I got a new Dell T5500 desktop machine a while back and the first thing to do was to open it up and see what was in there of course. And looking at the dual quad-core Xeons and the 6GB memory, I quickly realized I had to find something daunting enough for this machine.

It did not take long to find such a task. How about running those Windows checked build virtual machines on this machine ? Anyone who has run checked builds in virtual machines knows how slow things get. And if you have to meet a deadline of some kind, it can get frustrating to get all testing done in all platforms. If this machine with 16 logical processors cannot take that load, then nothing else will.

It was time to do a bit of planning about how this machine was to be setup. To maximize power available to the virtual machines, I did not want to install a hosting OS. Instead I wanted to check if VMware ESXi 4.0 would run on this. ESXi installation would not go through and complained something or the other about the network.

The VMware getting started guide puts ESXi 4.0 hardware requirement at  gigabit ethernet and above and my switch was only capable of 100 megabit. After connecting to a gigabit switch, installation started complaining about the LOM NIC being not supported.This page also confirmed that T5500 was not a machine on which ESXi could run.

It was time to find a network card that would not cost an arm and a leg and would keep ESXi happy. An ebay auction posting, that I cannot seem to locate,  helped a lot – there was this  NIC (a Dell Broadcom NetXtreme Gigabit Adapter BCM5722 Single Port) taken out of an ESXi capable server being sold separately and the seller had quite helpfully mentioned that it was identical to Dell part #XK104. The price of that refurbished item on Dell’s site was around $40. Great !

After putting the NIC in, ESXi installed. Then I installed VMware vSphere client on another machine and connected to ESXi server. While familiarizing myself with the management interface, I realized that the RAID options were not right. I needed all the storage I can get so I had to turn off RAID and install ESXi again.

Next task was to install virtual machines on ESXi. The first time I did the installation by burning a physical dvd from ISO and popping it in on the ESXi server. But then I discovered the VMware Datastore Browser (Configuration->Storage->Datastores->[your datastore]->Right Click->Browse Datastore in vSphere client).

The upload button in the toolbar lets you copy files/directories onto the datastore. After checked build ISOs were copied onto the Datastore, VM settings needed to be edited to use the ISO from datastore (just like it is on VMware Workstation)

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One Response to Kernel Debugging on ESXi 4.0

  1. Jirawat says:

    I also got Dell T5500 and have exact same problem with ESXi doesn’t recognize built-in NIC. Thank for your suggestion on refurbish part from Dell.

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