VMware vSphere 6.0 reached end of general support 12 March 2020, with vSphere 6.5 scheduled for 15 October 2022, both referenced in the VMware Lifecycle Matrix. See also How to Install vSphere 7.0. Upgrade to vSphere 7 can be achieved directly from vSphere 6.5.0 and above, whereas vSphere 6.0 requires an intermediate upgrade to 6.5 or 6.7 first. For more information see the VMware Upgrade Matrix. Finally, the Windows vCenter Server and external PSC deployment models are now depreciated and not available with vSphere 7.0.
VMware ESXi is a bare-metal hypervisor deployed as a stateful or stateless install. ESXi optimises the use of a physical servers resources to be logically shared out for virtual machines. By virtualising compute we can benefit from a smaller datacentre footprint, less use of power and other hardware such as networking equipment, cost savings from server consolidation, better utilisation and management of existing resources, improved disaster recovery and availability. The graphic on the left below represents traditional workloads running on dedicated servers, the graphic on the right represents a virtualised environment with consolidated workloads.
- ESXi is available as a standalone free hypervisor, you will need to sign up for an account with VMware.
- ESXi is available as part of the vSphere product suite with a rich feature set ranging from Standard to Enterprise Plus with Operations Management; compare editions.
- The default license installed with ESXi provides Enterprise Plus trial capabilities for a maximum of 60 days. Before the trail expires a valid license key must be installed.
- ESXi 6.x supports a wide range of hardware across multiple vendors, however before proceeding check the hardware compatibility guide.
- A host machine with at least 2 CPU cores is required.
- ESXi 6.x supports 64-bit x86 processors released after September 2006.
- To provide virtualisation functionality the NX/XD bit must be enabled for the CPU in the BIOS, x64 CPUs should also have the support for hardware virtualisation (Intel VT-x or AMD RVI) feature enabled.
- ESXi 6.x requires at least 4 GB of physical RAM, however 8 GB is recommended to run virtual machines.
- Sufficient capacity and redundancy should be provided for network and storage resources.
- ESXi requires a boot device that is a minimum of 1 GB in size, although additional capacity is recommend:
- USB or SD card: minimum of 4 GB to allow for extended coredump partition, VMware recommend 16 GB for additional flash cells to prolong the life of the boot media.
- Local disk, SAN, or iSCSI LUN: a 5.2 GB disk is required for the VMFS volume and a 4 GB scratch partition. If a smaller disk is used then the /scratch partition will be located on the ESXi host ramdisk, which can hamper performance.
- To improve performance ESXi should be installed on disk(s) separate to those used to store virtual machine files, management network traffic should use dedicated NIC(s).
- Review the ESXi Port Requirements.
- The download link is the same for all editions of ESXi 6.x, available features are defined by the license key installed. ESXi Download.
- VMware offer a free 3-hour elearning course on Data Centre Virtualisation Fundamentals. The catalogue of paid learning courses and certification can be viewed at vSphere 6.5 Training or vSphere 6.0 Training.
- For more information on vSphere 6.5 see the official resources; vSphere 6.5 Documentation Centre, vSphere 6.5 Release Notes.
ESXi can be installed manually, which we will do in this post, scripted, or through Auto Deploy.
Boot from the ISO either by using local media or the server remote management software (iLO, DRAC, IMM).
- Press Enter to begin the installation wizard.
- Press F11 to accept the license agreement.
- The installer will now scan for available installation targets.
- Select the destination for the ESXi installation.
- Select the keyboard language and press Enter to continue.
- Configure a root password and press Enter to continue.
- Confirm the installation by pressing F11. The selected disk will be repartitioned.
- The ESXi installation will now commence.
- Once the installation is complete press Enter to reboot.
- The ESXi instance will now boot.
Press F2 to enter the system menu, log in using the root password configured during installation.
Use the Configure Management Network menu to configure an IP address and DNS settings. If applicable you can also select the network adapter(s) to use for the management network, and configure the use of a VLAN.
Press escape to return to the home screen, you will be prompted to restart the management network, press Y.
Access your host by opening a web browser and entering https:// followed by the IP or FQDN of your host with a trailing /ui. Log in as root.
The ESXi host is now ready to start provisioning virtual machines.
If you have installed ESXi 6.0 you have the option to access the host using the vSphere Windows client. To download and install the client open a web browser to the IP address of your ESXi host. It is recommended that you use the web interface since the Windows client is no longer supported from version 6.5 onwards.
As a standalone host ESXi features are limited, to get the full benefits of virtualisation you should look to pool resources together by deploying a Windows vCenter Server or vCenter Server Appliance. Update Manager works alongside vCenter to patch and upgrade your ESXi hosts.