answer is about 45 seconds which is pretty darn quick in my opinion, along with having the sufficient IOPS to run nested VMs off of it. Best of all my new vSphere lab environment is highly portable and ideal of customer demonstrations.  Check out the video below to watch the ESXi boot process on my SSD in real time.

 

 

Feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions regarding my experience with running VMware ESXi off of the SSD or the OptiBay installation process.

 

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