(Failing to) run VMware ESXi on a notebook computer

In an attempt to re-acquaint myself with some of the VMware product set (it’s now over 3 and a half years since I studied for my VMware Certified Professional accreditation and I’ve hardly touched a VMware product since), I decided to have a play with VMware ESXi.

In fact, one of my colleagues wants to have a system whereby his colleagues, who get supplied with images from EMC in VMware format and Microsoft in VHD format, can dual-boot between hypervisors. I couldn’t see why that wouldn’t work (I suggested just using VMware Server and Virtual Server on the same box but he was worried about future-proofing the solution), so I set about trying to dual-boot Microsoft Hyper-V Server 2008 and VMware ESXi on the same machine.

First up, I downloaded ESXi 4.0 and started to run the installer, which detected my hardware but then returned:

Failed to load
Failed to load lvmdriver

It turns out that ESXi 4.0 requires that a compatible network card is available before it will install and, not surprisingly, the Marvell Yukon 88E8055 PCI-E Gigabit Ethernet Controller in my notebook PC is not the kind of server-class hardware that ESX is designed for!

So I gave up on ESXi 4.0 and tried ESXi 3.5. This installed pretty quickly but, of course the network card was still unsupported and my IP address was (no way of managing the box!).

As this is a notebook computer, I can’t upgrade the network card (unless I use a USB-connected NIC) but my plea for help on the VMware forums didn’t turn up anything useful. It seems I can run VMware ESX in VMware Workstation or I can run VMware Player from a USB drive. The long and the short of it is that, if VMware don’t provide driver support in ESX/ESXi, you are stuffed. No great surprises there but it’s really frustrating not to be able to get something working!


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