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Installing ESXi 6 does not take 5-minutes!

November 6, 2016

If you ask most VMware Administrators how long it takes to install vSphere ESXi 6 the most common response is, “About 5-minutes”.  In fact, I recently had to install ESXi on a rack of 24-servers and I when I informed the customer that the installation of ESXi alone would take approximately 8-hours – they responded “I thought it only took 5-minutes to install ESXi?” Although the installation of ESXi is extremely, fast 5-minutes per server is really stretching the truth.

Here is a breakdown of the actual installation time for a single server:

Summary

Activity Time
Download ISO 1:00
Format USB/SD storage media – Extract ISO 3:42
Install USB/SD storage media into Server 1:00
Boot Server 1:35
Load ESXi 3:02
Complete ESXi Installation Screens 4:00
Shutdown Server 1:00
Reboot ESXi – Host is Ready  with DHCP Lease 4:01
Total Time 19:20

The installation of a single ESXi host actually takes approximately 20-minutes, assuming no mistakes are made. So why does everyone say “About 5-minutes?” my guess is that they are likely referring to the amount of time the spent completing the installation screens.

Note: This time is based on an HPE ProLiant DL160 Gen9 Server with 1 Intel Xeon E502609 v4 CPU and 128 GB of memory.

More Details

Download ISO

Although this seems like a simple task, it is common to download the wrong .ISO.  Many people aren’t aware that vendors such as Dell, HPE, IBM, and others provide a custom image that includes the necessary drivers.  You can locate the .ISO at http://my.vmware.com.  Today I am using a HPE DL160 Gen9 server so I downloaded the HPE Custom Image for VMware ESXi 6.0 U2 Install CD. 

Format USB/SD storage media – Extract ISO

Formatting a new USB/SD is straightforward, it may take a little longer if you have a stubborn partition that you cannot delete.  I use the Disk Utility on my Mac and erased a 8GB SanDisk USB stick using the MS-DOS (FAT) format and the Master Boot Record Scheme.

screen-shot-2016-11-05-at-6-57-33-pm

To Extract the ISO I used UNetbootin which allows you to create a bootable USB Drive.  I simply selected the HPE Custom Image ISO and then clicked OK.

screen-shot-2016-11-05-at-6-59-06-pm

Once the .ISO was extracted I properly ejected the USB media.

Install USB/SD storage media into Server

This was an easy task for me, my server has an internal USB Port, I simply removed the top cover installed the USB media and replaced the top cover.  Finished in under a minute!

Boot Server

My HPE Server takes 1 minute 35 seconds to boot – I have other servers in the office that take as long as 6 minutes to boot.  Server power-on, shutdown and reboot has the largest impact on the amount of time it takes to install ESXi since you will need to initially power on the server and then shut down and reboot after installation.

Load ESXi

The initial load of ESXi from the USB media took just over 3-minutes.

Complete ESXi Installation Screens

This is where you will asked to press F11 to accept the Product License, and to select the media to install ESXi.

Shutdown Server

My HPE Server takes 1-minute to gracefully shutdown at the end of the ESXi Installation.

Reboot ESXi – Host is Ready with DHCP lease

The last stage of the installation takes just over four minutes.  Its important to note that in the future anytime the ESXi host will need to be rebooted it will take a total of 5-minutes to be ready.

 

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