Home-Lab Upgrade to vSphere 7

I’ve had a lot of questions on how my upgrade went to vSphere 7 in my home-lab. I thought I’d share how I was able to get vSphere 7 up and running on a lab using hardware that isn’t on the VMware Hardware Compatibility List.

So what you see here are 5 Dell R71 Servers, 4 of which I use for my vSphere home-lab and the other is a Plex Media Server for my 4K video. The processor type in these servers are all Intel Xeon 56xx and are not on the HCL for vSphere and only compatible on the HCL for vSphere 6.0U3. Here’s a little visual and summary on the home lab setup.

So I have two Synology servers, one used primarily for a file server and second Plex server, and the 1817 is my SSD and SAS for 10GB over iSCSI connected device for my 3 ESX hosts. the 512 replicates to a second volume on the 1817 so my data is redundant. Vol 1 on the 1817 is all flash drives and presented as an iSCSI mount on the 10GB network for the 3 hosts to connect as a shared datastore device. the 10GB switch is not externally connected and only used for storage connectivity. The Synology 512 and R710 service console networks, vMotion, etc… are connected to the 1GB switch that is connected for external access through my router and out to the internet.

Now, on to the upgrade to vSphere 7. If you tried to just install vSphere 7 natively on the DellR710 servers, the install would prompt you that the CPUs were incompatible. Here’s how I got around this issue. Using USB drives, I installed vSphere 7 using my macbook and VMware Fusion.

  1. Create a virtual machine with no hard drives, configured with enough CPU and RAM for vSphere 7 to install successfully.

2. Mount the vSphere 7 ESXi ISO file to the virtual CDRom drive to prepare for installation.

3. Plug in the USB drive to install ESX and verify it shows up as a device I can connect to after power on.

4. Make sure I’m using a current version of VM Hardware that will work for the install.

5. Power on the VM and connect the USB device to the Virtual machine.

6. The ESX 7 installer will run through the wizard and prompt you to chose a device to install the hypervisor on.

7. When the installer finished, I powered down the VM and pulled out the USB drive from my laptop.

8. Using the USB device, I plugged this into the USB port on the back of my server and after verifying the device in my BIOS settings, powered on the server and walked through the setup of the IP, Mask, Gateway, DNS….etc..that you would normally do to install a new vSphere host.

Connect to my host webconsole and deploy a new vCenter 7 Server appliance, rinse and repeat and I now have a home lab upgraded to vSphere 7 albeit running on unsupported hardware.

To make things even more fun, I used the content library and subscribed to William Lam’s Virtual Ghetto blog nested vSphere content library to start working on rebuilding the nested vSphere playground.

I didn’t think it would be possible to extend the life of my home lab but thanks to David Davis for the Boot from USB idea, I can use the home-lab a little longer. Give it a try and see if this works for you as well.

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