Setting Up a Nested ESXi Environment with VMware Workstation Pro

One of the many advantages of the vExpert program includes 365-day evaluation licenses for most products for home lab/cloud providers and for more information about the program, please review this blog post.

In my current home lab environment, I use older laptops that meet the minimum requirements which allow me to install, configure and test the various applications provided by the vExpert program. Years ago, my home lab environment included physical servers but they took up space in my basement and I could not justify keeping them (#HWHL). Times have changed and the form factors for the various servers have dramatically reduced in size and I’m currently considering a few options as a means to have a more permanent solution that includes more robust equipment (RAM, Storage, and Processors) to name a few. In the meantime, I will continue to use the older laptops while doing my best to integrate my Synology DS920+. For more information about this NAS and how I’ve integrated this unit into my home lab environment, please review the posts linked below for your convenience:

To begin the process of creating a nested virtual environment, please download and install VMware Workstation Pro (v16 is the current version). As I mentioned previously, my license for v16.1.0-17198959 was provided to me free of charge when I was accepted into the VMware vExpert program for 2021.

Once the file has been downloaded, you’ll then need to extract the files using 7-Zip (free and open source). Once the files have been extracted to your desired location, please proceed with the installer (VMware-workstation-full-16.1.0-17198959.exe) to install VMware Workstation Pro v16 on your Windows client. The installation process is fairly straightforward (customization is an option) but I used the default settings and then restarted my Windows client as you’re required to do so at the conclusion of the software installation.

Once the client restart is complete, please launch VMware Workstation Pro and you will be presented with the options listed below. For the purpose of this blog post, we will select ‘Create a New Virtual Machine‘. On the following window, you will be presented with two options (Typical or Custom), I defaulted to Typical for this post.

Select Browse at the New Virtual Machine Wizard window and navigate to the location where the VMware-VMvisor-Installer-7.0b-16324942.x86_64 disc image was extracted to using 7-Zip when it was downloaded from the vExpert Portal (VMware-VMvisor-Installer-7.0b-16324942.x86_64.iso.gz).

Provide a name for this new virtual machine at the Name the Virtual Machine window and save it to a desired location. At the Specify Disk Capacity window, please specify the intended hard drive space you would like to assign to this VM and how the files will be stored.

Select Customize Hardware if you would like to modify any current settings or if you would like to include any additional hardware at this point.

ESXi will begin to load after you select Close on the previous window.

Please accept the EULA (End User License Agreement) to proceed (F11). The Installer will then scan for available devices and when this is complete, please hit Enter on your keyboard to continue at the final screen.

On the following windows, you will be prompted to select your default keyboard layout (not pictured), a Root password and confirmation to install ESXi (see below).

When the installation is complete, you can Power On your new ESXi nested virtual machine in VMware Workstation Pro.

In order to log into the ESXi host, please select F2 and then enter your Root password.

In order to access the ESXi host via a web browser, please enter the IP address into the address bar.

The most important factor at this point is to apply the license key obtained from the vExpert Portal. Select Manage from the upper-left corner, then the Licensing tab followed by Assign License. Enter your license key at the Assign License pop-up window, select Check License to confirm its validity and then Assign License to assign it.

There are two very important rules as it applies to your vExpert membership:

Do not use the licenses for production and Do not share the licenses with others.

If I have missed anything or if you have any suggestions, please let me know.

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