Tiernan's Comms Closet

Geek, Programmer, Photographer, network egineer…

ESXi on Arm (and Raspberry Pi!)

A few days back (October 6th 2020) VMWare announced a new “Fling”: ESXi Arm Edition. Not completely sure what a Fling is, but anyway, I started reading, liked the idea and managed to download a copy for testing. I have 2 Pi 4s in the house, both 4Gb Models, and I wanted to play around with the new tech.

So, after some messing with UEFI stuff, formatting Micro SD cards correctly, copying files and some limitations, I managed to get 2 new ESXi servers running on Raspberry Pi!

There is a walk though Video showing everything I did to get up and running. Its embedded below. Some of the hardware I used is also mentioned below.

Equipment list:

  • 2 x 4G Raspberry Pi 4s
  • 2 x 16Gb Micro SD Cards (you could probably get away with 1Gb cards… You only need a small 256MB partition for the UEFI stuff)
  • 2 x 64GB Kingston DataTravler USB 3 Sticks (This is where ESXi is installed, plus the rest of the storage, if configured correctly, can be used for VMs).
  • 2 X POE to USB C Splitters. I used these so I can power both Pi’s though POE and can reboot them using the switch. You could use a USB Power Adapter like the Anker PowerPort 60W which would give you 6 ports to run your Raspberry Pi’s. I would probably limit it to running 4 Pi’s though, since the Pi 4 needs a bit more power…
  • Some way of installing the ISO to the Pi. I used an iodd Mini 256Gb for the task. I also did a video review of that here.
  • About an hour of your time.

As mentioned above, the USB key is used for storing ESXi when its installed. It can also be used for storing VMs. There is a command you run when installing to partition the drive in 2: 8GB for ESXi and the rest for storage. I managed to run this correctly on one, but missed it on the second. I might reinstall that Pi and get it up and running again soon. You also have the option of installing to iSCSI. That might be useful too…

Storage wise, VMWare recommend using usb3 or fast iscsi or nfs storage for vms. I’m using nfs on my workstation which seems to work OK. but you are still limited to 1Gb/s of the Raspberry Pi. They say it is possible to use extra USB network cards. Could be interesting to try that out.

So far i have managed to install a single VM on one of the Pis. I plan on migrating from a Physical PiHole instance to a virtual one. I also plan on getting a few 8Gb Pis and see where this rabbit hole gets me. It can also be managed with VSphere. Let’s see if I can get that working… Stay tuned!

If anyone has any questions, comments, etc., just shout. And if your interested in videos like these, subscribe and like the video!