If you are getting into server virtualization and private cloud, especially with VMware ESXi hypervisor, here is the good news. You can easily install the VMware ESXi free version on your Windows desktop or laptop computer for learning purpose. This platform can host several VMs and virtual NAS with the required internal network to have a properly working test/demo environment.
The latest VMware ESXi 7 has several improvements and new features. We can try this hypervisor on our PC before upgrading or installing in the production environment. We will be using VMware workstation to host the ESXi 7 on Windows 10 computer. A similar method will work on VMware player as well.
- A powerful computer (It should be able to handle VMware workstation, ESXi VM, and virtual machines inside ESXi) – I’m demonstrating below steps on my i7 desktop computer with 16GB RAM.
- Latest VMware workstation (or VMware Player)
- A free VMware account to download the ESXi ISO file.
1) Go to the VMware official web site to download the correct installation file. You need to register and have an account.
NOTE: Since I assume you will be doing this setup on the latest computer which supports hardware virtualization technology, I do not need to emphasise that here. Make sure that you have a VT supported processor and it is enabled in the BIOS. If not, enable it in BIOS and confirm that the host Operating System is sensing it.
2) Create a new virtual machine in VMware. Browse the downloaded ISO file. If your VMware workstation did not detect the correct ESXi version as 7.x, then select any of the older OS types as below.
3) I will not cover each step in creating a new virtual machine in VMware. But as mentioned earlier, allocate enough resources to this virtual machine. Because the virtual machines you create later inside this ESXi server will use the same resources you are allocating now.
4) Once the hardware summary looks fine, complete the creation and power on the VM. The installation will begin.
5) Most of the installation steps are easy to understand. I will mention the few essential steps here. Make sure that the installation is detecting the virtual hard disk you allocated earlier.
6) Configure the root password which is vital to access the server later.
7) Reboot the VM once you get the below message. By default, the VMware will disconnect the mounted ISO file automatically to avoid booting from installation medium again. But if that doesn’t happen for you, you need to manually eject the CD/ISO from the virtual machine before it reboots.
8) Once successfully rebooted, it will show the IP address of the management console to configure ESXi 7 server.
Setup VMware ESXi Server
9) On the earlier screen, press F2 to customize the server. It will pop up for the root password.
10) Here we can change several basic settings. It is better to configure the management network to a static IP.
11) Since this VM has only one network card, we can quickly go to IPv4 configuration to make changes. If the server has multiple network adapters, then we need to select the proper network card and enter the settings.
12) Select the static IPv4 option and enter the desired settings below.
13) Basically, for this demonstration, I did only the management network change. If you are setting up for a proper test environment with DNS server and other nodes, you can visit the DNS configuration to setup DNS server IP and a hostname for ESXi server.
14) Once these settings are done, save them by pressing ‘Y’. This action will restart management services.
15) You will see the new network IP and its type as below—this static IP of the server can be accessed via the web browser.
16) Type the IP of the server in a web browser. I prefer to use Google Chrome or Firefox browser. Enter the root credentials to log in.
Here is the screen I could access the ESXi server from my host computer Windows 10.
Since this virtual machine is running on the VMware, we should have a proper network type to communicate between guest and host computers. Bridged mode, NAT and Host-only network types are applicable here.
17) Use the license key file and activate the product.
Now your VMware ESXi 7 server is ready on your Windows 10 computer, thanks to VMware workstation. You can create some virtual machines, NAS OS and set up a test lab. Even if your physical computer is powerful or you can connect one more physical computers to your network, you can have one more ESXi server on your network to setup VMware cluster/VMotion.