ESXi on a Google Search Appliance

So, you’ve got an old Google Search Appliance lying around? Why not turn it into an ESXi Server. The first thing you’re going to need to do is reset he password on the BIOS so that you can change the boot order. The easiest way to do this is to open the chassis and remove the jumper labeled PWRD_EN. The jumper is located just behind the memory towards the rear of the server. The next time you boot you can hit F2 to get into the BIOS.

With the BIOS now open, set the option to boot from the front or rear USB ports depending on your preference. You’re going to want to flash the BIOS with a newer, non-branded one. A Google appliance is just a Dell PowerEdge 2950 with a yellow coat of paint and a snazzy front bezel. Head over to Dell Support and download the latest BIOS (2.7.0) as of this writing. Note, you will want to download the Non-Packaged format for DOS bootable media. Also, you will want to grab a copy of Rufus so you can make a DOS bootable USB drive. Once your bootable USB drive has been created with Rufus, copy the Dell BIOS update to the root of the USB drive.

Next, you will plug your bootable USB into one of the front or rear USB ports (whichever you specified above) and boot from USB. Once your server has booted to the DOS prompt. Run the following command:

PE2950-020700C.exe /forcetype

Note that if you don’t use the /forcetype switch you will receive the following error message: Dell PowerEdge 2950 BIOS cannot be applied to a Google Enterprise Search Appliance. Once the BIOS is applied remove the USB drive, reboot into setup and enable visualization support and then install ESXi.

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1 thought on “ESXi on a Google Search Appliance

  1. Brilliant, just brilliant.
    The one thing I had to Google around extra for had to do with getting my USB drive to be recognized by the device. I am used to IBM pizza box servers where you can set the order to check devices for booting, rather than just choosing devices that are available. Turns out that I had to have the USB plugged in first, and then it sees it and there is no problem.
    Also, I’m glad that you specifically mentioned to enable virtualization technology, because that is another thing I would not have figured out by myself.
    My GSA was actually a Dell PowerEdge R710, but since you posted a link to the Dell support site, I was actually just able to enter my asset tag #, which is displayed right in the BIOS, and it gave me everything I needed for me! It couldn’t have been any easier.

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