ESX vs ESXi which is better(Revisited vSphere 4.0)

Back in April I wrote a blog aimed and the differences between ESX and ESXi. The original post was written for ESX 3.5 and with the introduction of vSphere I think it’s about time i have revisited this topic and looked at the pros and cons of ESX4 and ESX4i. Now before we dig into the technical details there is one big thing you should all be aware of. The FAQ page published by VMware states “VMware ESXi is the recommended platform for both new and existing customers. Future hypervisor releases will solely be based on this architecture.

For most that should be enough said. After reading that I would seriously start rolling out ESXi in a lab and start figuring out how I could maintain my needs without the service console most of us have become to know and love. I would also start brushing up on the RCLI as well as the PowerCLI if you are currently dependent on scripts that run in the service console. The good news is almost everything you do today in the service console can be achieved one way or another with ESXi as well. OK with that said lets talk about some of the other limitations.

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VMware SDK and Visual Studio 2008

I went to install the VMware SDK for vSphere 4.0 on to my desktop running Windows 7 64-bit, Visual Studio 2008, and .Net 3.5 SP1 and discovered the SDK setup is not friendly with these versions.  According to VMware you need Visual Studio 2005 and .Net 2.0 if you want to run the SDK.

So like most of you reading this I turned to my trusted adviser…google to find the answer I was looking for.  Much to my disappointment after 5 minutes of searching around I didn’t find any instant gratification for my problem so I decided to just go ahead and figure it out on my own.

It turned out to be a relatively easy task once I discovered what was causing my issues.  There are two windows cmd scripts that need to be edited to point to the proper locations of your installations.  I have included the modified cmd files in our downloads section for those of you that would like them.  These files are built to support my specific configuration but they are very easily edited to support your configuration.

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Citrix Xen Desktop (DDC) / Provisioning Server (PVS) & vSphere SDK

I’m sure many of you have run into an issue with setting up Citrix Xen Desktop (DDC). As i was setting up a new “Desktop Group” I ran into a problem when trying to configure the vCenter SDK address. The configuration wizard show you an example that looks say ‘For example, https://VirtualCetner.example.com/sdk” which is what you would expect to use and you would also expect it to work. Think again. When you try to setup your vCenter SDK address you will be presented with and error “The hosting infrastructure could not be reached at the specified address.” Citrix takes security serious so unless you plan on replacing the default SSL certificate on your vCenter server you will need to hack out a work around. Now I would agree that in production you should replace the default SSL but if your just trying to spin up a demo or test environment it can be a hassle.

So I searched the web over and over and found a number of threads with many of ways to resolve the issue only none of them seemed to work for me. However a combination of a number of things that I found did. So I’m here to save you the trouble of finding all of various pages with partial solutions. Below you will find exactly what you need to do to make this work.

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Creating an Automated ESXi Installer

Back in the summer, I saw Stu’s Post about automating the installation of ESXi. I was reminded again by Duncan’s Post. Then, I found myself in a situation when a customer bought 160 blades for VMware ESXi. With this many systems, it would be almost impossible to do this without mistakes. I took the ideas from Stu and Duncan and created an ESXi automated installer that works from a PXE deployment server, like the Ultimate Deployment Appliance. I took it a step further and added the ability to use a USB stick or a CD for those times when PXE is not allowed. The document below is a result of it.

This is a little different than the idea of a stateless ESXi server, where the hypervisor actually boots from PXE. This is the installer booting from PXE so that the hypervisor can be installed on local disk, an internal USB stick or SD card. You could also use it for a “boot from SAN” situation, but extreme care should be taken so you don’t accidentally format a VMFS disk.

As always, if anyone has comments, corrections, etc., please feel free to post a comment below.

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ESX vs. ESXi Which is Better? Revisited.

For over a year now, I have started off telling customers in Plan and Design engagements that they would be using ESXi unless we uncovered a compelling reason to NOT use it. The “which do I use” argument is still going strong. Our blog post “ESX vs. ESXi which is better?“  was posted in April and is still the most popular. It seems to be a struggle for many people to let go of the service console. VMware is trying to go in the direction of the thinner ESXi hypervisor. They are working to provide alternatives to using the service console.

VMware has provided a comparison of ESX vs. ESXi for version 3.5 for a while. Well, VMware posted a comparison for ESX vs. ESXi for version 4 last night. It’s a great reference.