Thursday, March 14, 2019

How to transfer large ISO files to ESXi Datastore with USB disk?

I'm participating in one VMware virtualization PoC and we had a need to transfer large ISO file to VMFS datastore on standalone ESXi host. Normally you would upload ISO files over the network but PoC network was only 100Mbps so we would like to use USB disk to transfer ISOs to ESXi host.

There is William Lam blog post "Copying files from a USB (FAT32 or NTFS) device to ESXi" describing how you can use USB with FAT or NTFS filesystem to transfer ISOs but it did not work for me, therefore I wanted to use VMFS filesystem for ISO files transfer. I have VMware Fusion on my MacOSX laptop so it is very easy to spin up VM with ESXi 6.7 and have network access (local within a laptop) to ESXi. I use USB stick connected to the laptop and passed through to VM with ESXi. USB disk is recognized by ESXi but the only challenge is to create VMFS datastore because web management (HTML5 Client) does not allow create new VMFS datastore on USB disks.

Som, the only way is to create it from the command line.

By the way, all credits go to the blog post "Creating A VMFS Datastore On A USB Drive" and here is a quick installation procedure based on the mentioned blog post.

STOP USB Arbitrator

/etc/init.d/usbarbitrator status
/etc/init.d/usbarbitrator stop
/etc/init.d/usbarbitrator status

Find USB disk name

vdq -q
esxcfg-scsidevs -l

echo $MYDISK

Create 10GB VMFS datastore on USB disk

partedUtil getptbl $MYDISK
partedUtil mklabel $MYDISK gpt
partedUtil showGuids
partedUtil setptbl $MYDISK gpt "1 2048 20000000 AA31E02A400F11DB9590000C2911D1B8 0"
vmkfstools -C vmfs6 -S E2USB-ISO-Datastore ${MYDISK}:1

So datastore E2USB-ISO-Datastore is created and you can use upload ISO files to datastore and it goes over the virtual network within laptop computer so it is pretty fast.

Datastore usage on real ESXi host

When ISO files are on USB datastore, you can gracefully shutdown virtual ESXi, remove USB disk from a laptop and connect it to physical ESXi system. USB Arbitrator on physical ESXi system must be temporarily disabled by command ...

/etc/init.d/usbarbitrator stop 

... otherwise, the disk would not be usable within ESXi host as a USB device would be ready for USB passthrough, which you do not want in this particular case. After data transfer to non USB datastore, you can remove USB disk and start USB arbitrator ...

/etc/init.d/usbarbitrator start 

Hope this procedure helps at least one other person in VMware virtual community.

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