Running Synology on ESXi

A couple of weeks ago my long time friend Synology DS411J+ decided to die, almost 5 years old. Unfortunately Synology only offers 2 years support, so my probably fried mainboard will go into the waste bin together with it’s brother Synology DS410J. I guess the reason for it’s death is corrosion because I live only 50 meters from the beach.

So I reached out to my friends on Twitter trying to find an replacement. People clearly love Synology like I do, but XPEnology caught my attention.

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So XPEnology is a software that let’s you run Synology DSM on non-Synology hardware, that being physical or virtual. I use my Synology for Nakivo Backup, ISO, Media and Movies so I’m fine being without the data for a couple of months (will pick up a new at Citrix Synergy 2016 – half the price of Brasil).

Last year I picked up 4x WD Red 2TB NAS Hard Disk which I’m going to re-use in a Synology DS415+ which are certified for the major hypervisors.

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Until then I do need a NAS to store my stuff so I decided to spin up XPEnology on my ESXi hosted on the SuperServer. I’ve plenty of old 1 and 2 TB SATA drives laying around.

What’s super cool about the SuperServer is the 4 hot-swap bays at the front. So I just smacked in 2 new drives, one for Nakivo Backup and the other for XPEnology.

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XPENology Installation

First you need to download the XPEnoboot 5.2-5644.5 DS3615xs VMDK and the DSM_5.2-5644 PAT file from here.

Create a new VM as Linux – Other 2.6 x Linux (64-bit).

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Use VMXNET 3 and use the default 16 GB disk (you’ll delete that soon).

Now upload the VMDK file to the folder of the VM you created.

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Edit the VM and delete the default 16 GB disk and add an existing disk.

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Set the boot disk as Non-Persistent, this is VERY important.

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Delete CD-Rom and Floppy from the VM config.

Finally create a new disk that will store your data through Synology. Set is to Thick Provision Eager Zeroed. Please be aware that this can take a long time to complete.

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Now Start the VM and connect to http://IPADR:5000

Select Configure or whatever your language shows.

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Now select manual installation.

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And browse to the PAT file.

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When it’s finished you’ll see something like this, but don’t worry, that’s the reason we set the disk to Non-Persistent. Simply reboot your VM.

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Login with admin and configure your virtual Synology DiskStation. It’s so easy that I’m not going to waste more of your time. Just make sure you download and install the Open-VM-tools.

5 Responses to Running Synology on ESXi

  1. Hi Eric,
    Glad you took my advice.

    There are multiple ways of presenting the storage to the XPEnology VM but I personally like having the disks presented either in Rad RDM or using pass-through for the RAID card (if you have one)

    In this way, at any time, you can make a disk “transplant” from XPEnology VM to a real Synology box. Unfortunately, SMART functions will not work.
    Fortunately, SMART will work if you use a RAID card and present it to ESXi.


        • Do you say that XPEnology is 10x faster than Synology? That being running on dedicated hardware with RAID controller and a faster system in terms of memory and CPU? Any performance tests to prove the results?

    • Do you have a kb article you reference for configuring HBA pass-through (VM Direct)?

      I have built a couple Micro servers with RDM links that work great. Now I am trying to build an HP GEN8 Micro server and pass a HP P420 HBA to the Guest OS ‘Xpenology’. The HBA enables and can be added to VM but doesn’t post or display connected drives once powered on

      Any help greatly appreciated.

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