How to Install ESXi on Hyper-V

One of the previous blog posts explained Hyper-V nested virtualization as well as the installation of a virtual Hyper-V server on a VM that runs on a physical Hyper-V server. Today’s blog post covers the installation of an ESXi server on a Hyper-V VM, and can be useful for testing and educational purposes; for instance, if you have Hyper-V hosts but you are thinking about deploying ESXi hosts in your environment. ESXi is VMware’s hypervisor, while Hyper-V is Microsoft’s hypervisor. Using an ESXi server installed on a Hyper-V VM in a production environment is not recommended.

Requirements

The following requirements must be met in order to install ESXi on a Hyper-V VM:

  • Compatible hardware. Your processor must support hardware virtualization features. In case of using Hyper-V, you must have the Intel CPU (central processing unit) with Intel VT-x (Virtualization Technology) support. Intel VT-x must be enabled in BIOS or UEFI (Unified Extensible Firmware Interface) of your computer.
  • Windows 10 (Build 10565 or later) or Windows Server 2016 with Hyper-V. Hyper-V VM configuration version must be 8.0 or later.
  • PowerCLI 6.3 or later. PowerCLI is a tool with a command line interface (CLI) provided by VMware, which includes a set of cmdlets that can be executed in PowerShell as well as used for scripting and automation.
  • ESXi installation image. The installation image must be ESXi-6.0.0-20170604001 Build 5572656 or older. Newer builds and versions of ESXi may not work due to blocking network drivers for a Hyper-V legacy virtual network adapter. Download the appropriate offline bundle in a ZIP archive. ESXi600-201706001.zip is used in this blog post.

Preparing Your Environment

Prepare your environment to make ESXi installation on a Hyper-V VM possible. The main steps include:

  • Enabling a Hyper-V role. Go to Control Panel > Programs and Features > Turn Windows features on or off. Check the box near Hyper-V, click OK, and wait until the installation process finishes before restarting the physical machine. You can also enable a Hyper-V role by using PowerShell.
  • Installing PowerCLI. You can download PowerCLI from VMware website. If you have previously installed any PowerCLI version that is older than 6.3, you should uninstall it. The PowerCLI installation process is rather straightforward – simply run the installer and follow the wizard steps. PowerCLI is used for integrating network drivers into the ESXi installation image in this case.
  • Downloading tulip drivers. Tulip drivers, also known as net-tulip drivers, are drivers for the legacy virtual network adapter of a Hyper-V VM. They allow you to use network for ESXi under Hyper-V. By default, ESXi doesn’t recognize the network adapter of a Hyper-V virtual machine. You can download net-tulip drivers here.

Integration of Tulip Drivers to the ESXi Installation Image

Let’s take a closer look at the integration of net-tulip drivers to the ESXi installation image step by step. Without integration, the installation process will fail as ESXi cannot recognize a Hyper-V legacy network adapter without the appropriate drivers. For more convenience copy all necessary files to the same directory, e.g., C:\Virtual\ESXi-images.

Files needed for integrating net-tulip drivers into the ESXi installation image.

Make sure you have installed Hyper-V and PowerCLI before continuing. Run PowerCLI and type the following command to change the current directory to the directory with the prepared files (in this case C:\Virtual\ESXi-images).

cd C:\Virtual\ESXi-images

Add offline depot ZIP files to the current PowerCLI session. The metadata is imported from specified depots and can be used for creating new image profiles that can be used for generating new ISO installation images with Image Builder.

Add-EsxSoftwareDepot .\ESXi600-201706001.zip
Add-EsxSoftwareDepot .\net-tulip-1.1.15-1-offline_bundle.zip

Adding offline software depots to the current PowerCLI session

You need to know the name of the standard image profile that will be used in the next step. Retrieve the name by using the following command:

Get-EsxImageProfile|ft Name

Checking the name of the standard image profile

Clone the standard profile to a new image profile (in this example the new profile’s name is ESXi-NAKIVO).

New-EsxImageProfile -CloneProfile ESXi-6.0.0-20170604001-standard -Name ESXi-NAKIVO -Vendor custom

Cloning a standard image profile to a new image profile

Add custom packages with tulip network drivers to the new profile that was created in the previous step.

Add-EsxSoftwarePackage -ImageProfile ESXi-NAKIVO -SoftwarePackage net-tulip -Force

Adding packages with net-tulip drivers to the new image profile

The acceptance level of a host image profile is used to determine which vSphere installation bundles (VIB files) are accepted for installation. By default, the AcceptanceLevel of a newly created profile is set to PartnerSupported. Custom packages with tulip network drivers have a CommunitySupported acceptance level that differs from the acceptance level of your new profile. This situation causes an error if you try to create an ISO image by using these settings. In order to prevent this, set the acceptance level of your new image profile to CommunitySupported. Type the following command to do this:

Set-EsxImageProfile -AcceptanceLevel CommunitySupported -ImageProfile ESXi-NAKIVO

Setting the acceptance level for a new image profile

Now you are ready to create the ESXi installation ISO file that includes net-tulip drivers. Run the following command to create the ISO image:

Export-EsxImageProfile -ImageProfile ESXi-NAKIVO -FilePath C:\Virtual\ESXi-images\esxi60_custom.iso -ExportToIso -Force

Creating the ESXi installation ISO file

The esxi60_custom.iso file is created in the specified directory.

The ESXi 6.0 installation image with tulip network drivers is created

The Alternative Method to Integrate the Drivers

Manual integration of network drivers was shown above; however, there is another way to integrate network drivers into the ESXi installation image. Let’s take a look at the alternative method to integrate the drivers into the ESXi image by using a free ESXi-Customizer script. You will need a free ESXi-Customizer script for PowerShell (ESXi-Customizer-PS.ps1) that can be downloaded here.

Copy the script to the directory that was used to store other installation files (in this example it’s C:\Virtual\ESXi-images). Open PowerShell, go to the directory by typing:

cd <path_to_your_directory>

If you ran ESXi-Customizer-PS-v2.6.0.ps1 now, an error would be displayed. Type the following command to fix this issue:

Set-ExecutionPolicy –Scope Process –ExecutionPolicy Bypass

Run ESXi-Customizer script with the following arguments:

.\ESXi-Customizer-PS-v2.6.0.ps1 –sip –vft –load net-tulip

Integrating network drivers by using the ESXi-Customizer script

Select base image profile. Your image profile version must be ESXi-6.0.0-20170604001 or older due to compatibility reasons.

Selecting the appropriate base image profile

In the current example, the image profile 71 is selected (ESXi-6.0.0-20170604001-standard). Wait until ESXi customizer downloads all of the needed components and builds a customized ESXi installation image.

Exporting the image profile to the ISO file by using ESXi customizer script

The file ESXi-6.0.0-20170604001-standard-customized.iso is now ready in your directory with the installation files.

Creating and Configuring a Hyper-V VM for ESXi Installation

Now, when the ESXi installation image is ready, you can create a new Hyper-V VM and install ESXi in that VM. Open Hyper-V manager, click Action > New > Virtual Machine.

Creating a new Hyper-V virtual machine in Hyper-V Manager

Enter a virtual machine name (for example, ESXi6-0) and set a location to store the virtual machine (disk C: is used in the current test lab as an example, please use a separate partition without operating system such as D:). Click Next to continue.

Specifying a name and location for a new Hyper-V VM

Select Generation 1 for your VM in order to make it possible to use a legacy network adapter with the compatible drivers that you have integrated into the ESXi installation image. Read more about Hyper-V Generation 1 and Generation 2 in our blog post. Click Next.

Choosing the generation for a Hyper-V VM

Assign at least 4 GB of memory. Using Dynamic Memory for this virtual machine is not recommended. Click Next.

Specifying the amount of memory for the Hyper-V VM that is being created

Configure Networking. You can use the default settings because VM networking must be reconfigured after the virtual machine creation. Click Next.

Configuring networking for the Hyper-V VM that is being created

Create a new virtual disk; 30 GB should be enough. If you are going to run multiple VMware VMs on a virtual ESXi host, set a larger size, or you can add another virtual disk later. You can also use the dynamically expanding virtual disk. Check the disk name and location, then click Next.

Configuring a virtual hard disk for a new Hyper-V VM

Select Install an operating system from a bootable CD/DVD-ROM in Installation Options. Use the ISO image file that you have prepared beforehand (esxi60_custom.iso in this example). Click Next.

Configuring VM installation options and selecting the ISO installation image

Check the summary and click Finish to finalize the VM creation.

Checking the summary for a new VM creation

Once a new Hyper-V virtual machine is created, edit the VM settings. Right-click the name of your VM and select Settings… in the context menu.

Editing the settings of a Hyper-V VM that already exists

In the left pane of the window in the Hardware section, select Processor and set the number of virtual processors to 2 or more (1 processor is used by default).

Select Processor and set the number of virtual processors

Select the network adapter. First, remove the existing network adapter created by default. In order to do this, click the Remove button.

Removing the existing network adapter from Hyper-V VM

Add a legacy network adapter to the VM. In the left pane of the window in the Hardware section click Add Hardware. In the right pane select Legacy Network Adapter and click Add.

Adding a legacy network adapter for a Hyper-V VM

A legacy network adapter has been added and you can see this adapter in the left pane of the window. Select the recently created legacy network adapter and then select the virtual switch for connecting the virtual adapter. In the current example the External virtual switch is used. Click OK to save the settings and finish configuring the VM.

Selecting a virtual switch

Enabling Nested Virtualization for the Hyper-V VM with ESXi

Nested virtualization is a feature that allows you to run virtual machines inside a virtual machine. In this case a nested VM should run on a Hyper-V VM that has ESXi hypervisor installed. Enable nested virtualization for this VM in PowerShell (enter your VM name instead of ESXi6-0 if you have a different name to your VM).

Set-VMProcessor -VMName ESXi6-0 -ExposeVirtualizationExtensions $true

Enabling nested virtualization for a Hyper-V VM

ESXi Installation on the Hyper-V VM

Now you are ready to install ESXi on a Hyper-V VM. Start your VM (right-click the VM name, select Connect and click the Start button). Press TAB when you see the boot screen with a blue background to modify boot options, and prevent hanging the VM during boot. Type ignoreHeadless=TRUE and press Enter.

Setting boot options for ESXi 6.0 installer

The VMware ESXi installer is loading. You can see the loaded modules including the tulip module that is integrated to your installation image.

ESXi installer is loading the modules

When the installer has been loaded, you will see a welcome screen. Press Enter to continue.

The welcome screen of the VMware ESXi installation

Press F11 to accept the license agreement and continue.

End User License Agreement

Select a disk to install ESXi on. There is a 30GB disk attached to the VM in this example. Press Enter to continue.

Selecting a disk to install ESXi

Enter a root password, confirm the password, and press Enter.

Setting a root password for ESXi

The system warns you that a disk must be repartitioned. Press F11 to begin the ESXi installation.

ESXi installation confirmation

Wait until the installation process is finished.

Installing ESXi 6.0.

When installation is done, a reboot is required. Press Enter to reboot.

ESXi installation complete

Press Shift+O before the boot begins.

Pressing Shift+O to edit boot options after the VM reboot.

Enter ignoreHeadless=TRUE at the end of the string and press Enter (similarly to how you did at the first step after starting the VM). Below you can learn how to set this option permanently.

Setting ignoreHeadless=TRUE for correct ESXi boot

When ESXi is loaded, you will see a menu on the grey and yellow background. Press F2 to customize the system settings. Enter your root password. Go to troubleshooting options and enable ESXi Shell and SSH. If ESXi Shell is disabled, your ESXi will freeze at the next step.

ESXi shell is enabled

Press Alt+F1 to enter the ESXi console. Enter the following command and set the boot settings:

Esxcfg-advcfg -k TRUE ignoreHeadless

Setting ignoreHeadless=TRUE permanently for correct ESXi boot

The console can be closed by pressing Alt+F2. Now you don’t need to enter ignoreHeadless=TRUE manually each time ESXi boots.

Configuring Network Settings

Check the network settings for making remote management possible. By default, the IP address is obtained via DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol). You can select Configure Management Network in the system customization menu to configure a hostname as well as IP addresses.

Configuring management network on an ESXi host

In the current example the automatic IPv4 configuration is used. If you want to configure IP settings manually for using a static IP address, select IPv4 Configuration and press Enter.

Checking IPv4 configuration on an ESXi host

Creating a VM on a Nested ESXi Host

When you have configured ESXi networking, open your browser and connect to your ESXi host via HTTP protocol. You can also access this web page from another computer that is connected to your network if the External Hyper-V virtual switch is used on your Hyper-V host. In this example, the address entered in the address bar of the browser is http://10.10.10.117. After the page is loaded click Open the VMware Host Client.

Click Open the VMware Host Client

Enter the root credentials that you entered during ESXi installation to log in.

The ESXi login page in VMware Host client.

On the main screen click Create/Register VM to create a new VM.

Accessing the web interface with ESXi settings

1. Select creation type. Select Create a new virtual machine and click Next.

Selecting a VM creation type

2. Select a name and guest OS. Enter your VM name, select the compatibility, guest OS family as well as version. Click Next.

3. Select storage. In the current example only one datastore is available. Click the datastore you want to use for storing the VM files and click Next.

Selecting storage for a new VMware VM

4. Customize your settings. Set the parameters of virtual hardware. There are two options available for CD/DVD drive used by VM: Host device and ESXi datastore. Use the second option and upload the ISO installation image of the operating system to the local datastore on the ESXi host.

Customizing VM settings and configuring a virtual CD-DVD drive

In the left pane click the datastore icon, then in the Datastores tab click Datastore browser.

Viewing datastores attached to the ESXi host

In the datastore browser window click Upload. Select the appropriate ISO file that can be accessed from your machine (that is used for managing ESXi host with a browser) and wait until the file is uploaded.

Uploading the ISO installation image to the ESXi datastore

Now you can go back to CD/DVD drive options, click Browse and select the recently uploaded ISO file on the datastore.

Browse and select the recently uploaded ISO file on the datastore

When the ISO installation image is specified and other VM settings are configured click Next to continue.

A virtual CD-DVD drive is configured to use a datastore ISO file as installation media

5. Ready to complete. Check the VM configuration summary and click Finish to create the VM.

Checking the settings before finishing the new VM creation wizard

Once the VM has been created, you can try to run the VM for guest OS installation. In order to do this, click the VM icon in the left pane of the web interface, right click the VM and in the context menu select Power > Power on.

Powering on a nested VM

Note: Be aware that issues may occur because running ESXi on a Hyper-V VM is not officially supported.

Conclusion

Configuring an environment to run an ESXi hypervisor on a Hyper-V VM is a tricky process, and is not officially supported by vendors. However, you can deploy ESXi on a Hyper-V VM for educational and testing purposes. This blog post has explained how to prepare the ESXi 6.0 installation image with the integration of tulip network drivers as well as Hyper-V VM configuration, and configuring a virtual ESXi host on a Hyper-V VM. You can try to install ESXi hypervisor on a Hyper-V VM at your own responsibility. Do not use such solution in a production environment.

How to Install ESXi on Hyper-V
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