Installing VMWare GSX Server

In the first article in this series, you learned about some of the key concepts and theories of virtual computing. With the basics now sorted, it’s time to get on to the fun part – working with virtualization software. In this article, we’re going to install one of the most popular options out there – VMWare’s GSX Server.

As this is probably your first installation of the GSX Server (and because in future articles we’ll be creating virtual machines and playing with them), I believe you might want to install GSX Server on a test computer, not a production one…

GSX Server uses the second approach to virtualization, discussed in my last article. Specifically, this means that it is installed as a normal application on top of an underlying operating system referred to as the “host” system.

Therefore, the first step of the installation process is to decide which operating system you are going to use as your host system. You can install GSX Server on a host machine running any version of Windows 2000 or Windows Server 2003, and even on Linux systems. For the purpose of this article, we’ll install GSX Server on a computer running Windows Server 2003 Enterprise Edition.

The hardware requirements for the host machine are relatively easy to fulfill. You need an x86-based machine with up to 32 processors and between 512MB and 64GB of RAM. Each processor has to be at least a Pentium II (or an AMD Athlon processor), and run at 733Mhz or faster. You should also have at least 130 MB (Windows), or 20MB (Linux) of free hard drive space for the server, and 1GB of space available for each virtual machine.

Downloading the appropriate files from Vmware

The next step is to download the GSX Server software from the VMWare Web site. On the download page of VMWare, scroll down to VMWare GSX Server 3.1, and choose either “Evaluate,” (to download the evaluation version), or “Download” to purchase the program (Figure 1).

According to VMWare, the only limitation of the evaluation version is time-related: it expires after one month.

Figure 1: WMware Download page

Next, choose the appropriate version for your host operating system – for the sake of this article, Windows. The download page for Windows VMWare offers three different installer files: the server, the Windows client package, and the Linux client package (Figure 2). The server will allow you to install GSX server and to access it either interactively through the console, or (eventually) remotely through the Web Management Interface. The client packages will allow you to install remote administration consoles on other computers running either Windows, or Linux.

Figure 2: VMware download page for Windows

Download the installer files you need, according to the operating system running on your host machine, and on the workstations you want to use for remote access. For example, I intend to use exclusively Windows clients for remote access, so I would download the server (currently VMware-gsx-server-installer-3.1.0-9089.exe), and the Windows client package (currently

Starting the Installation

Double click on the Master installer to start the installation of the Server. The Master installer extracts the installation files, and starts the installation wizard (Figure 3).

Figure 3: GSX Server Installation wizard

Click Next, accept the End User License Agreement (EULA), and click Next again (Figure 4).

Figure 4: VMware End User License Agreement (EULA)

On the next screen, you are asked to choose between a Complete installation, and a Custom one. (Figure 5).

Figure 5: Choose installation type

For a first installation, it is usually safer to choose the “Complete” option. However, for the time being, we want to choose the Custom option because it will allow us to see the different features that will be installed by the wizard, their sizes, and their uses.

Exploring the Features of the Master Install

Select Custom instead of Complete, and click Next. The Custom Setup Window shows the different features included in the GSX Server Master Installer: two Server features, and two client features. Clicking on a feature highlights its name in the left part of the window. At the same time, a fast description of the feature, and the amount of storage required for its installation appear in the right part of the window. (Figure 6).

Figure 6: Custom Setup Window

The first Server feature is the VMWare GSX Server itself. This feature requires only 47Mb of storage space, and is the only one really needed to create and configure virtual machines if you want to access it exclusively through the local console.

The second Server feature is the Web Management Interface that allows users to manage the virtual machines from a browser. This feature needs 23 MB of hard disk space, and requires that IIS, and either the Netscape Navigator 7.0, or the Mozilla 1.x browser be installed on the host machine to function.

The two client features are scripting tools that use either Perl or COM for remote management of the virtual machines. They require 14 MB, and 2932 KB of hard disk space respectively.

The Custom Setup Window also has two additional options to allow users to customize their installation. The Browse button allows the user to install GSX Server on any volume of the physical machine (Figure 7).

Figure 7: Install on any volume of the physical machine

The Space button (at the bottom of the Window between Help and Back), checks each volume on the physical machine to see whether they have enough disk space available to install the features selected, and shows the results of this check in a different window (Figure 8).

Figure 8: Checking disk space

Finally, a red cross in the icon on the left of a feature indicates that it will not be installed. At the same time, the feature description in the right part of the window will indicate that the feature requires 0Kb of storage (Figure 9).

Figure 9: Management Interface will not be installed

To include the feature in the Custom install, just click the icon, and choose the white rectangle with the picture of a disk. Clicking on the Help button will show you the icons corresponding to each available install state (Figure 10).

Figure 10: Custom Setup Help

Finishing the GSX Server Installation Process

Now that you have explored the four different features that will be installed by the wizard, their sizes, and their uses, click on Back. This will bring you back to the previous window, where you will select Complete instead of Custom, and click on Next to continue the installation.

If Internet Information Services (IIS) is not installed on your system at this point, the wizard will give you the choice between exiting the wizard, installing IIS and restarting the installation, or installing GSX Server without the Web–based Management Interface (Figure 11).

Figure 11: IIS is not installed on the physical machine

Now, you are currently installing GSX Server for learning and testing purposes, not for production purposes. So if you get this alert, I suggest you exit the setup, install IIS on the physical machine, restart the setup, and redo the previous steps until you see the Setup Type window shown back in Figure 5.

If IIS is installed, clicking Next will take you a window where you’ll be given the opportunity to change the directory in which GSX Server will be installed. The default directory is C:\program Files\VMWare, and each feature is installed in its own subdirectory:

Server feature: C:\Program Files\VMware\VMware GSX Server
Management Interface: C:\Program Files\VMware\VMware Management Interface
COM scripting tool: C:\Program Files\VMware\VMwareVmCOM Scripting API
Perl scripting tool: C:\Program Files\VMware\VMwareVmPerl Scripting API

Accept the default values, or pick the directory of your choice on a local drive and click Next. You’ll be given a last chance to change the choices you have made up to this point (Figure 12).

Figure 12: Last chance to make changes in the installation settings

If you want to make any changes, click the Back button until you reach the screen corresponding to the changes you want to make. Make your changes, and then redo all the steps until you come back to the window shown in Figure 12.

Once you’re satisfied with the selected settings, click Install. The installer generates the scripts, searches for previous installations of the application, and installs the different elements of the software.

If the CD-ROM Autorun feature is enabled on your host machine, the Installer will ask you if you want to disable it (Figure 13). Personally, I prefer to disable it because I find that it can create inconveniences when several virtual machines are running at the same time.

Figure 13: Disable the CD-ROM Autorun feature of the host machine

Note, however, that if you click Yes the feature will only be disabled after you reboot the host machine.

Whether you click Yes or No, the Installer will continue its work until it finishes the installation. At this point, you will see two new icons on your desktop: one named VMWare Virtual Machine Console, and one named VMWare GSX Server Console. You will also see the final window of the Master Installer (Figure 14).

Figure 14: Final window of the Master Installer

Click Finish to complete the installation. If prompted to reboot the host machine, do so. You have completed the installation of VMWare GSX Server on your host machine. Congratulations!

This finalizes this second article in this series on virtualization. I hope you had more fun with this one than with the first one. With the installation business out of the way, things will only get better from this point forward.