A very quick post on how to create an image that contains vSphere 5 ESXi Embedded with which you can use to quickly create USB sticks that have the ESXi hypervisor installed. This is not the same as creating a bootable USB key that contains the installation files to install ESXi from the USB stick. For this method please refer to this post.
Use this in your lab environment, I wouldn’t recommend doing this in production environments.
In previous versions of vSphere ESXi, it was relatively straight forward to create a bootable USB key which already contained the ESXi hypervizor. This was done by extracting the files from the ISO and then using ‘dd’ to image the directory structure to the USB stick. With vSphere ESXi 5 however, this technique is no longer possible. There is a workaround however. ESXi is installed and configured in two steps, the installation is done to a disk with a vanilla installation of ESXi without configuration. The server is then rebooted and the configuration of ESXi continues with the creation of the management network vmk0 or vmk1 (depending on your setup), hostname, DNS etc.
For this to work, we do not perform the second part, which is the configuration, but take an image of the USB key directly after the installation of the vanilla installation of ESXi without configuration. This enables us to image this vanilla installation onto as many USB sticks, i.e., servers as we like without clashes in virtual MAC addresses and the like.
What you will need: VMware Workstation, 1 USB stick, the ESXi Installable ISO file VMware-VMvisor-Installer-5.0.0-469512.x86_64.iso, WinImage.
Once the stick is ready, just insert into a spare USB port on your server and ESXi will boot into the configuration screen ready for you to configure management network details.
You may need to log onto the local console once ESXi has finished booting and launch the ‘Restore Network Settings’. This will reset the vmk0 or vmk1 (depending on your setup) interface.