How To Guy

WANTED: ESXi in the Public Cloud

I haven't found a public cloud provider yet that allows me to run a nested ESXi server as a virtual machine.

The public cloud is the perfect place for a test and training labs. Every cloud provider touts their cloud as being ideal for this use and the best way to get started with cloud computing.

In my job as a VMware blogger, speaker and video author I must have a vSphere lab (or even two labs) ready to go at any time. I use my lab extensively to create the articles and videos about vSphere. Today, my lab consists of two aging Dell T610 servers with quad core Xeon 5500 series CPUs and 8GB of RAM. I have Iomega iSCSI/NFS storage array for vSphere and for my general Windows shares files. I also have a couple of old whitebox servers that I use to run free ESXi and Hyper-V.

Recently, the fan went out in one of the Dell servers (I still haven't fixed it). The Hyper-V server video card is going out and you can barely read the console. The Dell servers must weigh 75 pounds and you could hurt your back just trying to pick one up. My UPS won't hold up longer than about 10 minutes. My cable Internet goes out periodically and who knows how much the lab costs me each month in electricity? I only use the lab a few hours a day, but it is up and running 24x7.

Why am I telling you this? What I would like to do is to move this troublesome lab to a public cloud. This would allow me to do away with all this hardware (which is loud and heats up the room), do away with the server maintenance, do away with the electric bills and other support issues.

With a public cloud, I could access my lab from anywhere. I could pay for only what I use. I don't have to worry about hardware upgrades or maintenance. And, best of all, I hope I could save some money.

And that's the problem: I haven't found a public cloud provider yet that allows me to run a nested ESXi server as a virtual machine. To run as a virtual machine, ESXi requires Intel-VT or AMD-V, 2GB+ of RAM, and supported storage.

Of course it is possible to run ESX nested, inside ESX. I can do it on my home lab. So, if these vCloud providers are running ESX/ESXi on their physical servers then they should allow a nested ESXi VM inside that (unless I'm missing something).

Now, I understand that I wouldn't be able to do some things like use VMware Fault Tolerance (FT) or power on a 64-bit VM inside the nested ESXi VM (that's why the vCenter VM below is a separate VM) but I am willing to accept those caveats.

Ideally, I would like to have six to eight virtual machines in the public cloud running the following:

  • Qty 2 ESXi server VMs
  • vCenter VM running Windows Server 2008 R2
  • vMA virtual appliance VM
  • Windows 7 client PC with vSphere client
  • Virtual Storage Appliance (VSA) providing iSCSI or NFS SAN/NAS shared storage for the VMs
  • and other miscellaneous virtual machines to test various vSphere administration tasks

Do you know of a public cloud provider who allows you to run ESXi as a virtual machine? If so, let me know! I would love to test it and blog about it here. I believe that the ability to run ESXi as a VM in order to build a public vSphere test lab is an excellent use case for the public cloud. Who supports it?

About the Author

David Davis is a well-known virtualization and cloud computing expert, author, speaker, and analyst. David’s library of popular video training courses can be found at Pluralsight.com. To contact David about his speaking schedule and his latest project, go to VirtualizationSoftware.com.

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