Getting Started with VMWare ESXi 5.1

As I’m asked on a regular basis “How did you get started with VMWare?”/ “Can you tell me how to configure VMware”, I thought rather than explaining it over and over I write it down for all to see!

Now this guide can be as simple or as difficult as you wish, if you just want to install VMWare ESXi and install a new Virtual Machine then just follow those parts. If you want to create separate VLANS for your VMware environment so you split the DATA (iSCSI/Fibre Channel)/LAN (Production) networks then follow that part.

I’ve tried to create this guide to cover off the very basics when it comes to getting started with VMWare.

As a brief outline below we will be covering the following:

  • Installing VMWare ESXi 5.1
  • Configuring VMWare ESXi 5.1
  • Attaching additional storage (SAN)
  • Configuration of the Physical Switch (for production traffic/Backend DATA traffic (iSCSI/Fibre Channel)
  • Creating additional Vswitch for your backend traffic
  • Creating a Virtual Machine
  • Installing VMWare VCenter (to manage your VMWare environment)
  • Configuring VCenter

If you follow both parts of the guide then we should end up with a network which looks like the below:


Note: In order to screen shot the steps, I’ve installed VMWare ESXi 5.1 in a Virtual Environment, but once the installation is done I will switch back to my ESXi Host which is currently running 5.1.

Firstly then you need to grab yourself a copy of VMWare ESXi 5.1 – This can be downloaded from VMWare’s website –

Sign up for an account and then navigate to the downloads section, once downloaded we can begin.

Boot your Host from the CD, and then select the standard installer option

You will see the following screen’s as it goes through its boot process

Once done we get to the installation, select enter to continue and then follow the next steps (fairly straight forward so far).

Now we have installed ESXi (didn’t take that long did it!? How long did you think it would take?), if we reboot the host will then come up and load the ESXi OS.

Press F2 to customise your system (enter the root password created when installing)

The main part we will focus on is the network. We want to manually assign IP information to this host (much like we do with servers).

As you can see everything is set to DHCP so go through the IP configuration and DNS configuration and change them to suit your environment.

Once done, it will ask you to save changes and restart the network management of the ESXi host. Confirm this and now we can leave this underlying OS behind.

We can now configure the physical switch with the different VLANS (Skip this step if you don’t require this).

Fairly basic config if I’m being honest, I’m simply splitting the switch ports 1 – 10 VLAN 20 (for backend data traffic) and Ports 11 – 24 as VLAN 10 (for production traffic).

Now to configure VLAN 10 and the remaining ports

finally I will assign each VLAN a management IP address, and finally save the configuration…

Now that’s done, from another computer connected to your network browse to the given IP address of the ESXi host ( in my example.

You will be presented with the below screen. Select to download VSphere Client.

Once installed, log on to your ESXi host as below:

We are now going to create our first virtual machine (and in this example it’s going to be the VMWare Vcenter Server).

Right click the host, and select New Virtual Machine (it’s a standard next, next, next, finish dialogue box), just change any details you require as the screen shots below

I always like to edit the virtual machine before completion (tick box at the bottom).

The reason for this is:

  1. I remove the floppy drive
  2. I give the virtual machine the maximum amount of ram possible (after all I don’t want to sit about waiting for my first VM to install) and it can be easily adjusted when you come to add additional VM’s.

We now want to mount the ISO file, (I’ve already uploaded a few ISO’s to the datastore) to do this follow the below:

Go to the Summary Tab, Right click on Datastore1 (or whatever you’ve called it), browse datastore, then chose to upload files to this datastore.

Now this is done we can mount the ISO and select “connect at power on”

Right click the new VM and select Power on, and then right click and select console.

You will now see the installation process of your VM.

And that’s the basics done.

If all you require is to manage the ESXi Server like this, create/delete Virtual Machines then you are done! Easier than you’d first though I bet?

So what did we cover in the end in this part? Well we’ve gone through the below:

  • Installing VMWare ESXi 5.1
  • Configuring VMWare ESXi 5.1
  • Configuration of the Physical Switch (for production traffic/Backend DATA traffic (iSCSI/Fibre Channel)
  • Creating a Virtual Machine

The next part (Part 2) will focus on the following remaining points:

  • Attaching additional storage (SAN)
  • Creating additional Vswitch for your backend traffic
  • Installing VMWare VCenter (to manage your VMWare environment)
  • Configuring VCenter

Right then, straight in with Part 2 of getting started with VMWare ESXi 5.1 and covering off the remaining items from below:

  • Attaching additional storage (SAN)
  • Creating additional Vswitch for your backend traffic
  • Installing VMWare VCenter (to manage your VMWare environment)
  • Configuring VCenter

The first two bullet points are interlinked. By this I mean if you are going to attach additional storage like a SAN, then you will most likely ALSO split this traffic in to a separate VLAN.

As I’ve already covered attaching storage to ESXi (See previous blog post here: )

I’m not going to cover this again, but I will go over adding additional “Vswitches” and it’s from this you would then (when following the guide above) select the VLAN you are using etc..

Click on to the configuration tab, and select Networking. You will notice a standard Switch: VSwitch0 listed:

As a brief note, everything on the right is VIRTUAL, everything on the right is PHYSICAL, and the grey box in the middle is the Virtual Switch.

You can see in the example above the first on board NIC of the host (vmnic0) is in the VM Network which is created by default, and at the moment we have 6 virtual machines created.

If you have chosen to have your storage traffic separate to the production traffic then this is where we need to add a new VSwitch.

Click “Add Networking” and select VMKernel

We will now select vmnic1 which is the second NIC on this host

Label the network as you wish, and also select the VLAN you require

Enter in the relevant IP information for the NIC

Once finished you will now see we have a separate Vswitch on a separate VLAN, which is assigned just to VMNIC1. IF you were following the guide to adding attached storage, when attaching the storage it is this NIC you would select as oppose to the production nic.

Finally, before we start with the installation of vCenter Server, one thing we should do first is to add a manual DNS entry for the ESXi host.

Navigate to the DNS console on your DC (or whichever server is your primary DNS server)

Right click on your AD zone and select New Host (AAA/AAAA)

Enter the required information. In this case it’s MRESXI01 and IP:

And we’ve now successfully added a static DNS record for this ESXi host

It’s important to do this especially if it’s a new install as the HOST will NOT have registered itself in DNS yet, so when you try to run the installation (below) it will not be able to resolve the name correctly…

Now we have this covered off, we can begin installing VCenter Server. When the ISO loads you will be presented with the following screen:

Option 1 is a sort of “does it all” package. But I’m not going with that, instead I’m going to go down to Vcenter Server

Here you will see before you can jump straight in there are a few pre-requisites you need to install (depending on your OS these may/may not already be installed). But from a VMWare side of things I now need to install: Vcenter Single Sign on and Inventory Service.

Let’s start then…click on to vCenter Single Sign On, and it’s the standard (next, next, finish) layout as shown below:

Once the installation is complete, move on to installing the Inventory Service (again very straight forward installation).

Now we’ve covered off the pre-requisites we can install vCenter Server, again like the above it’s a fairly simple install. Just change the fields to meet your requirements.

Finally we need to install the Vsphere Client (which we installed in Part 1) but this time I’m installing it on to my Vcenter Server. Select the option from the menu and install.

The difference now however (now we’ve got all the above installed). Is rather than entering the ESXi Hosts IP Address, you can simply use the FQDN of the Vcenter Server followed by the port you specified (in this case 443):

Click connect (to logon with domain credentials) (note: no longer using your root logon).

Ignore the certificate warning again, and now you will see a familiar screen again (like in Part 1) but this time it’s slightly different.

At the moment we can’t manage any VM’s or the HOST automatically, we have to first create a new datacentre and then add the ESXi Host to the Datacentre so let’s start by right clicking and selecting new Datacentre, and name the new datacentre

Now right click and select “Add Host”

Enter in the details of the ESXi Host and the credentials used to access the host (in this case the root user as we’ve not configured any others)

it will ask you to confirm this is the correct host, a quick check on the ESXi host itself shows that yes both the thumbprints match, so click YES.

It will then give you a brief host summary, and the rest of the screens you can click Next to until you get to the ready to complete screen where you click finish.

Once it has added this host in to your new datacentre, you are ready to go:

That’s it! We’ve finally go there. But let’s be honest it really wasn’t that hard was it!?

The benefits of using Vcenter Server, over the Vsphere client (connecting directly to the host) are mainly if you are going to be running a HA (High availability) setup, or it enables you to do things like create templates, clone existing virtual machines as templates (which all help save time).

For example if you have a pre-built 2008 Server saved as a template, you can simply create a new Virtual Machine from the template and skip having to sit through watching it all install.

Obviously there are many other benefits, but for the purpose of this tutorial those are the main points, and it’s just proof that VMWare setups shouldn’t be something to be scared of!

Thanks for reading.


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