Double-Check the HCL

I wrote some time back about networking problems with a clean install of ESX 3.5 U3 on a HP DL380 G3 server in a lab environment.  A simple downgrade to ESX 3.5 RTM corrected the issue and I didn’t think much about it.  One of the servers in the lab died and I went about the business of rebuilding it.  Having learned my lesson, I started with an ESX 3.5 RTM install and then patched to Update 3 plus other applicable updates.  Much to my chagrin, the server began crapping out on me randomly.  Some reboots, some networking issues, and other assorted not so good things.  Now the DL380 G3 is not the spring chicken it used to be, so I assumed some faulty hardware was probably to blame.  Some diagnostics and log reviews yielded no hardware issues.

On a whim, I decided to check the VMware HCL to see if the DL380 G3 was still on the list of compatible servers for ESX.  Now, I had checked, or rather ‘remembered’ checking, the HCL before that first problematic install, but a recheck never hurts.  When I arrived at the VMware HCL page I saw the same old trusty PDF link with a slightly newer revision date than my previous visit.  I was pleasantly surprised when I clicked the PDF link to find that I was redirected to a searchable, filterable forms-based version of the HCL.  Nice!  Let’s do this thing….

I’m a little lazy, so I simply used a keyword search to look up ‘DL380 G3’.  Presto-chango: I’ve got results, and I like what I see:

Search Results for DL380 G3 on the VMware HCL

Search Results for DL380 G3 on the VMware HCL

My eyes jump right to ESX 3.5 – Supported, on my platform, no further questions your honor.  Close the old browser window and move on with my life, my life being troubleshooting this darn server.

A few hours later I am still struggling with the server and turn to Ebay for salvation.  “If you can’t beat em, cheat em,” my grandfather used to say.  I’ll find new hardware for my lab.  I identified some other hunk of junk that just might work and decided to check the HCL for it.  That’s when it jumped out at me: there are Update versions included in the HCL and I had been to quick to see it on my DL380 G3 search.  Back to the HCL.

This time I just do a search for ‘DL380’, leaving off the Generational notation and get the following:

Search Results for DL380 from the VMware HCL

Search Results for DL380 from the VMware HCL

The ProLiant DL380 G5 with Quad-core Intel Xeon processors lists ESX 3.5 U3, ESX 3.5 U2, and ESX 3.5 U1 as supported releases, along with the RTM ESX 3.5.  The Update versions are not listed for the G3 or G4.  After some self-deprecating curses and a reinstall of ESX 3.5 Update-nada, stability returned.

The lesson learned, double-check the HCL (or if you are a little slow like me, a triple-check doesn’t hurt).  The HCL is major version and Update-revision sensitive.  And, not all models are treated equally.  You’ll notice in the picture to the left that the DL380 G5 has different supported releases depending on the CPU Model.

Also, keep in mind that you need to verify that all components of your VMware infrastructure are on the HCL from Servers and Systems to IO Devices, and Storage/SAN.  The VMware HCL site offers some basic tips for searching here: http://www.vmware.com/resources/compatibility/help.php.

Here’s the real take-away: The VMware HCL is there for a reason.  Sure, you might be able to get something that is not on the HCL to work, but you may experience instability along the way.  In the event that you are running a non-HCL system you may also find that VMware Support may be limited in what they can do for you.

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  1. […] in 2006 when we were still working with ESX 2.x, but the same appears to be true of ESX 3.5 RTM (Updates are not supported on this hardware per the HCL).  The changes you must make to BIOS […]

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