Today, I will go through the VMware ESXi hypervisor installation on the Cisco B200 M3 blade server managed by the Cisco UCS Manager. Whereas installing ESXi is generally relatively straightforward, an installation on a Cisco USC blade is not trivial.

The first step is to determine what storage media you are going to install ESXi on; in my case, it was an SD card, so I will show you the process from this angle.

First, you need to install the card on the blade server. This is easy – the card slots are on the left side of the blade, and inserting them is no more complicated than inserting a new memory card into your smartphone. The backside, however, is that you need to power down the blade and remove it from its enclosure. It is always better to work with two cards (to have some redundancy) and enable mirroring on the controller.

After you insert the cards, you need to check whether the server recognizes them. Open UCS Manager, and go to the blade where you just installed the cards, open Inventory, and then open the Storage tab. Now open the Controller tab and make sure it displays both cards. The screenshots show what your controller and cards states should look like.

Controller state

Controller state

Cards state

Cards state

As you can see on the screenshot, the RAID status is Enabled Paired, and one card is in the Primary state and the other one is in the Secondary Active state. This means the cards are already mirrored and ready for the hypervisor installation. However, this is an ideal situation. In most cases, the cards are not paired right after the installation. To fix the RAID status before the installation, you need to create a Scrub Policy. This wipes the cards, reformats them, and sets up the mirroring.

You can find this policy on the Servers tab under Policies Scrub Policy. If you are configuring SD cards, you need to set FlashFlex Scrub option to Yes:

Scrub Policy

Scrub Policy

You now have to associate the policy with the blade. To do this, go to the Servers tab, find your server under server profiles, and go to the Policies tab > Scrub policy and choose the policy you’ve just created from the dropdown menu:

Assign Scrub Policy

Assign Scrub Policy

After this part is set, you need to re-acknowledge the blade. Just keep in mind this operation is not equal to a reboot. When you re-acknowledge the Cisco blade, it means that all changes to the UCS are done and the policies are applied. A reboot skips this operation, just using the values assigned on the last acknowledgment. To re-acknowledge the blade, go to Equipment > Chassis > Servers, find the server you are working on, click Server Maintenance, and choose Re-acknowledge. Please look at the screenshot below for a better understanding:

Re-acknowledge the server

Re-acknowledge the server

You can now go to the FSM tab to see how the re-acknowledgment process goes:

Re-acknowledgment process

Re-acknowledgment process

When your server boots up, check the cards and controller state again. They should be exactly like on the two screenshots at the beginning of the article. If  they are, go to server policy settings and change the Scrub Policy to default to avoid wiping your cards when the server is re-acknowledged next time.

Now your SD cards are mirrored and ready. However, to boot from them, we need to set up the Local Disk Configuration Policy and the Boot Policy. You can find both under Policies in the Servers tab.

This is how your Local Disk Configuration Policy would look if you configure your blade to use the SD cards:

Local Disk Configuration Policy

Local Disk Configuration Policy

And the Boot Policy to boot from the SD cards first and then from virtual media:

Boot policy

Boot policy

After creation, you need to associate both policies with the blade server.

For the Boot Policy, go to the Servers tab and then Service Profiles; find your server there and go to Boot Order tab. Click Modify Boot Policy and choose the policy you’ve created:

Assign boot policy to Service Profile

Assign boot policy to Service Profile

Modifying boot policy

Modifying boot policy

For Local Disk Configuration Policy, go to the Servers tab, and then Service Profiles; find your server there and go to the Storage tab. Click Change Local Disk Configuration Policy and choose the policy you’ve created.

Changing Local Disk Configuration Policy in Service Profile

Change Local Disk Configuration Policy

Change Local Disk Configuration Policy

After you click Save changes, the server will ask you to acknowledge the reboot.

After your server boots up, go to the UCS KVM Console, activate, and then mount the virtual media with the ESXi image:

Activate virtual media

Activate virtual media

Map virtual CD or DVD device

Map virtual CD or DVD device

Select virtual media drive letter

Select virtual media drive letter

Map virtual media ISO file

Map virtual media ISO file

After you map the media, reboot the server, press F6 to enter the boot menu, and choose the virtual media boot device.

Boot the server to the ESXi installer and install the ESXi to the SD cards. Below you can see how the SD cards partition looks from the installer:

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Install ESXi

Install ESXi

I won’t cover the ESXi installation process here, because as mentioned above, it is very easy, and from this point on, it is the same as the installation on a regular server.

2 Comments
  1. James Summers 4 years ago

    This is a great guide, exactly what I was looking for, but when I try to print it or save it as a pdf for reference in an offline environment, it becomes butchered and unreadable.

    • Michael Pietroforte 4 years ago

      Hmm, “offline environment”? What is that? 😉 Do you have a mobile phone? That is what I would use instead of a PDF reference.

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