VMware vSphere 4.0 on a Dell 2850 Irvandale CPU. I can’t believe it!

We are in the process of readying an old Dell 2850 for a DR CO-LO site. Before I send it out, I wanted to test it’s limitations so when we upgrade to a 64 bit guest OS or want to run the newest version of ESX we don’t find out by surprise that it won’t work. I know our server won’t run a 64 bit guest. That’s a given. Despite that I wanted to see if I could leverage ESX 4.0’s new feature set.

So step one was to install a DVD iso to a server with a CD optical drive. The easiest way I found is to use a 1Gb USB stick.

Here are the instructions I used to download esx-DVD-4.0.0-164009.iso a 797mb iso and copy it to a USB stick.
http://jthomasser.wordpress.com/2009/08/10/install-esx-4-from-usb-using-unetbootin/

Once your media is ready you will need to change your Dell 2850 to boot to USB. I had to look it up. Here are the instructions.
http://www.planetmy.com/blog/how-to-configure-dell-server-bios-boot-from-usb/

Once you boot to the USB it’s a “click next” install to ESX 4.0 running on a DEll 2850.

I’m running bios A4.

Original Dell Part number:

XD360 Processor, 80546K, 2.8G, 2M, Xeon Irwindale, 800, N0

Here are the CPU specs that worked.

Intel(R) Processor Identification Utility
Version: 3.8.20080505
Number of processors in system: 1
Current processor: #1
Cores per processor: 1
Disabled cores per processor: 0
Processor Name: Intel(R) Xeon(TM) CPU 2.80GHz
Type: 0
Family: F
Model: 4
Stepping: 3
Revision: 5
Maximum CPUID Level: 5
L1 Trace Cache: 12 Kµops
L1 Data Cache: 16 KB
L2 Cache: 2 MB
L3 Cache: None
Packaging: 604 pin µPGA
EIST: No
MMX(TM): Yes
SSE: Yes
SSE2: Yes
SSE3: Yes
SSE4: No
Enhanced Halt State: Yes
Execute Disable Bit: Yes
Hyper-Threading Technology: Yes
Intel(R) 64 Architecture: Yes
Intel(R) Virtualization Technology: No
Expected Processor Frequency: 2.80 GHz
Reported Processor Frequency: 2.80 GHz
Expected System Bus Frequency: 800 MHz
Reported System Bus Frequency: 800 MHz
*************************************************************

All Credit to the Authors of the above links.

Ben T.

Roger’s Take:

I find this Interesting because the Server is not on compatibility list, it has Older hardware, wont run a 64 guest, but it runs vSphere. None of my 64bit IBM Servers that book a 64bit OS will run vSphere.

Written by Roger Lund

VMware and Storage crazy man, vExpert, MN VMUG leader