My goal: ESXi, boot camp, RAID, all working on Mac Pro

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by oban14, May 31, 2011.

  1. oban14 macrumors 6502a

    Jan 4, 2008
    Yes, I'm a bit of a masochist. So here is my plan:

    1) Four 2 TB drives connected to a RAID card. I'd like this data to be as OS neutral as possible, preferably accessible through ESXi, OSX, and Windows under boot camp.

    2) A single SSD which will house the OSX and Windows 7 boot camp partitions.

    My questions:

    1) Which RAID card? It sounds like the Apple one is a rip off and doesn't work very well, so I'd like to go ATTO or Areca. The only requirements is that they are capable of 6 GB, ESXi compatible, and will work with the setup I have listed above (both operating systems). I'd like to spend as little as possible, so I'm leaning towards an 11XX or 12XX series controller from Areca. RAID 10 at a minimum and RAID 6 would be ideal.

    2) Is there a recommended SSD (I've heard the new Intels are best)?

    3) Has anyone gotten ESXi to successfully work on their Mac Pro? I have found references to people getting it to work in the VMWare forums but haven't tried it myself.

    Ideally, I'd like to have it setup so I can boot off USB, and will boot into ESXi. If I pull the thumb drive, it will boot up to OSX or Windows depending on which I select. The RAID storage is agnostic and will work with all three systems.

    So please, shoot holes in my plan or let me know if you have any experiences getting this going.
  2. oban14 thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Jan 4, 2008
  3. ScottishCaptain macrumors 6502a

    Oct 4, 2008
    Yes, but it will not boot off a USB key. ESXi must be installed to a disk on the Mac Pro to work- which means you have to boot off the install CD first.

    Not possible.

    ESXi requires that locally-accessible drives be formatted with VMFS before you can store anything on them (ie, virtual machines). You can manually configure an RDM (raw device mapping) to pass through a local storage device to the virtual machine, but this precludes the ability for ESXi to use that device for anything- it will appear inside the VM as a locally attached SCSI drive, and assuming it's formatted with a filesystem that VM's OS can understand, then the VM guest OS will be able to mount and read/write to that device. Likewise, an RDM can only be attached to one VM at one time.

    You're basically trying to setup the worlds most unsupported ESXi setup here. I would advise that you look into buying a cheap PC to run ESXi on for the price of what a high-end RAID controller would cost you for your Mac Pro instead. ESXi can be (unofficially) administered via SSH, and you can also build a tiny VM that hosts vSphere Client on Windows, so you can RDP in from OS X or Windows XP to administer the ESXi system that way.

  4. oban14 thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Jan 4, 2008
    I don't totally follow you. What do you mean I have to boot off the install CD first - the ESXi CD or the OSX CD?

    I have a NAS device I can use for the ESXi piece if I have to, so that might be the way to go.

    The problem is as follows: The Mac Pro is actually quite supported. Dual Xeon processors, soon to be 32 gigs of ram, Intel motherboard, Intel NICs, etc. I'm not interested in some cheap PC that starts staggering once you have two DCs and an Exchange server going. So I was looking to buy server hardware and then realized that I've got it already... in an Apple case.

    The limitations of EFI aside, I have no problem completely uninstalling OSX and using it exclusively as an ESXi machine. Or internal RAID/SSD for boot camp/OSX and another drive that would boot into ESXi. I can have the RAID in the Mac Pro and RAID in my NAS box.
  5. ScottishCaptain macrumors 6502a

    Oct 4, 2008
    VMware provides an "installable" version of ESXi distributed as an ISO file that needs to be burned to disk and booted, then installed to a local disk drive. You will need to do this to boot ESXi on your Mac Pro, because the Mac Pro's EFI CSM module (the BIOS emulator that boots legacy operating systems- Apple calls it "Bootcamp") doesn't know how to boot anything off of USB and I'm not aware of any EFI bootloaders that will bootstrap ESXi properly (VMware is using a hacked up version of Syslinux/comboot as the bootloader for ESXi).

    If it's not on a VMware certified hardware list, then it isn't "supported". The similarities between a PC and a Mac Pro end at the processor socket- beyond that, you've got a totally proprietary logic board running a specialized version of EFI, complete with it's own thermal management system controller (which is not IPMI compliant). It's like comparing an SGI Visual Workstation 320 to a Pentium 3 of the same era. It's just not the same thing.

    The Mac Pro is a workstation, not a server. I really don't care what Apple says- but the MP doesn't hold a flame compared to an HP DL or ML series server running iLO2. You can get ESXi booted and running- totally supported- on one of those systems in the time it takes you to download ESXi and rip it to a USB key, then stuff it in the USB socket on the server motherboard.

    Everything on the Mac Pro is YMMW. The earlier 2006 systems used to have stability issues running ESXi that tended to blow away your boot banks (partitions). The later 2010 Mac Pros don't even boot it without pink screening or hanging before hostd starts. These systems simply aren't ideal for ESXi usage.

    IMHO; if this stuff matters to you in any way- buy yourself a dedicated machine. You'll save a lot of time and effort trying to get things working on your Mac Pro. Unless you're using it for production (and I really hope you're not), a weenie Core i5-750 should support a few DC's and an exchange server no problem.


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