Lab setup 101

Lab setup
I finally finished the cabling and BIOS finagling on the main ESXi box. Trying to run 20 SATA cables neatly in a small space is tricky business, I tell you, but in the end it turned out clean enough that the wiring should not restrict air flow too much.

The motherboard is a Supermicro X8SAX. RAM is Kingston ValueRAM (6x4GB). CPU is an i7-950. For storage I have two PERC 6i cards and one PERC 5i (actually an LSI8408E). The 6i cards each have eight 2.5" 15k 73GB SAS drives in RAID10 and the 5i has four 1TB 7.2k SATA drives in RAID10. I will need to revisit the cooling inside, as the RAID cards get quite hot. Right now I've slung a fan behind them blowing out of the case.

ESXi is running off of some Verbatim USB drives I got from newegg ('clip-it' model). I have just finished 'Maximum vSphere' by Eric Siebert and he gives a really cool method of creating the OS on these drives. Instead of installing manually, you use Workstation, connect the USB drive plugged into your PC into a VM, attach the ESXi ISO and install onto the USB drive. Once done, power the VM off, unplug the USB drive, rinse and repeat. Brilliant! I must send Eric a note letting him know how excellent that trick is.

Also...the rest of the book is just as good - I highly suggest picking it up. A very different read from books like Scott Lowe and Mike Laverick have written for vSphere. Those books are also excellent...but I digress.

Anyways, I set my BIOS to use VT-d and 'SRIO' or something like that. Why not, right? Cool features I might want to try out.

I booted up the system (after an hour of sorting out why I could not get video), configured the ESXi management network, and connected from my PC using the vSphere client. Right off the bat I noticed that the PERC 5i did not have a datastore automatically configured (the 6i datastores were present...although one was 5GB larger than the other... :S ).

I checked the hardware health status, saw the card present there. I even checked the HCL just to be sure - the 5i/8408 is still compatible to 4.1.1 - and then tried to add storage. The drive was showing correctly (1.82TB)...but something was amiss.

I ran across this doozie of an error when I tried to add a datastore using that controller:
"Call "HostDatastoreSystem.CreateVmfsDatastore" for object "ha-datastoresystem" on ESXi "" failed."

Once again, Google came to the rescue. I searched for that string but sans-IP, and came up with a number of dead ends (for my instance). One last item remained - a link in German. I figure, hey, Google translate is at least functional, why not?

Go ahead, translate it!

The gist of it says that turning off VT something resolves the issue (Adaptec for him). I figured that VT-d is the only option I enabled that was out of the ordinary (and that SRIO thing), so I disabled both. After rebooting, I could now see why the drive had previously looked amiss. On the 'add storage' page I could now see more volume details (I should take screenshots!), two more lines below the naa and such. Adding storage now worked perfectly.

Lesson: VT-d can mess up some cards! Thanks Armin!!

Perhaps this will be patched at some point. It will be interesting to see if the other hosts have the same issue, albeit different hardware.


  1. Hello there,

    came into your posting about vt-d as i was thrown the same error "HostDatastoreSystem.CreateVmfsDatastore".

    I got around it without disabling it just by running ESXi 4.1u1 from USB stick.....

    It was my last resort and it worked.

    See the posting on my config (bit messy perhaps):

    Also diabled all the crappy ICH's from intel as they threw me the known "vfat loaded successfully" hangup. Maybe your Supermicro setup is better compiled than my ASUS setup.

    If you need to contact me:

    martijn (at) fennis . tk


  2. Martijn, late response, but better late than never.

    This system is ESXi 4.1u1 on USB. I think this is a motherboard restriction with VT-d, not an ESX issue. (or maybe both)


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