VMware ESX 4.1 install onto Dell R720 via iDRAC 7 Enterprise

Bit of a fiddle as the ISO of ESX 4.1 update 2 does not contain any suitable network drivers for the R720. This causes it to fail. On other servers, at least the onboard NIC has been detected, so I’ve been able to get ESX running and then add the other drivers via the network. That won’t work here.

My R720s have 2 x Broadcom 5719 quad 1Gb ethernet NICs in them. I was able to find a driver for these on VMware’s website (searched for broadcom 5719). It’s a NetXtreme I card.

The iDRACs I specified have an 8GB SD card that you can upload various bits and pieces onto, so I’ve put the ISOs for memtest86+ v4.20, ESX 4.1 update 2, and the Broadcom drivers on there all as separate CDs:

Before putting the server live I’ll let memtest86+ run for a few days to check/soak test the RAM. To install ESX 4.1 you tick the box in the “Attached” column (see above), click the Apply button, and boot the server, pressing F11 to enter the boot menu, choose the BIOS boot menu when you get the option, and then you’ll see your ESX CD image listed by its name, ESX412 in my case.

When the ESX installer asks if you want to add any extra drivers you say yes, untick the Attach box in the iDRAC for ESX ISO and attach the Broadcom ESX driver CD ISO instead. Keep this attached until the ESX installer asks you to insert its CD, then reverse the process (de-attach the Broadcom driver CD and attach the ESX one again).

The Emulex LPe12002-E 8Gb HBA card did have a driver built in to ESX 4.1.

Update: I think I’ve found an ESX 4.1 driver CD for the onboard Broadcom 57800 2 x 10Gb DA/SFP+ plus 2 x 1GB BT network daughter card, ifconfig now lists four MAC addresses starting with D4:AE:52 which is Dell.

Update II: If you are using ESXi 4.1 or ESXi 5.0 go to the Dell support downloads page for the R720 and pick ESXi 4.1 or 5.0 as the operating system. Within the Enterprise Solutions section you’ll find a custom ISO that’ll allow you to install ESXi including all the appropriate drivers. Note that Dell Server Assistant agents ect are NOT included, it’s only drivers. See http://support.euro.dell.com/support/edocs/software/eslvmwre for more info.

Update III: If your vCenter server is already upgraded to 5.0 but your hosts are still running 4.1 and you have a suitable Intel CPU (e.g. my R720 servers have the E5-2690) you’ll get the option of setting your cluster EVC mode to Sandy Bridge. However, ESX(i) 4.1 doesn’t support Sandy Bridge, so any VMs that your power up on these hosts will only show as Westmere. Upgrade to ESXi 5.0 to get Sandy Bridge.

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5 Responses to VMware ESX 4.1 install onto Dell R720 via iDRAC 7 Enterprise

  1. Mxx says:

    Did you install using dell customized VMware-VMvisor-InstallerCD-4.1_Update2-502767.x86_64-DellCustomized_A00.iso through its lifecycle controller? I believe if you go that route, it’ll inject all the necessary drivers.


  2. Dave says:

    do you have a link for the ESX 4.1 U2?


  3. rcmtech says:

    Had assumed that was what the link from Mxx was pointing to, but having just clicked it it’s for ESXi – I think the clue is actually in the filename, VMvisor seems to equal ESXi. I’ve not been able to find a customised ESX 4.1 for Dell, and tech support just told me that one doesn’t exist and that you have to get the extra drivers separately.


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