Automated Deployment of ESX Hosts Part I

Caution: Articles written for technical not grammatical accuracy, If poor grammar offends you proceed with caution ;-)

A very important part of deploying your Virtual Infrastructure environment is consistency when it comes to the configuration of the ESX hosts.   Time and time again as common practice I see users deploying ESX hosts manually with no documentation to follow other than what they have in their heads.  Deploying ESX hosts in this fashion can lead to inconsistent configurations between hosts.  Choosing manual installations over scripted installations can lead to all sorts of problems some of which can be very difficult to diagnose.

There is a very common misconception that scripted installations are difficult or not worth the time and effort to create.  This couldn’t be farther from the truth.  Utilizing scripted installations can save countless hours of time spent manually installing ESX and troubleshooting problems from inconsistent manual installs.  This is part I of a multi-part blog in which I am going to walk you through the different options that are available with scripted installations.  I am also going to share with you some sample scripts and methods to streamline the testing of scripts you develop.  Before we begin to develop a script we need to know what our “standard” configuration is going to be.  Without having a standard configuration we don’t know what we need to configure.  It’s important to develop a standard configuration for your environment.  If you have multiple clusters in your environment your standard configuration may have minor changes from cluster to cluster but should ultimately be consistent across the environment to make troubleshooting and maintenance much simpler.

In part II of this blog post I will post my “standard” configuration that will be used to build my sample automated kickstart installation script.  My standard configuration will include the following:

  • Service Console Partitioning scheme
  • Service Console memory size
  • Active Directory Servers for Service Console PAM integration
  • AD Users to have access to the Service Console
  • Service Console Security Policy
  • Agents to be install in the Service Console and their configurations
  • ESX Hosts Networking Configuration including routing, DNS, NTP, etc…
  • Licensing Server Information

Once I have a “standard” configuration I will perform a walk through using it to develop a script that will be used for the Automated Deployment.  Once the script is developed then we will cover the options for deploying a host using the script.  These options include:

  • PXE Boot using a tool like the UDA appliance
  • Install from CD using a hosted kickstart file.
  • Network installation using http, ftp, or nfs
  • Custom ESX installation CD’s.

Your homework assignment before “Automated deployment of ESX hosts par II” is to determine what your “standard” ESX build is and have the information handy to start building your script. So don’t forget to check back for my next post where we start to build our kickstart files.

3 Replies to “Automated Deployment of ESX Hosts Part I”

  1. Nice site guys.. I’m interested in seeing the 2nd part of this blog entry. I’m getting ready to automate the kickstart environment where I currently work at. The environment is a combination of RedHat and SuSe. I have not used VMware extensively except for the Vmware SDK and the automation of the NIC reordering.

    So I will be definitely hitting this site up for best practices and how to do certain things in the VMware environment.

    Keep up the good work, I linked back to your site.
    And Dave thanks for the support of my script. I’m just curious how did you implement my script in the kickstart process. I would like to post that on my site if you are ok with it.

    Your friend Allen Sanabria

  2. I should have Part II finished this evening. There will be four parts in total and I hope to have them all complete by mid next week. Thanks for the posts, keep checking back I have a lot of good content I plan to post moving forward.


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