Build Custom ESXi 5.5 ISO using PowerCLI


Here at work we are about to embark on a complete redesign of our virtual infrastructure from the ground up. As I’ve mentioned before with our IOPs issues with View, we went from PoC to Production without scaling all resources evenly. So starting from scratch means redoing everything, all the way down to standardizing ESXi ISO images. I have been attending vBrownBag’s (Professional VMware#AutomateAllThings  video session about how automation can help with everyday tasks to overhauling your environment.

Why not automate the creation of ESXi images for my various clusters? Great idea since each cluster has different NIC’s, Drivers, Graphics Cards, etc. so let’s throw all of my VIB’s into my image as opposed to doing it manually like I did during my vSGA evaluation.

To start you will need a few things to get started:

  • Vanilla ZIP instance of ESXi 5.5
  • All VIB’s that you want to load into your image
  • PowerCLI 5.5
  • MS PowerShell v2 (Running Windows 7 or 8 it will be installed)
  • Free Space on your Computer (kinda obvious but you never know!)

Now that we have everything let’s assume you have already installed PowerShell and PowerCLI on your workstation and are ready to start, if you haven’t here are some helpful links to aid you in installing those packages. Install PowerShell. Install PowerCLI. You probably received a prompt during the installation of PowerCLI talking about execution policy issues may arise, fear not we will take care of that right now. Navigate to your Start Menu or Desktop and locate the PowerShell icon, right click and select “Run as Administrator”. When PowerShell opens, run the following command:

Set-ExecutionPolicy RemoteSigned

Your screen should look something similar to this:

Screen Shot 2014-03-26 at 3.42.03 PM

You can close PowerShell since the remainder of the work will be done in PowerCLI, run PowerCLI (always run CLI as administrator) and you should see this:

Screen Shot 2014-03-26 at 3.43.29 PM

First let’s create a small folder structure to organize our custom ISO’s, me personally I am going to be building 3 ISO’s for three separate cluster configurations. I also wrote my scripts in Notebook++ so I can look at the individual lines for each function.

Screen Shot 2014-03-26 at 3.46.30 PM

Here is the framework for the script that I will run:

Get-PSSnapin -Name VMware.ImageBuilder

Add-EsxSoftwareDepot C:\ESXi_Depot\

Add-EsxSoftwareDepot C:\ESXi_Depot\Server_Cluster\

Add-EsxSoftwareDepot C:\ESXi_Depot\Server_Cluster\

Add-EsxSoftwareDepot C:\ESXi_Depot\Server_Cluster\

Get-EsxImageProfile | Format-Table -AutoSize

New-EsxImageProfile -CloneProfile ESXi-5.5.0-1331820-standard -Name ESXi-5.5.0.ServerCluster.Customised -AcceptanceLevel PartnerSupported

Export-EsxImageProfile -ImageProfile ESXi-5.5.0.ServerCluster.Customised -ExportToIso -FilePath C:\ESXi_Depot\BOXX_Cluster\ESXi-5.5.0.ServerCluster.Customised.iso

Let’s go through each step of this process and explain what each function does.

Get-PSSnapin -Name VMware.ImageBuilder

Get-PSSnapin is the call function to bring VMware Image Builder into PowerCLI if you don’t have it already loaded in your instance of PowerCLI you will need to run this command.

Add-PSSnapin VMware.ImageBuilder

Add-EsxSoftwareDepot is the call to add my ESXi image (ZIP format) and then all of my VIB’s to my image, each VIB requires a separate line.  After you run this command you will get a spit of like this:

Screen Shot 2014-03-27 at 10.46.46 AM

Once you have added all of your VIB’s to the depot then we need to look at the actual ESXi image we introduced to the image builder and determine which profile we want to use, that is the intent of the Get-EsxImageProfile function. You will get a table of the profiles to choose from:

Screen Shot 2014-03-27 at 10.51.07 AM

Next we use the New-EsxImageProfile to clone the profile and name it what we want!

Screen Shot 2014-03-27 at 1.16.28 PM

Finally we run the Export-EsxImageProfile function to compile our depot of VIB’s to produce our custom ESXi ISO as shown here:

Screen Shot 2014-03-27 at 1.18.27 PM

Now I have my custom image that I can load to my hosts when I do my complete virtual infrastructure redesign.

Big thanks to for his article on VMware Image Builder and Alan Renouf on getting PowerCLI setup.


Horizon View 5.3.1 is here with VSAN support!

Now that VSAN has become GA (General Availability) it makes sense that VMware will start pushing updates of it’s software offerings with VSAN support, Horizon View is no different!

What’s New in Horizon View 5.3.1

  • Requires vSphere 5.5.0 Update 1 or newer
  • Support for VSAN
  • 100 VM’s per Host using VSAN

Below is a list of links for all the vPieces to make your View VSAN environment come alive (some links require My VMware account to access):

vSphere and vCenter 5.5.0 Update 1

ESXi 5.5.0 Update 1

ESXi 5.5.0 Update 1 Readme

vSphere Client 5.5.0 Update 1

vCenter Server 5.5.0 Update 1 – Windows Instance

vCenter Server 5.5.0 Update 1 – Virtual Appliance

Horizon View 5.3.1 Feature Pack 1

Remote Experience Agent for 32-bit desktops

Remote Experience Agent for 64-bit desktops

HTML Access Web Portal installer

GPO bundle file

What’s Next?

I will be releasing my complete walkthrough of Horizon View 5.3 so stay tuned!

March DFW VMUG Mtg Wrap Up

Last Friday, the DFW VMUG hosted their latest meeting, held at Studio Movie Grille in Lewisville some of the best and brightest minds that play with VMware everyday were in attendance. PernixData and Arista gave some great presentations on their offerings and yours truly got an opportunity to share with the members about how our company is using Horizon View to take the desktop experience to the next level with SSD’s and virtualized graphics. If that wasn’t enough excitement, we got an opening day viewing of 300: Rise of an Empire (go see it now!)


IMAG1556If you’ve haven’t been living under a rock then you’ve probably heard about this company called PernixData. Having vCelebrities like Frank Denneman doesn’t hurt but their solution to inadequate IOPS is making serious waves in the shared/converged storage market. We were fortunate enough to have Poojan Kumar, the CEO, in attendance and gave a great presentation into how Pernix got started, the value it can bring to any datacenter and where the company is going.

View in Construction

IMAG1559Scott Lowe challenged several members of the VMUG community to become mentors to the next generation of VMware Admins and guide them into presenting at VMUG’s. Tommy Trudgen and Brad Christian have been kind enough to dedicate a portion of their time to working with me on presenting at the DFW VMUG. I wasn’t expecting to present this early, a fellow VMUG member had a family emergency and I filled in for him, but why not talk about the stuff that I love playing with everyday….Horizon View and cool technology! I described my struggles with storage, successes with vSGA and some cool stuff we are playing with like Google Glasses and drone helicopters.


IMAG1560I had heard of Arista but didn’t quite know what they were doing these days. Arista Networks is the maker of several Software Defined Networking switches. Darrin Thompson gave an informative presentation on how Arista works with NSX and the upcoming standards of 10/40/100 Gigabit ethernet protocols. I was really impressed with the Extensible Operating System (EOS) that sits as a VM and manages the entire fabric, the concept of having one fabric versus isolated fabrics for switching and storage was new to me also. Arista is designed for larger environments but it’s benefits can be seen to smaller companies as well.

What’s Next for DFW VMUG?

The next quarterly meeting will be held in Ft Worth, with more information to come.

If you are in the DFW area and haven’t had a chance to make it out to a VMUG you owe it to yourself and your career to network with peers and learn about some awesome products, not to mention there is free swag and activities while you are there.

For more information about DFW VMUG visit the website, Google+ or Twitter.