Monday, May 11, 2020

VMs not Powering On in Nested ESXi Running on vSphere 7.0 and Options for Nested Lab

After upgrading physical home lab to vSphere 7.0, I've tried to power on the VMs in my nested environment to prepare a demo for an upcoming VMUG meeting. However, I couldn't get any VM to start in the nested ESXi 7.0 running on top of a physical ESXi 7.0. What actually happened is the nested ESXi host crashed.

I found out the following article  warning about this issue affecting an entire family of CPU's - Intel Skylake. My home lab runs Intel Coffe Lake CPUs on gen 8 Intel NUC's and it seems they are affected too.  It does not affect older CPU's as it is the case with my Ivy Bridge i5. Bottom line, until a patch or fix comes into main stream vSphere 7.0, you won't be able to power on a VMs in a nested ESXi 7.0 running on top of an ESXi 7.0. The rest of functionality is there and working.

I had to do my demo using the physical vSphere 7 and later come back to the lab to find a workaround. I found out there are two options that actually work at the moment:

  • option 1 - physical ESXi 7.0 running nested ESXi 6.7
  • option 2 - physical ESXi 6.7 running nested ESXi 7.0
Keeping the physical ESXi on 7.0 and downgrading nested 6.7 may seem the simpler path unless your use case is to test the new features and products. You could do it with the physical hosts, but that means to run all your tests on the base ESXi's and it could lead to partial or full lab rebuild. This approach invalidates the idea of having a nested lab. So now you are left with option 2: temporarily downgrade physical ESXi to 6.7. My use case requires to power on nested VMs, so option 2 is my choice.

I keep the physical lab on a very simple configuration with the purpose of being able to easily rebuild (reconfigure) the hosts. Before going to downgrade, a few aspects need to be considered:
  • are any VMs upgraded to the latest virtual hardware (version 17) - those VMs will not work on vSphere 6.7
  • cleanup vCenter Server: remove hosts from clusters and from vCenter Server inventory. Reusing the same hardware will cause datastore conflict if a cleanup is not done.
  • how the actual downgrade will take place (pressing Shift+R at boot start will not find any older install even it was an upgrade from 6.7)
  • hostnames and IP addresses

Having all this in mind, I embarked on the journey of fresh ESXi 6.7 installs that will allow to run nested ESXi 7.0. 





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