VMware vSphere Hypervisor is a free, powerful and reliable hardware hypervisor for server and workstation virtualization. The article tells how to install and configure free VMware Hypervisor (ESXi), create a virtual machine and install a guest operation system.
- Free vSphere Hypervisor: Hardware Requirements, Restrictions & Compatibility
- How to Download and Install Free VMware vSphere Hypervisor (ESXi)?
- Configuring VMware ESXi in the Direct Console User Interface (DCUI)
- ESXi Web Client Interface: Adding Free License Key
- Sample Configuration on VMWare ESXi Virtual Switch
- Creating a Virtual Machine in VMWare Hypervisor
- How to Install a Guest OS on a Virtual Machine?
Free vSphere Hypervisor: Hardware Requirements, Restrictions & Compatibility
You can install VMware vSphere Hypervisor on a host that meets the following hardware requirements:
|CPU||1 processor, 2 cores||Two processors, four or more cores per CPU|
|Memory||4 GB||8 GB or higher|
|Network||One 1Gbit/s network adapter||Two 1Gbit/s network adapters|
|Local Storage (SATA/SAS)||One 4 GB drive||RAID 1 with two 4 GB drives|
VMware vSphere Hypervisor install image is quite small (311 MB) and contains only the most important drivers mainly for branded servers. However, sometimes you cannot install the vSphere hypervisor on a server of a popular brand. Often server manufacturers release their own VMWare hypervisor images containing specific drivers.
Visit https://www.vmware.com/resources/compatibility/search.php to see if VMware vSphere Hypervisor is compatible with your server model.
Here is the list of hardware not supported in ESXi 6.7: https://kb.vmware.com/s/article/52583
Let’s consider the limitations and restrictions of free vSphere Hypervisor compared to the full-featured VMWare ESXi:
- The official VMWare support is not provided.
- You cannot allocate more that 8 virtual processors/cores (vCPU) to one VM (by the way, the maximum number of vCPUs allowed for gen1 VMs is 64 in free Windows Hyper-V Server 2019).
- You cannot connect a host to vCenter server.
- vStorage API is not available (you won’t be able to configure normal backup, e. g., Veeam will not be able to backup a VM from the host).
- There can be no more than 2 physical processors (sockets) on a server (there are no restrictions on the number of cores).
- All APIs are available in read-only mode (for example, you won’t be able to change any of the server or VM parameters via PowerCLI).
However, the free version of vSphere Hypervisor allows you to use all cores and RAM of a physical server without any restrictions. PCI VMDirectPath/ USB redirection features is also available.
How to Download and Install Free VMware vSphere Hypervisor (ESXi)?
You can download the latest VMware Hypervisor vSphere 6.7 version here. To do it, sign in to your VMWare account or create a new one.
If you create a new VMWare account, you will have to wait for account confirmation e-mail after you have filled in the registration form. Follow the link in the e-mail and enter your password.
In the next step, you will get the license key for a free hypervisor version and the link to download VMware vSphere Hypervisor. Save the license key.
An ISO image will be downloaded, and you can write it to a USB flash drive or a CD/DVD disk. Then you can install a hypervisor on a server (a workstation or a virtual machine).
The installation is very simple. Boot from your host from the install media and select “ESXi-6.7.0-2020xxx-standard installer.”
Specify the drive to install the operation system on. In this example, a 40 GB local drive is available.
Select the keyboard layout.
Enter and confirm the root password (at least 7 characters).
After the installation a warning appears that the hypervisor will work only for 60 days without a license key.
Restart your server.
VMware vSphere Hypervisor has been installed. If your server is connected to the network with the DHCP server by at least one network interface, it will automatically receive the IP address and you will see it in the hypervisor console (called DCUI). This IP address is used to manage the hypervisor from the web interface.
Configuring VMware ESXi in the Direct Console User Interface (DCUI)
In order to manage ESXi hypervisor settings, press F2 on the DCUI screen, enter your login (root by default) and password you have set during the installation.
The graphic console of the initial hypervisor configuration will open.
Here you can set the following options:
- Configure Password — change root password:
- In the Configure Management Network section, you can select the settings of management network adapters (in this example, there is only one network adapter installed on the server).
- You can specify the VLAN, in which the server management interface is located.
- You can configure IPv4 and IPv6 addresses. You can disable them, assign dynamic or static IPs. In most cases, an IP address, a subnet mask and a default gateway address are set manually on the VMWare ESXi server.
- DNS Configuration – here you can set DNS servers and set the host name.
- In the Test Management Network section you can test the network connectivity (using ICMP ping) and DNS name resolution. Usually it is worth to check the availability of your gateway IP and servers in another network segment (you can specify the address of your DNS server).
Here are the results of the test:
The initial VMware vSphere Hypervisor configuration is now complete. You can connect to it via the web interface.
ESXi Web Client Interface: Adding Free License Key
To connect to your vSphere Hypervisor via the web interface, enter the IP address of the server assigned during the initial ESXi configuration to the address bar in your browser. Then enter your login (root) and password.
Please note that the server will operate for 60 days without a license.
Activate the license you received from VMWare website: Manage -> Licensing -> Assign License.
You have activated a permanent (Expires: Never) hypervisor license with unrestricted amount of RAM size for your virtual machines. You can allocate up to 8 virtual CPUs (up to 8-way virtual SMP) to each virtual machine.
Configure your NTP server: Manage -> System -> Time & date -> Edit settings.
Sample Configuration on VMWare ESXi Virtual Switch
The vSphere Switch (or vSwitch) is a virtual device that transfers data between virtual machines on the server or out through a physical NIC. There are two types of virtual switches:
- Standard Switches are simple virtual switches logically located inside a physical server.
- Distributed Switches are virtual switches that can be distributed to multiple physical servers (these are not available in free VMWare Hypervisor version, you can find them only in the Enterprise Plus edition of the VMWare vSphere).
After you install and run your hypervisor, there is a built-in virtual switch (vSwitch0), which includes a physical adapter (vmnic0), and two groups of ports: a service one (Management Network) to manage your hypervisor and a network for VMs (VM Network) to transfer data. The hypervisor management interface vmk0 (vmkernel port) belongs to the Management Network group.
In most cases, one virtual switch on a stand-alone hypervisor will be enough. You have to create port groups if you want to isolate virtual machines from each other and use different VLAN settings for port groups.
Unless necessary, do not make any changes to Management Network or vmkernel port, or you may lose access to your hypervisor management interface. If you have lost access to your hypervisor, you can reset network settings using Network Restore Options menu in your DCUI console.
Creating a Virtual Machine in VMWare Hypervisor
Select Virtual Machines -> Create / Register VM -> Create a new virtual machine in the web interface.
Enter the name of the virtual machine. Select the type and version of the guest operation system. Check “Windows Virtualization Based Security” if you want to make hardware virtualization, IOMMU, EFI and Secure Boot available to the guest OS.
Select the storage (datastore) for the configuration files and data disks of your virtual machine.
If the size of free space on the selected disk is less than its size, you will get a notification prompting you to increase your datastore size.
On this step, all virtual machine parameters are set: the number of CPUs, the RAM size, the size and location of the hard disk files, network adapters, CD/DVD drives, etc. To get network access from the virtual machine, place its adapter to the VM Network port group on vSwitch0 (if you have not changed these options).
If needed, you can change all these settings later when your virtual machine will be turned off.
On the next screen, you will be prompted to check all virtual machine settings and confirm them.
How to Install a Guest OS on a Virtual Machine?
To install a guest OS on a virtual machine, you have to upload the ISO with the OS distribution you need and save it in the local datastore. Select Storage in the Navigation menu and click Datastore Browser.
Create a folder to save distributions to.
Select the created directory, click Upload on the top left, select the ISO install image you want and wait till the upload is over.
Select the newly created virtual machine and click Actions -> Edit Settings.
Change the settings of your CD/DVD drive as shown in the screenshot below. Select your ISO image in CD/DVD Media.
Then just turn on your virtual machine. The VM tries to boot from the ISO image and the installation of the guest OS from the virtual CD/DVD drive begins.
After the guest OS has been installed, you can use it as usual.
Hopefully, this basic review article on the aspects of using free VMWare vSphere Hypervisor will be helpful.