Well here it is after a week or so (with the flu getting in the way) -my running VMware ESX and ESXi 3.5 on an HP Proliant ML115 G5 Quad core article.
At the time of writing this article an ML115 G5 Quad Core is going for £179.97+VAT.
So as always the server turns up in a standard issue nondescript HP box with sufficient packaging. The box contains an HP standard PS2 keyboard and mouse, a power cord, a CD containing documentation and the Easy Setup utility and general health and safety and warranty paper documentation bumph that no-one actually ever reads.
Unsurprisingly the actual server itself is in a case identical to that of the ML115 G5 Dual Core model with 2 front side USB ports, a SATA DVD+R Dual Layer (with LightScribe) DVD recorder and a further 4 USB ports on the rear. A serial, VGA and PS2 keyboard and mouse ports can also be found on the rear of the server.
I’m not going into great detail on the inside of the case as it doesn’t really differ from the ML115 G5 dual core or in fact the ML110 G5 models either (though there are subtle differences with these Intel based models). There is sufficient space to add extra drives (4 in total – with the supplied power connectors) and memory. The server comes with 512MB of memory occupying 1 of the 4 PC2-6400 memory slots. The server can take up to 8GB of memory in total.
One of the most exciting parts of the inside of the server is the internal USB port! Big deal some of you may say but this little gem is how were going to run VMware ESX on this great little machine.
For the purposes of this article I am going to keep everything bulk standard apart from the memory. I have removed the 512MB of memory as for VMware ESX to install over 1GB of memory needs to be installed. I have a 2 x 2GB Corsair XMS2 PC2-6400 memory kit that I will be using for this installation. I have used this particular memory kit for my ML110 G4, G5’s and ML115 G5’s (Dual Core) and have been happy with it’s compatibility and performance. If you try to install VMware ESX with the 512MB of memory you will get the following colourful error screen:
The hard disk that comes as standard with this ML115 G5 is a Seagate Barracuda 250GB 7200rpm and is sufficient for a basic standalone test lab.
Here is a screen shot of the BIOS screen which give details on the ML115 G5 Quad Core processor. Nothing too detailed here but may be of interest for the anoraks amongst you. 🙂
One of the first things you’ll be wanting to do before going to install VMware ESX is to enable the ‘Secure Virtual Machine Mode’ in the BIOS. It is set to ‘Disabled’ by default and can be found in the ‘Advanced’ CPU configuration settings of the BIOS. ‘Secure Virtual Machine Mode’ is more commonly known as AMD-V and is AMD’s virtualization extension set for their modern processors.
So how noisy is the HP ML115 G5 (Quad Core) when running?
Check out my blog posting here for a video of the ML115 when first started up and then running.
VMware ESXi 3.5 U3 Install
Ideally, in a perfect world, it’d be nice if when installing VMware ESXi 3.5 U3 that you’d just insert the install CD and it’d detect all the hardware first off. Although I found this to be the case with most of my ML110 G4, G5 and ML115 G5 Dual Core servers this wasn’t to be with this new Quad Core offering of the ML115 G5.
When starting to go through the ESXi U3 install process all goes well until you hit the stage where ESXi looks for a hard disk on which to install itself. At this point it fails to find a compat
ible disk controller and subsequently an available hard disk and gives the following error message.
To get around this potential show-stopper you can use a USB pen drive and the internal (or technically you could use one of the external USB ports) USB port of the server to boot and run a copy of VMware ESXi 3.5 from. Although at first for those of you that have not done this before it may sound a daunting task in reality it is very straight forward to do and works a treat!
So rather than booting ESXi from the internal disk controller and hard disk of the ML115 G5 we’ll boot ESXi from a USB key instead. With the price of USB pen drives being so cheap these days this is a low cost work around and offers the advantages of slightly quicker ESXi load times and also providing all of the hard disk as pure vmfs3 VM and ISO storage (this is possible as once ESXi U3 has loaded the onboard disk controller is detected and the attached SATA disk presented).
I bought a 1GB Verbatim USB2 pen drive for £5 and used this to install ESXi onto. Any USB2 pen drive 1GB or over will do. The size of the image (VMware-VMvisor-big-.5.0_Update_3-123629.i386.dd) that you’ll be writing to the USB pen drive is 750MB. Here is a link to another article I have written giving step by step instructions on how to create a bootable ESX USB pen drive.
Once VMware ESXi 3.5 is installed on the USB pen drive it just needs inserting into the internal USB port of the ML115 G5.
We are now ready to boot the new ESXi server. To give you an idea of how long it takes to fully boot into ESXi here is a breakdown of timings:
0 – 29 seconds: high fan speed (very noisy) and loading of BIOS until the hardware based environment monitor starts.
30 – 49 seconds: BIOS finishes loading.
50 – 125 seconds: VMware ESXi 3.5 loads from the USB pen drive with a static IP address.
Once ESXi has loaded give it a fixed/static IP address and connect to it using a web browser and download and install the Virtual Infrastructure Client (VIC) onto your PC/Server.
Although ESXi didn’t identify the onboard disk controller as being compatible during the installation process it is identified and the hard disk allocated once ESXi has fully loaded. As a result the SATA disk in the ML115 G5 shows up as a useable vmfs disk with the VIC. On this disk we can upload any ISO’s and VM’s, etc.
So at this stage we have everything we need to start using VMware ESXi on the ML115 G5. As an example I installed Windows Server 2008 Enterprise x86 on the server after uploading the source ISO image up to the local disk in the server.
Processor details within ESXi 3.5 U3:
The onboard MCP55 SATA disk controller is fully operational once ESXi is up and running:
Also, I can confirm that the onboard network card appears and is fully operational ‘out of the box’.
The new ESXi Health Status sensor detection also works and displays the expected useful environmental information.
I will continue this article over the next week and will cover the following areas:
– Using the onboard RAID to provide a mirrored pair of disks formatted in vmfs – is this possible?
– Power Consumption – how much power does the server consume (eg: during startup, idle and an average load).
So bookmark this page and check back again real soon. 🙂