Thursday, January 21, 2016

Building out ESXi for the CCIE Wireless V3

One of the more important components of a home lab is the ability to virtualize. Having one box that can perform the role of many is very handy, not to mention the ability to very quickly spin up a needed service. For a CCIE Wireless home lab we can virtualize our instances of Prime, MSE, ISE, Windows server & as many client machines as needed. I was fortunate to pick up an HP DL380 G6 with two Intel Xeon L5520s, 72GB of ram & 2.4TB raw storage for my ESXi server. I also purchased a SanDisk 16GB USB flash drive to serve as my boot drive.

I decided to go with ESXi 5.5 for my build out as this is the officially supported version for most of the Cisco virtual appliances. While searching for documentation concerning this I came across a link to get a perpetually licensed ESXi 5.5 installation for lab use, Visit the link, register an account if needed & obtain the license key. Now we can manually download ESXi 5.5 Update 2d ISO image (Includes VMware Tools) & Download VMware vSphere Client 5.5 Update 2. I opted to not get VCenter as this is a single ESXi host & I didn't feel any of the features were needed for a simple wireless lab.

Although installing ESXi to boot from USB is pretty straight forward there are some gotchas. For creation of a bootable USB flash drive I used a tool called Rufus. Insert a USB drive, >4GB in size, into the PC & load Rufus. 

Change the source to iso & select the ESXi 5.5 iso, then click start.

On this error message click Yes to continue.

Click OK to this warning message. If a read error appears just click retry.

Once Rufus finishes writing to the USB drive it can be removed & inserted into the server. Set the server to boot from USB per manufacturer instructions. 

Seeing this screen is good news!

Accept the EULA

Select the installation USB drive, this works because the installation files are loaded into memory.

Select OK here to overwrite

Select keyboard & set root password. Then press F11 to install.

Yay! Press enter to reboot.

Following the reboot this is the screen we want. Picture taken before memory upgrade to 72GB.

Press F2 to Customize System. Login with the root password we previously set.

Now we can configure the management network allowing us to manage the box with vSphere.

Install VMware vSphere Client 5.5 Update 2, taking the defaults, & connect to the ESXi host.

Install & ignore the certificate warning.

Say OK to the evaluation warning.

Click on inventory, ESXi host, licensed features & then edit.

Enter the license key obtained from VMWare & click OK.

Now we can finish tweaking the ESXi installation & start deploying VMs. Make sure to at least setup storage & date/time. To obtain a copy of Cisco Prime Infrastructure 2.2 & Mobility Services Engine 8.0 visit the following link Cisco Promotional Software Store & login with a CCO account. This will allow us to download the Prime Express ova & the MSE standard ova, with a default username/password of root/password for the MSE. The downloaded files will not have an extension, change that to .rar & extract the ova. See CPI 2.2 NFR License for instruction regarding a 365 day Prime license. I have yet to find a promotional download for ISE but with a valid contract an ISE eval ova is able to downloaded from Cisco software center.

For the windows server we can download Windows 2008 R2 iso from Microsoft with 180 day eval, vist Official Microsoft Download Center. Go to the Windows Edition Comparison Guide for help choosing the version that has the features required for your lab. For the windows client we can download a legit iso from Microsoft, with a valid license key, but this doesn't always work. You may have to go searching for a mirror to get a working iso. As a note, with Windows 7 you can convert any iso to all in one media, instructions for doing so at How to Choose Desired Windows 7 Edition / Version During Setup?.

Current virtual environment showing hard drive, memory & cpu requirements.

Having a client with a wireless connection makes testing the lab scenarios much easier. Relying on a laptop to do this might be cost prohibitive especially when we can add wireless to a VM. To do this in ESXi we first need to create the client. Once created right click the VM, select edit settings & click Add Hardware.

Select USB Controller & click Next

Take the default & click Next then finish.

Now select USB Device & click next.

Select the USB wireless device & click next then finish.

Following these steps the wireless USB NIC should show up in the guest operating system allowing it to function as the wireless client for testing purposes. It should be noted that, by trial & error, I've found devices using RALINK chipsets to have greater reliability. I've been unable to get Atheros based devices to work with USB passthrough. There is very little documentation available on this, no guarantees that your USB wireless device will work. I'll update this section once I've found a device I'm happy with.

On my journey to the CCIE Wireless I'll be utilizing the materials provided by IPexpert & attempting to mimic their rack rental topology. An overview of the hardware list & topology is available at CCIE Wireless (v3) Rack Rental

IPexpert Topology.