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  1.    05 Apr 2016 #1

    Any Esxi users here -- Info on Hardware Passthru for Windows VMs


    Hi there.

    Am thinking of using Esxi on my Server box (microserver) .

    The advantage is the Host OS is TINY (even fit on a small Micro SD card and runs in a tiny amount of RAM with almost no I/O's).

    The VM's that can be created all have possibilities of Hardware passthru so you can for example use your own graphics cards / other hardware to be directly accessed by you VM.

    I'd like to try running for example a Windows server and a Linux server as VM's with their own hardware -- possible with Esxi.

    Anybody got some experience with this.

    Server Farms often use this so users on the VM's get identical desktops / performance to running Native OS (or about 95%) and can use identical hardware to the Native OS.

    Things like VMware / Vbox use a Virtual Bios --- Esxi allows REAL hardware to be assigned to the VM's.

    Any users here ?

    Cheers
    jimbo
      My ComputerSystem Spec
  2.    07 Apr 2016 #2
    Join Date : Apr 2016
    Bedfordshire
    Posts : 11
    Windows 10 Pro

    I use ESXI on a HP Gen8 MicroServer, I can't quite work out exactly what you're asking?

    I can pass all of my peripheral devices through to the VM such as bluetooth, mobile network connection and similar.
      My ComputerSystem Spec
  3.    07 Apr 2016 #3

    Quote Originally Posted by MattWinSlayer View Post
    I use ESXI on a HP Gen8 MicroServer, I can't quite work out exactly what you're asking?

    I can pass all of my peripheral devices through to the VM such as bluetooth, mobile network connection and similar.
    Hi there

    That's what I'm asking -- how do you set up the passthru when creating the VM's -- I know it can be done - I just am looking for a bit of guidance in how to set it up. - I'm also using a GEN8 Microserver (Proliant one).

    In particular passing USB and Graphics hardware to the VM - I have some old legacy hardware (Disc Vinyl cutting machine / studio) which needs access to the hardware. I'm retiring an old XP machine and want to "Virtualise" it on my Microserver. The hardware will only run on XP -- still works brilliantly so why spend a lot of money in finding new hardware for W10.

    I've tested the VM using VMWARE so I know the hardware will function on an XP VM -- seems to me Esxi is the way to go as I will probably run 3 or 4 different VM's all with different hardware requirements.

    Running VMWARE means I need to have a HOST OS - such as Linux or Windows which takes overhead from the server. Running Esxi has absolutely minimal overhead if I can get it to work.

    I can get an Esxi image for my server from HP including the RAID driver - setting up the VM hardware is where I'm getting stuck at.

    Cheers
    jimbo
      My ComputerSystem Spec
  4.    07 Apr 2016 #4
    Join Date : Apr 2016
    Bedfordshire
    Posts : 11
    Windows 10 Pro

    Hi,

    I get where you're at, have you already got an OS on the MicroServer ? I would as you state above install ESXI straight onto the server, reduces the overhead of running an OS and something like VMware Player inside it.

    When it comes to passing hardware through it really is quite simple, when viewing the console of a virtual machine, you can choose to mount an iso, connect a USB, when you go to connect a USB it will list all those connected to the host and then you can choose between them. The buttons are on the line of icons on the end of the line.

    Alternatively you can edit the settings of the machine, add a USB controller (Required to add USB devices) and then add the USB devices attached to the host so they are present at startup etc. This is done by right clicking a virtual machine and clicking edit settings, or when you create the virtual machine, you can add the virtual hardware and set up the pass through then

    Little bit more complex is the graphics, ESXI or any virtual platform are not designed to host graphics properly to run games etc.

    When you create a virtual machine it will add virtual hardware, one piece being a video card, you can manually assign it memory but for instance my windows server has 4mb assigned to it. I believe the maximum is 128mb so its not great!

    Run a P2V conversion of the machine, making sue you use a version 9 virtual machine!!! As if not the free version of ESXI wont be able to edit it! A drawback of not paying for vCentre is the fact that you cant do somethings without the paid for web console.

    Any other questions just ask!
      My ComputerSystem Spec
  5.    07 Apr 2016 #5
    Join Date : Apr 2016
    Bedfordshire
    Posts : 11
    Windows 10 Pro

    Quote Originally Posted by jimbo45 View Post
    Running VMWARE means I need to have a HOST OS - such as Linux or Windows which takes overhead from the server. Running Esxi has absolutely minimal overhead if I can get it to work.
    jimbo

    When you used the phrase VMWARE I got confused, VMWare is the company, that make products like ESXI (Server Virtualisation), Player & Workstation (Desktop Virtualisation)
      My ComputerSystem Spec
  6.    07 Apr 2016 #6
    Join Date : Mar 2015
    Philadelphia
    Posts : 1,174
    Windows 10 Pro x64

    Is ESXi still free? I know it was at one point, but I was told recently it wasn't free anymore. I have a small Shuttle box at home with an i5 and 32 GB of memory I was planning on using as a host. I was leaning towards Hyper-V because I have a license for that, but would gladly reconsider if ESXI is still free.
      My ComputerSystem Spec
  7.    07 Apr 2016 #7
    Join Date : Apr 2016
    Bedfordshire
    Posts : 11
    Windows 10 Pro

    Yes still free! Some features are missing that require you to buy vcentre to enable the web console to use, but for a simple home server virtualisation the free features are plentiful
      My ComputerSystem Spec
  8.    08 Apr 2016 #8

    Hi there

    Thanks guys -- appreciate the replies

    By VMware I meant I'm currently running virtual machines using VMware player / workstation !! -- Esxi is of course a VMware product too -- sorry for the confusion.

    I'll try running the Esxi model -- my HP microserver is the Gen 8 ProLiant--- HP 712317-421 - MicroSvr Gen8 G1610T Entry model

    I've got 16 GB RAM in it and added a decent Nvidia Graphics card (not specifically for gaming but to drive a decent 4K monitor I have).

    The current OS is Linux CENTOS 7 and I've connected an SSD where the space for a slim DVD drive bay sits --can't see the point anyway of a DVD drive in a SERVER anyway -- if I need to install something via a CD / DVD I'd use an external USB DVD writer anyway. The system comes with built in RAID drivers for Red Hat (Centos works 100% with those) and Windows 2012 server (Windows 10 works with those too -- I tried just as a test running W10 on the server just to get used to the machine - worked fine).

    Currently with RAID 0 I created the SSD as 1 single array as the boot volume and 2 arrays of 2 X 4 TB HDD's in the 4 HDD bays so I could use all 5 drives as HDD's. Raid 0 gives the speed -- not worried on this server about losing HDD's so I didn't bother with Raid 1 - just wanted decent I/O speed which I've got. The Raid 0 works brilliantly --especially in conjunction to using 2 volume groups with XFS on the Linux OS.

    (This server only lets you boot from the SSD if you use RAID and not AHCI mode (switchable in BIOS) - that's why I created a single Disk array for the SSD !! before anybody says waste of time creating a single RAID 0 - array of 1 Disk !!!!. The RAID drivers are built into the machine so no probs there either).

    What I want to do -- the CPU and memory is perfectly up to the task here even though it's not the fastest CPU is the following

    1) Run CENTOS 7 VM - this runs my file sharing and Multi-media server (PLEX, MPD (music player daemon), Squeezebox server., Internet downloads - TV streaming etc.

    2) Run XP VM for the Record cutting and studio stuff.

    3) Run a Windows 10 VM for Office, Email, Corporate apps like SAP GUI for remote access and other TV streaming which isn't supported on the Linux platform and some photoshop.

    Mainly I'd have the Linux and W10 VM's running concurrently -- the Linux one can run headless 99% of the time once it's up and running. I'd only use the XP one from time to time and close it down when finished with it. - There's 4 external USB2 ports and 2 USB 3 ports on the machine plus 1 internal USB 2 port and a micro SD card internally which the machine can boot from. (It can boot from all the USB2 devices -and the micro SD card -- but not the USB 3 devices - those work when the OS is loaded.

    I hope to boot the Esxi system from the Micro SD card - will only take a few secs to load and access the VM's via a laptop using something like RDP (my Internet speed here is around 200 Mb/s so no prob there - even on wireless).

    I'm currently connecting the Microserver wirelessly to my network using an ASUS old router working as an Ethernet - Wifi bridge so I don't see any problems with that setup --- there are 2 Lan connectors on the server so I could either use separate or share the network. The XP machine doesn't need any Internet access. The Esxi system should see the network with a standard Ethernet adapter in spite of the fact it would be connected via Wifi.

    These 3 VM's will be installed on the SSD - it's large enough for these

    I've run the W10 and XP systems as VM's using VMware workstation -- I can re-virtualise these if necessary as I have the physical OS's available to do a P2V conversion.

    Now would RDP be sufficient from the laptop to access the VM's (RDP can connect also to Linux if xrdp / tightvnc is installed).
    That way I wouldn't need the Vsphere part of Esxi (the paid bit).

    My Wifi bridge will allow up to 4 LAN connectors so I can't see any problem assigning one Lan adapter to the W10 VM and the other one to the Linux VM -- any forseable probalems doing that.

    I hope to have the whole thing working this weekend as I've not much else to do at the moment -- I've backed up the Server box to a second server I have (these microservers are really cheap I'm surprised more people don't use them !!!).

    Finally looks like the free Vconverter product can convert an existing VMware player / workstation VM to Esxi format - however I'm using release 12 of workstation so I'll take your note about going back to release 9.

    Thanks

    Cheers
    jimbo
      My ComputerSystem Spec
  9.    08 Apr 2016 #9
    Join Date : Apr 2016
    Bedfordshire
    Posts : 11
    Windows 10 Pro

    So a few things from me RE your most recent post.

    Buy a small SSD, 120GB, put it into one of the drive bays if you have one free, install ESXI onto that, much much faster than micro SD, you would need a 2.5 --> 3.5 imposer to bring it up to the right size.

    I also run the G1610T with 16GB RAM, consider upgrading the CPU to one of the supported Xeon processors, its sluggish, don't get me wrong I have a lightweight Linux distro (my wireless AP controller), FreeNAS and Server 2012 R2 running at the same time and its not a smooth experience.

    You will note you have an iLO port on your server, get the free trial of iLO Advanced 4 install the license key and then you can access the server from an IP address, load the ESXI ISO straight into the server to boot from and also it gives you a virtual monitor and keyboard so you don't actually need to connect any peripherals. The iLO is a god send!

    Networking will be fine, my advise is unless you need 2GB aggregated throughput don't try it, its a hassle unless you have a capable switch behind it. Stick with using just 1 of the NICs, also its super super easy to network your VMs into the vSwitch, so all can have internet really easily, but realistically would your XP even want web access? *Screws on security brain*

    With the fact you currently have the VMs in Workstation, this makes it really, really easy to get them to ESXI. Simply install ESXI as you would on the server. Set it up, apply the license, set the IP etc. Then in Wokrstation, downgrade the VMs hardware. To do this right click your VM in Workstation, go to Manage > Change Hardware Compatability > Use the drop down to find out if you need version 11 (ESXI 6.0) or version 10 machines (ESXI 5.5) then back on the main screen of workstation, click File > connect to Server this allows you to connect workstation to an ESXI server, and then gives you the ability to move you VMs straight from Workstation to ESXI, they do have to be shutdown (No vMotion here!!!) Damn easy!

    Hope it goes well for you!
      My ComputerSystem Spec
  10.    08 Apr 2016 #10

    Hi there

    Thanks

    I was considering the CPU upgrade - although currently it seems to work just fine -- I think also High quality HDD's make up for a slower CPU if you aren't doing intensive work - even transcoding on PLEX works just fine.

    I've got a disassembled desktop with an Intel Core i5-3470T - this looks as if it is compatible and won't blow up the PSU. The XEON E3 CPU seems to be very hard to find and it's actually at end of life so perhaps the i5 is a better option although Desktop grade. I'm only using the server at Home so it doesn't need "Enterprise Strength". !! Back to my Engineering skills to remove it and get the Mobo out of the server. !!

    The SSD idea is actually good -- my server also came with a 2.5-->3,5 caddy and I've a spare 120 SSD also lying around -- thanks again for your help.
    I never thought of the ILO -- good idea, The license doesn't cost much either - but the free trial is well worth looking at.

    BTW did you do any of the Firmware updates -- in general if I don't have a problem I tend to leave that type of stuff well alone.

    Cheers
    jimbo
    Last edited by jimbo45; 08 Apr 2016 at 05:16.
      My ComputerSystem Spec

 
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