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Upgrading to vSphere 4.1, should I go with ESX or ESXi?

We are currently running vSphere 4.0 with all VMs stored on an NFS share on my FAS3020 running OnTap 7.3.2

At the end of this week we are upgrading to vSphere 4.1 and have a choice of whether we want our hosts running ESX or ESXi. As many of you know, this is the last release of ESX, all future releases will be ESXi only. The big difference between the two is ESXi does not have a console. In other words, there is no getting to the command line on the ESXi hosts. I have only used the command line on ESX for three things:

1. Fixed a few network interfaces that I fat fingered and made incorrectly

2. Enabled Jumbo Frames on my storage interfaces. Jumbo Frames are enabled by default in 4.1

3. Aligned my VMs using Netapp's MBR align tool. This is only necessary for Server 2003 VMs, Server 2008 VMs are automatically aligned when they are made. The last 6 VMs we deployed were all Server 2008.

I am leaning towards ESXi but wanted to check what others are doing

Re: Upgrading to vSphere 4.1, should I go with ESX or ESXi?

I transitioned to ESXi.

Of the things you mention, only mbralign won't work on ESXi, as it doesn't have a 'full' console.

You could use a Linux machine to run the mbralign tool: mount the VM NFS share, and run the mbralign utility on Linux (make sure VM's are off).

With ESXi 4.1, VMware added an option to enable "Remote tech support", this enables SSH !.

(You could also look into vMA or ESX Powershell)

So you can enable SSH, and use your favorite cli commands, like esxcfg-vswitch and such.

Jumbo frames aren't enabled by default (still mtu of 1500), so you would have to do this by hand, like you did before.

A reason for staying with ESX would be specific (hardware) agents which can't be installed on ESXi.

Regards,

Niek

Re: Upgrading to vSphere 4.1, should I go with ESX or ESXi?

Thanks, I will be going with ESXi and will be enabling the Remote Tech Support. Hopefully I will not have to align any more VMs since everything we deployed in the last 6 months was Win2008 VMs. It is nice to know that there is a method though.

Re: Upgrading to vSphere 4.1, should I go with ESX or ESXi?

Few other things you could do to get round having to align partitions should you need to deploy some more 2k3 vm's.

1) Deploy from a previously aligned vm template.

2) Add an extra disk to another vm temporarily and use diskpart on it to align it then remove it and move it to another image, then begin install onto it.  This works a lot faster for me than using mbralign on the esx console as that is painfully slow.