VMware vSphere Hypervisor (ESXi) 4.1 kickstart – A.K.A. official “touchfree” ESXi installs

VMware is a facilitator. I know, you’re thinking “yeah, they facilitate my power/space/cooling savings, they facilitate infrastructure consolidation, IT agility, high availability, etc.”, but really, they facilitate me being lazy (which for sysadmins is a good thing…a lazy admin will only want to do a task once, then automate the sh*t out of it).

I’ve already documented how I hacked the ESXi 4.0 installer to have it do the installation without interaction. However, VMware has one-upped me and integrated kickstart into their installer. This makes things VASTLY easier, requires no tomfoolery with the ISO, and is significantly more capable.

This blog post will be just a short one to demonstrate how easy it is now to have the install be “touch-free”. I am working on some more complex examples in the coming days.

So without further blithering from me, on with the install! Put the CD in the drive (or mount the iso remotely), boot the server. When it reaches the boot options menu:

ESXi 4.1 Boot options screen

Press tab to append options to the boot line. Append the following after the vmkboot.gz, but before the --- after it.

ks=file://etc/vmware/weasel/ks.cfg

It is VERY IMPORTANT that you place the kickstart file location after vmkboot.gz, but before the next boot module. It should not be at the end.

mboot.c32 vmkboot.gz ks=file://etc/vmware/weasel/ks.cfg --- vmkernel.gz ---sys.vgz ---cim.vgz --- ienviron.vgz --- install.vgz

Here is an example:

ESXi 4.1 Boot Options with KS

When you’re done, press enter. It will begin to load the data off the CD, and when the different install modules are done it should simply begin to install ESXi just like how I had hacked it together previously…

ESXi 4.1 KS Install

The only thing left will be to press “Enter” when it’s done (why?!).

A word of caution…the kickstart that VMware has provided will automatically select and format the first disk that it finds, regardless of it being local or “remote” (i.e. a SAN LUN). I would assume that the vast majority of the time it’s going to find the local disks first, however……..

Hopefully in the next few days I’ll have some more time to play with the new kickstart features and post some more examples. VMware has really done some great things with this process and it is now possible to have the entire process be automated…
1) use DHCP to provide the “permanent” IP
2) use a network PXE boot for the media and to provide a KS file
3) use the --post section of the kickstart file to have the server reach out and touch a vCLI or PowerCLI configuration host and provide permanent configuration.

The reason that step one should provide the actual IP is that it provides an easy way of having your configuration host (vCLI or PowerCLI) know what IP (and potentially hostname) to assign to the host.

Good luck, and thanks to VMware for (finally) integrating kickstart with ESXi!

3 thoughts on “VMware vSphere Hypervisor (ESXi) 4.1 kickstart – A.K.A. official “touchfree” ESXi installs”

  1. Thanks – this is helpful, as i’m trying to convert a large post-install script to esxi from esx… (ugh!).

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