Deploying an ESXi scripted installation aka Kickstart running within a VM (Nested ESXi) has a number of benefits, especially for testing and development purposes. This was something I did regularly as a customer, especially with new releases of ESXi to ensure our existing automation scripts and processes continued to work before rolling out into production. ESXi kickstart itself is pretty straight forward, but the required supporting infrastructure (PXE Server, DHCP, TFTP, etc) that needs to be configured, especially for a greenfield deployment can often be challenging for new comers.
Even with an existing PXE infrastructure, it can often be difficult to configure or troubleshoot depending on your level of access which does not add any value in actually testing or automating the ESXi scripted installation process. In ESXi 7.0 Update 2, an enhancement was made to the Virtual Machine's UEFI firmware called VirtualEFI that would enable ESXi to perform an HTTP Boot given the ESXi bootloader URL and without requiring any of the traditional PXE infrastructure.
To take advantage of this new capability, you just need to have a physical server running ESXi 7.0 Update 2 and a VM that is configured with the latest vHW19 compatibility. To configure HTTP boot, you will need to add the following two VM Advanced Settings:
- networkBootProtocol – httpv4 or httpv6
- networkBootUri – HTTP URL to the ESXi bootloader (bootx64.efi)
Disclaimer: Nested ESXi and Nested Virtualization is not officially supported by VMware