I recently got the opportunity to really learn ESXi. For several years, off and on, i had worked with VMware Workstation, Player, Fusion and Sun’s Virtualbox virtualization options. After having the opportunity to attend a week long class on Cisco’s UCS (Unified Computing System Platform), I was hooked. Even though we didnt get that far into ESXi other than do to a basic install of ESXi, I saw the initial foundation of what could be a very powerful platform while reducing the number of physical servers.
One of the first things I did was to look for how to learn more. I ran across a website for VMUG (VMware Users Group). This started to put me in touch with my local users group as well as see the option for getting benefits that would help lessen the cost of studying for the exam and attending class. A couple of weeks after I joined VMUG, I subscribed to the higher level benefits package. I received several immediate benefits from doing so. I was able to buy the Professional level of VMware Fusion that would help me build a lab for learning ESXi. I will talk more about that later. The largest benefit I get was a free exam voucher which pretty much offset the cost of the membership by getting a free exam voucher. This benefit is only available for a couple of weeks more at the time I am writing this. One of the other benefits was a discount for an exam voucher. While I truly hope that I pass the exam on the first attempt, it will help cushion the blow if I need to take the exam a second time before having to pay the full cost of the exam.
Another benefit from VMUG and the VMUG Advantage program was that I was able to obtain a 20% discount on the cost of attending an authorized VMware class. I wanted to attend the class mainly because there is a lot of information that I need to have to properly deploy/maintain ESXi and because it is a requirement to get VMware certified. Since I was going to have to pay for the class out of my own pocket, saving wherever I could would help digging into savings any more than absolutely necessary.
As a part of my preparation for pursuing the VCP certification was to get the best of the books that are currently available. Two of the books in my collection were a direct result of the Cisco UCS class that I took. The books are Mastering VMware vSphere 5 by Scott Lowe and VMware vSphere 5 Administration Instant Reference by Kusek, Van Noy and Daniel. I have had good experience with books from O’Reilly Media and found that they have a VMware Cookbook. To complete out my initial library building, I picked up a copy of VMware Press Official VCP5 Certification Guide by Bill Ferguson.
I have read a considerable amount on the web on the hardware that it would take to build a server capable of running ESXi. I knew there had to be another option. What I ended up doing was purchasing a late 2012 model of the Mac Mini. To this I installed a 16 GB memory kit to allow me run ESXi and several VM’s at the same time. What I did was to purchase a copy of VMware’s Fusion virtualization application and install ESXi as a VM under that. I then installed several VM’s under ESXi’s umbrella. I tried setting this up on a Mid 2010 Mac Mini but ran into multiple issues due to the differences in CPU and hardware even with installing a 16GB memory kit. I also picked up a gently used Dell server with a couple of SATA drives that I will eventually use an iSCSI and NFS target using OpenFiler or FreeNAS. In doing some research, I also found a way using Windows Server as another way of doing this as well. Will give both methods a try during the study process.
I realized that in starting down this path, that I had a lot to learn. Anything I want to do, I want to do right. In my getting familiarized with the VMware and VMUG websites, I found references to something called CloudCred. I have worked with this program for several days. What I am getting out of this is a better awareness of virtualization and the terminology that comes with it. You earn different rewards as you proceed along the path. The one that everyone will get a lot of use out of is access the VMware Online where you get access to the session handouts and records from a recent VMworld conference.
I will be taking a VMware class from an authorized provider in the coming weeks. Will talk about that in a future post. I recently found a lab guide that if the final product keeps to the same standard that the eval version that you can download for free does, it will be worth looking at as well. My main concern at this point is to be as prepared as possible for when time for class comes to be able to get maximum results. In a future post, I will go into the details of my lab setup.