Category Archives: ESXi

ESXi USB Device Passthrough

I spent a lot of time investigating the USB device passthrough on Vmware ESXi. I wrote specifically the word device in the title, meaning any USB device, storage, keyboard, mouse or else.

The passthrough of USB to Vmware ESXI is actually quite a pain, and not very straight forward.

Vmware really support passing USB storage via USB 3 to the VMs, not devices.

In a nutshell, there are three main ways to do this.

  1. Passthrough of the USB controller on the motherboard to ESXI.
  2. Buy a USB hub network connected device and connect USB over LAN (Digi Anywhere)
  3. Passthrough of a PCI dedicated card with USB controllers on it and compatible with ESXI

Solution 1 comes with significant caviarts. It relies on the the ability of the detection of the components of the motherboard by the ESXI kernel and Vmware has not been very keen on fixing these issues for the prosumer user. I was semi successfull with my motherboard but after an update on ESXi, I couldn’t pass any USB device despite having passedthrough the USB controller to ESXI and having it being detected correctly.

Solution 2 is very expensive and is really meant for the enterprise market, to pass license dongles to VM (in my opinion).

Solution 3 was then the direction that I turned too and I started reading.

One of the amazing ressources for ESXI whitelabs is the great website of Tinkertry.

He wrote very good articles about USB passthrough and I highly encourage to read this one

ESXi Raw Device Mapping

I was looking how to manage a dedicated storage via Vmware ESXi and the biggest questions I had was how to store the files and how to recover them if the virtual machine crashes, or the motherboard for the ESXi server.

I didn’t want to use the VMFS file system to store the files, as I didn’t see really a tool to recover files from a damaged file system.

The VMFS file system is related not meant for data storage, and I only use it to store the virtual machines that I use.

ESXi has a very nice feature despite no official support where a hard drive can be passthrough to a virtual machine.

Here are the commands to be entered

cd /dev/disks
ls -l

Look for new hard drive name.

Create a vdmk file which is a passthrough, in my case:

vmkfstools -z /vmfs/devices/disks/t10.ATA_____WDC_WD60EFRX2D68L0BN1_________________________WD2DWXB1HB4J6U1F /vmfs/volumes/SSD850Pro/Openmediavault/BTRFS6TB.vmdk

Add the vdmk to your virtual machine, Openmediavault in my case, and here you go. This is absolutely awesome as I am able to have Btrfs on the hard drives in passthrough mode to Vmware ESXI.

ESXi Whitebox

I did a lot of research recently to build a Vmware ESXi whitebox server. I wanted to build an ESXi server to learn about Vmware as well as have all the virtual machines run 24/7. With the File Server, I have to stop the Virtual Machines running because of the Macrium Backup, which is extremely annoying.

My basic requirements are :

  • Low power usage, because it will run 24/7.
  • Easy administration
  • 5 or 6 hard drives
  • Run all my virtual machines

The two best ressources I found are :

Update 1/14/15: I bought 32 GB of Ram for the ESXi server to be able to run a lot more virtual machines.

The server has the following parts :

Cost: 945 $

Here are some pictures :