VMware GSX Server installation for Linux

Get steps for GSX Server installation on Linux in this excerpt from the book Virtualization: From the Desktop to the Enterprise.

IT reseller takeaway: This excerpt from the book Virtualization: From the Desktop to the Enterprise outlines best practices and requirements to keep on hand when performing a VMware server installation on Linux for a customer.

Installing GSX Server for Linux is similar to installing Workstation for Linux and can be performed using a TAR or an RPM file. When using GSX Server for Linux, be sure to install the virtualization application on an enterprise-class host OS, such as Red Hat Enterprise Server or Advanced Server. Regardless of vendor and version, you need to make sure your Linux platform support conforms to the following:

  • The real-time clock function must be compiled in the kernel.
  • The port PC-style hardware option should be loaded as a kernel module.
  • The inetd process must start on boot.
  • The gcc package must be installed.

As compared to a Microsoft server operating system, you can typically get similar performance with less hardware using a Linux server operating system; however, it isn't necessarily a good idea to use less of a server in production. Average hardware choices yield below-average performance. Your GSX Server Linux installation should be on hardware that's similar in nature to the following list of best-practice minimums:

  • Two RAID controllers (RAID 1 for the Linux host and RAID 5 for the guest VMs)
  • Three 1 GB NIC interfaces
  • Two 3 GHz processors
  • 4 GB of ECC DDR RAM
  • Five 15,000RPM 146 GB SCSI hard disks
  • 500–800 MHz FSB

Don't attempt to install Workstation and GSX Server on the same host system. If you attempt to install GSX Server on a preexisting Workstation installation, it will be upgraded to GSX Server. You'll also want to configure X Windows to manage guest VMs in a GUI console session. GSX Server for Linux consists of three packages. You can choose to install as few or as many as you need. If you're looking to approximate the same functionality as a Windows host, you'll want to install all available packages:

  • GSX Server (VMware-gsx- .tar.gz) for hosting VMs (Perl API installed by default)
  • VMware Management Interface package (VMware-mui- .tar.gz) for remote control
  • VMware Virtual Machine Console (VMware-console- .tar.gz) for local control
  • When managing systems remotely, you'll have to concern yourself with more than just physical firewalls getting in the way. For instance, default installations of Red Hat Linux and Windows XP SP2 use software firewalls. On the client side, firewalls can block you from using the VMware Management Interface and the Virtual Machine Console by prohibiting connections to the GSX Server host machine. Port 902 must be opened for Virtual Machine Console to access a GSX Server host. The Management Interface requires port 8333 to be open and 8222 if SSL is disabled.

    Note: To change the port GSX Server for Linux uses for the Virtual Machine Console, you must first determine if your system uses xinetd or inetd. For xinetd, edit the /etc/xinetd/vmware-authd file and change port = 902 to reflect the new port number. If your system uses inetd, look for /etc/inetd.conf and change 902 vmware-authd to reflect the new port number.

    Whether you're installing from a CD or from a file downloaded from VMware's Web site, you need to make sure your file paths are reflected correctly in installation command statements. To begin the installation of GSX Server for Linux, go to the CLI and make sure you have root permissions. If you're in a testing lab, it will be easier if you log in as root. In production environments, you'll need to log on with the account for which the install is intended and then issue the su - command. As a small note, sometimes the vmware-config.pl configuration program will appear to hang during installation; you can press Q to advance to the next prompt.

    The step-by-step instructions for RPM and TAR installations follow. Refer to the section that supports your version of Linux.

    Installing the RPM

    Follow these steps to install the RPM:

    1. If you're installing from a CD, you'll need to mount it first. At the CLI or in a terminal window, enter this: mount /dev/cdrom /mnt/cdrom

    2. Next, browse to the CD-ROM mount point: cd /mnt/cdrom

    3. To make sure the media is accessible, perform a directory listing: ls –l

    4. Now, locate the setup RPM: find /mnt/cdrom –name VMware-gsx*.rpm

    5. The system will respond with the location of the file. Change your present working directory to the RPM's directory: cd /mnt/cdrom/<directory name>

    6. Now, enter the following for the RPM install: rpm –Uvh /mnt/cdrom/<directory name> /VMware-gsx-<version and build number>.rpm

    7. You'll see advancing hash marks across the screen that indicate installation activity. After delivering the package, run the configuration program. Verify the installation of the RPM by querying the package management system: rpm –qa | grep 'VMware'

    8. The system will respond with the package and version number installed. It should match the RPM you specified with the rpm –Uvh command in step 6.

    9. With installation out of the way, you'll need to run the configuration program. Enter the following at the CLI: vmware-config.pl

    10. Press Enter to read the license agreement. You'll need to use the space bar to advance through the document. Assuming you agree to its terms, type yes and press Enter.

    11. The configuration program will question if networking is required. The default is Yes, so press Enter.

    12. If you have multiple network adapters, you'll be asked which adapter should be bridged to VMnet0. If you're happy with the default selection, press Enter.

    13. Next, you'll be asked if you'd like to configure any additional bridged networks. No is the default. Being that you can configure more bridged networks later, accept the default by pressing Enter.

    14. Next, you'll be prompted if NAT networking is necessary. Select the default (Yes) for now by pressing Enter.

    15. The installation script will ask to probe for an unused private subnet. The default is Yes. The scan can take a couple of minutes, and it will reveal what appears to be available for use.

    16. The system will query if you'd like to use host-only networking in your VMs. The default is No. If this is what you want, press Enter. However, if you don't select Yes now, bridged and host-only networking won't be available to your VMs. You'll need to rerun the configuration script to enable the feature. If you select Yes, the script will probe for unused network IDs to use. After the probe, you'll be asked to configure any additional hostonly networks. The default is No. Press Enter to continue.

    17. The script will prompt you for the port to use for remote console sessions. The default is port 902. Press Enter to continue.

    18. The script will then provide a location to store VM files. You can store virtual disks on any Virtual Machine File System (VMFS) partition. The default is generally a safe choice. Press the Enter key to accept the suggested path. If necessary, the path will be created. You'll be prompted to select the default Yes answer. Press Enter to continue.

    19. Now, the install script will ask you for your 20-character serial number. Enter your validly licensed product key, and press Enter to continue. If you choose not to enter a serial number, the install will abort.

    20. You'll be presented with some registration suggestions; simply press Enter to complete the install.

    After the installation is complete, you can test the install by restarting the VMware service. At the CLI, run this: service vmware restart

    The system should respond by stopping the GSX Server's services and then starting them. Upon the reinitialization of the services, an "OK" should appear at the end of the restart dialog box.

    Installing the TAR

    If your OS doesn't use RPMs, you'll need to use a TAR to install VMware for Linux. The following instructions are generally suitable for several versions of Linux, including Red Hat. However, please remember that your system path structure may vary, so make changes as necessary.

    1. Before installing the software, create a temporary directory for the installation TAR file: mkdir /tmp/vmlinux

    2. Next, copy the TAR file to the newly created temporary directory on your hard drive. Be sure your file paths correctly reflect the directories on your host system: cp VMware- .tar.gz /tmp/vmlinux

    3. Next, change to the directory where the copied files reside: cd /tmp/vmlinux

    4. Because the install file is an archive, you'll need to unpack it by issuing the following command: tar zxf /tmp/vmlinux/VMware-<version and build number>.tar.gz

    5. Once the decompression is finished, find the installation directory: find /tmp/vmlinux –name vmware-distrib

    6. Next, navigate to the installation directory: cd /tmp/vmlinux/vmware-distrib

    Finally, execute the installation program: ./vmware-install.pl

    7. You'll be prompted several times during the install. Generally, the defaults are sufficient for most installs save a caveat or two. The first prompt asks you to confirm the install directory /usr/bin. Press Enter to accept the default.

    8. Next, the install program will ask you the location of the init directories, /etc/rc.d.

    Assuming the default is correct, press Enter.

    9. You're then prompted for the init scripts directory, /etc/rc.d/init.d. If the default is correct, press Enter.

    10. The install program will then ask an installation directory for the library files, /usr/lib/vmware. Press Enter to accept the default.

    11. The system will want to create the /usr/share/man directory for the manual files. Press Enter to confirm the default setting.

    12. Next, you'll be asked to supply the directory for the VMware documentation files, /usr/share/doc/vmware. Press Enter to continue with the default. You may be prompted to confirm the creation of additional parent directories. Assuming this is okay, press Enter to continue.

    13. Unlike the RPM install, the TAR install asks if you'd like to run the configuration program, /user/bin/vmware-config.pl. The default is Yes; press Enter to run the VMware configuration program.

    For both the RPM and TAR install, you can run the configuration program at any time. You'll also need to run the program any time you upgrade the Linux kernel or if you want to change the character of Workstation (for instance, to remove or add host-only networks). If you go to run the configuration program and it doesn't work, it's probably because of an error with the search path.

    The use of the search path in Linux is similar to that in Microsoft Windows. It's a variable configured during system initialization. Linux uses the PATH command to search for the program that corresponds to input at the CLI. You can add a search directory to the path by issuing PATH=${PATH}:/ . You can use the command which to verify the existence of a file in the search path, such as which vmware-config.pl. If you want to see what's currently listed in the variable, type $PATH. If you need additional help configuring the search path, you should refer to the distributor of your operating system.

    Wrapping up this section, we want to point out that the help system built into VMware GSX Server for Linux depends on a Web browser being accessed from the /usr/bin/netscape directory. If your browser is located elsewhere (Netscape, Firefox, Mozilla, or otherwise), be sure to create a symbolic link to it at that location (for example, ln –s /usr/ bin/netscape).


    About the author   
    Chris Wolf is an instructor at ECPI Technical College, as well as a leading industry consultant in enterprise storage, virtualization solutions, and network infrastructure management. He has a master's degree in information technology from Rochester Institute of Technology, and his IT certification list includes MCSE, MCT, and CCNA. Wolf authored MCSE Supporting and Maintaining NT Server 4.0 Exam Cram, Windows 2000 Enterprise Storage Solutions and Troubleshooting Microsoft Technologies, and he contributes frequently to Redmond Magazine and Windows IT Pro Magazine. Wolf also speaks at computer conferences across the nation.

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