Tuesday, November 11, 2014

CCIE v5 INE Home Lab - Part 1 - Configuring VMware ESXi

"Every day you wake up you have two options, you can either look at the clock at 3:30am, tap the snooze button, go back to sleep, and dream about being a CCIE or you can tap into that whisper inside you telling you to get up and go pursue your dream about being a CCIE" .... with that being said ....

I've spent numerous hours exploring many different options on setting up the CCIE v5 hybrid (physical/virtual) home lab and I've finally settled on VMware ESXi. Although, you have many other options like Linux/KVM/VirtualBox, this method was the easiest for me. I am going to break this topic "CCIE v5 INE Home Lab" into a 3 part series blogtorial. If you follow the series step by step, you will end up with a complete home lab with everything you need to do the INE labs.

Here is an overview of the entire series and how it will be split up.

Part 1 - How to install and configure VMware ESXi Hypervisor and vSwitch? 
Part 3 - Script to automate the loading of initial router configs.

I normally would do it for free but I have had tons of requests and questions regarding the lab setup and scripts. So for a nominal fee I will configure your entire VMWare ESXi server / all the routers / the Linux VMs / auto loading scripts. More importantly it includes an easy to use WEB GUI to load the config files. Contact me via arwinr@gmail.com if you are interested. 

Screenshot of the WEB GUI. 

Note: Thomas Kjær pointed out in one of the comments below that ESXi version 6 recently released does not limit 4 serial per Linux VM. Therefore, instead of creating 4 linux VM you could just do it all in one Linux VM, but you would have to edit the scripts accordingly. 

Part 1 Equipment list:

1 x Dell R610 with 48GB RAM, 2 x Intel 5570 processors. - Thanks to Jason C. for hooking me up with this powerful server.

First, let's acquire VMware ESXi, the license, and the USB bootdisk.
  1. Get VMware ESXi from their website and create a bootable USB disk. You will need to register and get the free license. VMware ESXi can be downloaded from http://www.vmware.com/download/
  2. I used rufus to create a bootable USB disk but you can use whatever works for you. http://rufus.akeo.ie/
  3. After creating the USB boot disk rename the file in the USB disk from isolinux.cfg to syslinux.cfg
  4. Edit the syslinux.cfg and change the line "APPEND -c boot.cfg" to "APPEND -c boot.cfg -p 1" without the quotes.
Plug the USB drive into your server and boot from it and follow the instructions on screen. This process is fairly straightforward and does not require any explanation. When it is completed, you will have a VMware ESXi baremetal server that you can connect to via its management IP. In my case, interface eth1 on my physical server was the management interface.

Connect via https://<IP> to the ESXi server, download the vSphere client and install it on your machine. This client will be used to connect to and manage the ESXi hypervisor.

Once the client is installed, let's connect to the hypervisor and finish off this blogtorial by creating a vSwitch and applying the free license. vSwitch is needed because this is where all of the virtual routers / physical switches will connect.

Connect to the ESXi Hypervisor 
Click on Inventory 
Click on Configuration and Add networking... 
Follow the instructions on the screen 
Pick the NIC that will be connecting to the physical switch SW1
Give it a name and assign 4095 for VLAN.

This step is VERY IMPORTANT (4095). 
Click Finish
Now you should have a vSwitch that we can use in Part 2 for connecting all the virtual routers.

Let's now move on to applying the license.

Stay tuned for Part 2 which is coming up this week.

Many more articles to come so ....

Please subscribe/comment/+1 if you like my posts as it keeps me motivated to write more and spread the knowledge.


  1. Great Post! Thank you. I´ll try when my server is in my lab. I´m just beginning my ccie!

  2. Just wanna ask if this Lab will work on this server Dell PowerEdge R610 Dual X5570 Quad Core 2.93Ghz 48GB RAM.