Being, first and foremost, lazy and getting my paychecks for being a system administrator, I felt that the amount of work involved in loading ESXi 4.0 on my blades was entirely too much. I have well over 100 blades, each one needing to have vSphere loaded onto it, configured, and added to vCenter. Even using the directions scattered across the internet about reducing the amount of effort involved in loading vSphere was too much for me.
Others have documented how to PXE boot ESXi elsewhere on the internet, however I wasn’t interested in having a “stateless” install…I merely wanted to automate installing ESXi to the local hard drive. My blades have a single hard drive, a single generation one SSD or two SAS drives in a RAID 1 depending on the vendor, and I simply want the installer to always install to that drive without bothering me. Loading from the “remote media” functionality of the DRAC/iLO for the blades takes forever, so I wanted to be able to install using PXE and push the media over that medium.
So, having been a developer for several years I decided to dive further into the the install process than others had detailed. Turns out that eliminating all input from an administrator to load the operating system was pretty simple.
The end result is that I am able to power on a blade, hit F12 to have it PXE boot and walk away. Some time later, we can use PowerShell and the PowerCLI to find the hosts (they will be somewhere in the DHCP scope of the provisioning LAN), give them a permanent IP and hostname, then configure them and add them to vCenter. By using PXE and the interactionless (yes, I did make up that word) install, I cut the time to load ESXi from about 45 minutes (using the remote media function takes FOREVER!) to less than 10.