NAKIVO Blog

Initial ESXi Configuration | VMware Administration Essentials

In the previous VMware Administration Essentials post, we took a look at the interactive installation of ESXi. After installation, you need to complete some initial ESXi configuration of the installation. After rebooting from the installation, the Direct Console User Interface (DCUI) of the server is displayed. The splash screen presents basic information about the hardware (CPU and memory) as well as the ESXi build number, the IP address, etc.

VMware ESXi virtual platform

Initial ESXi Configuration

The DCUI is crucial to the setup process as up until now, you may not have network access to the ESXi host. This interface allows you to establish that basic connectivity to move forward. You may need to setup an IP address, VLAN, or other configuration for connectivity. To log in to the DCUI interface, hit F2 Customize System/View Logs where you will be prompted to log in with the root account, specified during ESXi installation. Once logged in, you will see the System Customization menu where you can setup most of the essential configuration for the network, turn on troubleshooting options, as well as view system logs:

initial ESXi configuration

Choose the Configure Management Network. Here you can select Network Adapters, VLAN, as well as configure IPv4/IPv6 addresses, DNS, and custom suffixes.

Configure Management Network

The Network Adapters section allows you to choose which network adapters are to be used for the management network. Traffic between an ESXi host and any external management software is transmitted through an Ethernet network adapter(s) on the host that is used for the management network. Examples of external management software include the vSphere Client, vCenter Server, and SNMP client. In line with best practices, we want to have more than one adapter chosen for redundancy. If one adapter or network path fails, the other adapter will still service traffic.

Simply place an “X” by the adapter(s) you want to include in the default management network connection.

Network Adapters

VLAN tags can also be configured here as well. VLANs or virtual LANs allow us to logically separate local area networks on the same physical infrastructure (switches, etc.) by adding a VLAN header to the TCP/IP packet. This header identifies which VLAN the traffic traverses. ESXi management traffic can be segmented on a different VLAN than other traffic. If so, this ESXi configuration would need to be populated with the correct VLAN information. If no special VLAN has been setup for management traffic, it is safe to leave this option unset.

VLAN tags

Going back to the main System Customization page, you can setup a network address for the management network. This will be the address used to connect with the vSphere client to finish the ESXi configuration.

IPv4 configuration

DNS configuration can also be set up from the System Customization screen.

DNS configuration

After you have finished the desired configuration for the management network, to instantiate the changes, the management network needs to be restarted. When you hit ESC to exit the Configure Management Network screen, you will be prompted to restart the management network.

Management network restart

Once the management network is restarted, you will see the network address and hostname changes displayed on the System Configuration screen to verify.

System Configuration - network address and hostname

A valuable tool to use once you have configured your management network is the Test Management Network option which will ping your gateway, DNS server, as well as resolve the hostname you have chosen for your host via DNS.

Test Management Network

Another useful menu is the Troubleshooting Options.

Troubleshooting Options

Here we find the ability to enable the ESXi shell, SSH, as well as restart the management agents. All of these are excellent options when troubleshooting connectivity and other issues.

Enable ESXi shell

Connecting to Your ESXi Host

One of the first things you will want to do is connect to your ESXi host to finish out the initial ESXi configuration, including setting up storage as well as licensing if you choose to do that at this point. To connect to the host, simply navigate to your Host IP Address via HTTPS – https://〈your-host-IP〉/

This will bring you to the informational splash page of sorts which contains helpful links moving forward with the ESXi install. Two links to highlight are:

VMware ESXi

The vSphere Client for Windows is the “fat” client installation of the vSphere Client that allows management of ESXi. However, it is being (has been) deprecated by VMware in lieu of the WebUI moving forward. However, as of ESXi 6.0 U2 can still be used for connecting.

The VMware Host Client is the WebUI counterpart to the vSphere client. To directly access the WebUI, you can navigate to https://〈your-host-IP〉/ui

Let’s use the WebUI, log in with your root account in the WebUI.

VMware ESXi login

Configuring Local Storage

The steps below will show how to configure a local storage volume on the ESXi host. The process to configure the datastore is very similar between local and remote storage such as an iSCSI or other target. You may not want to create local datastores on your ESXi host especially if it is to be a member of a vSphere cluster with vCenter in the mix. However, to take a look at the process of configuring a datastore, let’s configure a local datastore volume.

After logging into the Host Web UI, click on the Storage link in the left-hand Navigator console to get the storage for the host setup.

Get the storage for ESXi host setup

Click New Datastore:

New Datastore

This process starts the New Datastore creation wizard. Select to Create new VMFS datastore:

Create new VMFS datastore

Select an available datastore where you want to provision storage.

Select device to create new VMFS partition

Now select the partitioning scheme to partition and format the volume with VMFS. You can either Use Full Disk or select a Custom partitioning scheme:

Partition and format the volume with VMFS partitioning options

Now you are ready to finish the process.

Finish the process of local storage configuration

You are warned that you are about to potentially destroy data by erasing the volume.

Destroy data warning

The newly created datastore available on our host:

Newly created datastore

Thoughts

The initial ESXi configuration of the installation is an important step in making sure the host is functional and ready to serve as either a standalone host or be used in a vCenter cluster. The Direct Console User Interface is instrumental in making the initial configuration changes that allow network connectivity to the host so that you can connect either via the host WebUI or with vSphere client to perform the other necessary steps in configuration such as setting up storage on the host.

Next to come in the VMware Administration Essentials series, we will take a look at configuring ESXi host networks for a vSphere cluster configuration including storage, vMotion, and VM networks.