VMWare ESXi on a partition?

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VMWare ESXi on a partition?

Postposted on Sat Feb 25, 2012 6:03 am

I have this PC, which runs an old Nikon LS-2000 film scanner via an Adaptec AHA-2940 PCI SCSI card. If I run ESXi I'm afraid the SCSI interface won't be presented to the virtualized operating systems. Because of the Adaptec ASPI thing required to get it working, I have to use a 32bit Windows OS (I heard it works on Windows 7, but XP is already unsupported).

I have an XP installation with all the necessary software to run the scanner. Since I want to keep the XP installation, I want to install ESXi on a partition, but it insists on using the whole disk! Will I be able to run my SCSI scanner from inside a VM? Or should I just give up the idea of running ESXi on that machine?
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Re: VMWare ESXi on a partition?

Postposted on Sat Feb 25, 2012 7:16 am

A few things...

I would check whether ESXi's PCI passthrough support requires a motherboard/CPU that supports IOMMU (unless you've already got a host system that supports that).

I'm not very familiar with ESXi, but it is a "bare metal" hypervisor. As such, it does not surprise me that it wants to take over the entire disk?

Moving an existing XP installation into a VM is potentially going to cause device driver issues and/or re-trigger Product Activation.
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Re: VMWare ESXi on a partition?

Postposted on Sat Feb 25, 2012 10:23 am

The PC doesn't have an IOMMU (880G chipset). I heard about this Paravirtual SCSI, is it what I'm looking for? Or must I use VMDirectPath, which really needs IOMMU?
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Re: VMWare ESXi on a partition?

Postposted on Sat Feb 25, 2012 10:26 am

If you have a second hard drive to use for VM storage, you could install ESXi on a USB flash drive and just plug it in and boot from it when you want to use it. It may also be possible to create a VMFS partition in free space on the XP drive but I wouldn't try it without making sure you have a good image backup of the XP partition first. In fact, I wouldn't try any of this without a good image backup first :).
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Re: VMWare ESXi on a partition?

Postposted on Sat Feb 25, 2012 10:28 am

Wouldn't virtualbox or vmware player be better choices than ESxi for a virtual machine? Or if you're running Win7 Pro, you could even use XP mode.
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Re: VMWare ESXi on a partition?

Postposted on Sat Feb 25, 2012 11:27 am

hp9000 wrote:Wouldn't virtualbox or vmware player be better choices than ESxi for a virtual machine? Or if you're running Win7 Pro, you could even use XP mode.

The PCI SCSI card is problematic in VirtualBox (and potentially in the other virtualization solutions as well) unless he's got an IOMMU.
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Re: VMWare ESXi on a partition?

Postposted on Sat Feb 25, 2012 11:46 am

I guess I'm going to ask the "why" question: Why do you want to install ESXi?

ESXi is great for the right purpose. That purpose is usually running a 24/7 box that runs multiple 24/7 virtual machines, controlled either through a VMware console, or through a VCenter server. I've run multiple ESXi servers and a VCenter server to manage them and when you're within scope, it's a beautiful thing.

As such, it makes little sense in my mind to install it on a partition for multi-boot purposes. You sound like you'd be a lot better off dedicating a partition to VMs and running VMWare Workstation or VirtualBox, and launching those VMs from the dedicated partition on top of your XP install, something I do on my laptop, and on my workstation at work.
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Re: VMWare ESXi on a partition?

Postposted on Sat Feb 25, 2012 11:55 am

ESXi has a hardware compatibility list all of the hardware must be ESXi support before you can install the OS. My question is why to you want to run ESXi?
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Re: VMWare ESXi on a partition?

Postposted on Sat Feb 25, 2012 12:15 pm

LoneWolf15 wrote:As such, it makes little sense in my mind to install it on a partition for multi-boot purposes. You sound like you'd be a lot better off dedicating a partition to VMs and running VMWare Workstation or VirtualBox, and launching those VMs from the dedicated partition on top of your XP install, something I do on my laptop, and on my workstation at work.

The fact that he needs PCI pass-through is the fly in the ointment. He may need to get a platform that supports IOMMU to make that work in a virtualized environment, regardless of what virtualization solution he's using. At which point it may be more cost-effective to just maintain a legacy physical XP machine to run his legacy hardware.
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Re: VMWare ESXi on a partition?

Postposted on Sat Feb 25, 2012 1:53 pm

Also, from the opposite direction, ESXi performance is likely to be very poor on a repurposed WinXP machine. ESXi likes Cores, GHz, GBs, GBs, and GBs. I generally try to budget 110-125% of the resources the initial VMs will want, as a baseline. That doesn't give a lot of room to grow.

Running ESXi and being able to run only a single VM seems quite self-defeating.
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Re: VMWare ESXi on a partition?

Postposted on Sat Feb 25, 2012 5:59 pm

[quote="just brew it!"]A few things...

I would check whether ESXi's PCI passthrough support requires a motherboard/CPU that supports IOMMU (unless you've already got a host system that supports that).

I'm not very familiar with ESXi, but it is a "bare metal" hypervisor. As such, it does not surprise me that it wants to take over the entire disk?

Moving an existing XP installation into a VM is potentially going to cause device driver issues and/or re-trigger Product Activation.[/quote

Iommu and intel vtd or amd Vi is re quired for VMware esxi PCI pass through.
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Re: VMWare ESXi on a partition?

Postposted on Sat Feb 25, 2012 8:35 pm

I just want to try it out for kicks. It may run XP, but it does have a Sempron 145 and I just got 8GBs of DDR3 RAM today. I would've run a few VMs with 512MB RAM and alternate OSes just to play around. Oh well, never mind, it's not as important as the scanner functionality.
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Re: VMWare ESXi on a partition?

Postposted on Sat Feb 25, 2012 10:28 pm

ESXi 5.0 installs just fine to a USB drive and you can use the unpartitioned space on your XP drive for the datastore, all you need is a 1GB or larger USB drive. When you run the ESXi install, select the USB drive and it will only erase and repartition that drive. After it's installed and running, log into it with the vSphere client on another computer and it will tell you that there's no datastore configured. When you create the datastore, tell it to use the "Free space" on the drive and it should leave the XP partition alone.

But seriously, make sure the XP partition is backed up before you start. If you don't do this, I take no responsibility for lost data or sleep :P.
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