A few weeks ago I was asked to put an ESXi deployment configuration in place for a customer, while going over the different options in what they preferred (UDA, WDS, Autodeploy, PXE Manager,..) it became very obvious that the PXE Manager was their first choice and I think for a good reason as it’s a stunning tool and it nicely integrates with vCenter.
Although I was convinced myself about the PXE Manager, putting something new and still under development (it is a fling) into production can sometimes be quite challenging … partially because I just played with it in my home-lab and wasn’t fully aware about all the different features as well it lacked some features that were an absolute requirement to put it into production (the most important one was VLAN tagging, as the NIC’s were connected to trunk ports so therefore I should be able to specify the vlanid as part of the boot parameters).
Anyway with the great support from Max Daneri (the developer of PXE Manager), some tricks and a few builds further we managed to get it into production just the way I would have imagined it. (Thanks Max !!)
This particular customer had a typical setup of two datacenter’s, two vCenter’s in linked-mode and VMware SRM to facilitate the datacenter outages. As for the ESXi hosts they had diskless server blades with Emulex OneConnect NIC’s, because the servers didn’t have disks we had to use a boot from SAN configuration (Stateless is not supported yet with ESXi 4.1).
The PXE Manager exists out of two main parts namely the PXE Manager and the PXE Agent, the PXE Manager is where you configure the builds, ESXi hosts, etc and the PXE agent exists out a DHCP/TFTP server which allows servers to PXE boot and is responsible for deploying ESXi. Once you added a new build to the PXE Manager, PXE manager will push to build to the PXE Agents. To keep the management simple I wanted to only have one PXE Manager and at both datacenters one PXE agent that is located in the same VLAN as the ESXi hosts (In case you would have VMware SRM, protect your PXE Manager servers so it will be easy to deploy new hosts in a disaster scenario). By placing the PXE Agent into the same VLAN as the ESXi hosts you avoid having to setup IP helper addresses, so in case for whatever reason you cannot place the PXE agent into this VLAN then make sure the IP helper address for this VLAN is correctly configured.
The following diagram depicts the setup:
I decided to split this post up in a few posts as otherwise it would be a very long one, so the following set of links will guide you through the entire installation of setting up the configuration as shown by the above diagram.
- Part I: Installation of PXE Manager
- Part II: Installation of the PXE Agents
- Part III: Configuration of PXE Manager
- Part IV: Add a driver into the ESXi image (oem.tgz)
- Part V: Add a stateful ESXi host to PXE Manager
- Part VI: PXE Manager – how does it work
I hope you find these articles useful and I convinced you to start setting a PXE Manager environment up in your infrastructure as it is a fantastic tool. Over the next few days I will try to write another article to explain and show you what else you can do with PXE Manager as is there is more …
Don’t forget to check out the following presentation: PXE Manager presentation