Mac Pro 6,1 rack environment running VMware ESXi 5.5 (with Fiber connectivity to VNX)

With the recently addition of Mac Pro 6,1 to VMware’s hardware compatibility I was eager to replace our exiting old Power Mac G5 towers in our environment.
Prerequisites:

  1. Mac Pro bios version MP61.88Z.0116.B05.1402141115
If your Mac Pro has an older boot ROM then just upgrade the Mac Pro to Yosemite (OS X 10.10) which contains the update to be applied to the Mac Pro.
  1. vSphere 5.5 P03 is required
Currently the latest version of ESXi available on VMware download is only 5.5 update 2 so you have to include the required patch version onto the update 2 ISO.  To do this perform the following steps:


  • Download the latest ESXi 5.5 Update 2 Driver rollup
  •  Download the offline bundle for ESXi Update 2 patch 3
  • Next you need to convert the offline bundle zip file into an ISO file to be placed on bootable USB stick.  To do this I used the VMware Image Builder which is available as part of PowerCLI.
    • After you installed PowerCli open the application
    • Change to folder location where zip file resides
    • Run command to add the offline bundle: 
      • ‘add-esxsoftwaredepot .\ESXi550-201412001.zip’
    • Run command to see the image profile: 
      • ‘get-esximageprofile’ 
    • Select the ESXi-5.5.0-20141204001-standard which include VMware tools and security patches.
      • Run Command:  
        • ‘New-EsxImageProfile -CloneProfile “ESXi-5.5.0-20141204001-standard” -name “ESXi55u2-P03-MACPRO” -Vendor MACPRO66’
    • Now you can create the ISO file with running command:
      • ‘Export-EsxImageProfile -ImageProfile “ESXi55u2-p03-MACPRO” -ExportToISO -filepath H:\VMware-ESXi-5.5u2-P03-MACPRO.iso’
    • This file can now be places on a bootable USB.
      • I use Universal-USB-installer or UnetBootin to place the ISO on the USB.
  • Boot ISO from MAC
    • press and hold the “ALT” key on keyboard to boot the USB. 
  • Rest is the same basic installation as with any regular Intel based server
Here is a list of all the hardware items used to in our environment:
  • Sonnet xMac Pro rackmount enclosure.
    • This the most valuable piece of equipment and I highly recommend this if you planning on placing your Mac Pro’s in a server rack. 
    • Comes with 3 x PCIe slots available through thunderbolt which provide 20Gbps throughput and flexibility which is unmatched and can now add extra network and even Fiber connections for storage.
    • Do yourself the favor and check them out:
    • UPDATE:
  • APPLE Mac Pro 6,1  
    • 12GB memory
    • Intel Xeon CPU E5-2697 v2 @ 2.70GHz
    • only purchase small memory size to be replaced with Transcend
  • Transcend 128GB Kit for Mac Pro
  • Intel I350-T4
    • 4 port network card.  We actually have two card installed in Sonnet.
    • This card is VMware compatible but not Sonnet however it works great without issues
  • 1 x Atto Celerity FC-81EN Fiber Channel adapter
  • APC AP7731
      • Since there are no dual power supplies on Mac Pro we purchased this APC switched rack PDU which takes two single-phase 220V drops and can switch power if you have a failure on one of over This provides redundancy even though you only have one cable.  However if the power adapter fails on hardware you are out of luck. 
Some gotchas experienced:
– We tried to run the updates for ESXi through VMware update manager and this caused the onboard NICs on Mac Pro to not be recognized anymore.  Re-installed the old version to resolve this.  Current build is 2302651
– To add storage on VNX a rescan does not seem to work so we had to restart the Mac Pro in order to pick up the LUNs.
– We initially installed all the PCI cards and then installed ESXi.  This cause the network cards numbering to go out of whack.  What we had to do was remove all the cards and power on ESXi and let it complete the startup.  Then shutdown and add a single PCI card  and power on again, Do this one at a time in order you want starting from bottom.    Should fix the network port order.
UPDATE:  created a new blog to show how within vCloud Director to run a MAC OS X and Windows VMs within the same vAPP

http://virtualrealization.blogspot.com/2015/04/vcloud-director-running-mac-os-x-and.html

Here are some photos of our build:

Started installation

ESXi installed and ready for use

Internal and external casing

Internal casing housing the Mac Pro

work bench

rear of Sonnett chassis. very nice

Mac Pro housing

More Mac Pro housing

Mac Pro ready to be installed

Now for some pictures in the rack:
APC PDU

Rear of Rack

Front of Rack..so nice and clean!

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