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From the Bloggers Bench: Getting My Feet Wet with Virtualization

– Post by A.J. Stringham, IT Support Agent

I have always liked the idea of trying new things but who wants to try a new OS by wiping their current one and starting fresh and then finding out they don’t like it or messing things up only having to start the whole process over? I dare say no one. Thus the reason virtualization was something I liked the idea of. I had played with VirtualBox before but hadn’t ever really used a true hypervisor. Then I came across VMware ESXi and my journey into the real world and power of virtualization began….

Building My First Test Box

Like most people, I don’t have anything really powerful enough to be a server just laying around my house. I also didn’t have the funds to dish out for a professional HP or Dell server, especially when I was new to ESXi and wanted it simply to play with and try out. Thus, I set out to build what I needed, and, as most good techs know, building something, in desktop form, is 90% of the time cheaper than buying. So my journey began….

First, I put together a parts list. I went with an ASUS micro-ATX board with Core Unlocker and several other features. I needed the Core Unlocker because I decided to go with an AMD Athlon II X3 455 Rana triple-core running at 3.3GHz. After reading the reviews to make sure that unlocking the fourth core would work and be stable and also making sure that the board and CPU supported virtualization, I committed. I went with a basic case and have 16GB of RAM in the machine. I originally had a Western Digital Caviar Blue PATA in there. Yes, I know, I know. But again, I was going cheap. Well, the speed wasn’t what I wanted after a little while and so I bought a Caviar Black 6Gb/sec SATA. 500GB and works great. I have a 1 TB Caviar Green that I inherited and use that for test machines and data. The whole thing is run by an Antec 450W PSU with no problems. I got most of my parts online from Newegg.com with the exception of my power supply, which I got at a discount from my local Staples. The whole machine probably cost me around $500, give or take a little. (see links below for a list of most of the parts)

Links: CPU, First RAM, Second RAM, Case PSU, Optical Drive, WD Caviar Black

First Attempts

When I first went to install ESXi, I popped in the disc and it installed no problem. I setup up my static IP address and DNS along with the subnet and gateway. It was pretty easy to setup, as long as you are decent at using a keyboard and no mouse. Overall I would say it’s pretty easy to get the “vanilla” ESXi installed. The only problem I had was the vSphere client wouldn’t work for me. After trying for a week to get it to connect to the server, I gave up and installed my server on the physical HDD, a mistake I now regret. I left that as is for a couple months and when my speed, as stated before, wasn’t what I wanted and I decided to upgrade the HDD, I also decided to give ESXi another shot. So I installed it on the new HDD and went to connect. Same problem. So I took the machine and my computer to work to get my boss’ help (the job where I was first introduced to ESXi). He looked at it, tried it, and it didn’t work. He pauses for a moment, disables my AV, tries again and boom! The whole time, my AV was blocking the connection! Ugh! So I uninstalled that program and changed my AV to the one he recommended (from G-Data to Avast! Free and Comodo Firewall) and have had no problems of any kind, since.


Let’s Go Again!

Now that I had ESXi installed. I re-installed a fresh copy of my Server 2008 R2 Datacenter x64 license onto the machine as a VM and haven’t looked back. I don’t have an Active Directory setup as this is a home environment but I do use it for my DHCP, DNS and as a basic file server (although I have a basic GoFlex Home for that). I love being able to build and blow away on a dime whatever I want to try today. I do have plans for the future, but that, my friends, is for my next post….


Get to know A.J. – Read 10 Questions With…A.J. Stringham


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