[ESXi] Create virtual machine from OVF / OVA template using web client

Besides creating virtual machines by installing the operating system from ISO, ESXi also supports creating virtual machines from the available OVF / OVA format template files. The virtual machine will be ready to go in just a few seconds, no more installation time from scratch. By using the web client, you can easily create a new virtual machine from the OVF / OVA file, which contains the virtual machine configuration, disk images, and other relevant information.

1. What is OVF/OVA?

Open Virtualization Format (OVF) is a standard format used to package (package) file components related to a virtual host VM. A complete OVF system for virtual machines includes the following files:

  • Descriptor file (.ovf) : this is a file format XML contains the parameters of the virtual machine such as the name, hardware components, related files, etc.
  • Virtual Machine Disk Files (.vmdk or .vhd) : operating system data resides on virtual hard drives with the format VMDK.
  • Manifest File (.mf) and Certificate File (.cert): data authentication file & digital certificate, not required.

Open Virtualization Application/Appliance (OVA) is a single file format that contains all of the files listed above OVF. Can be considered OVA is a file Compress the entire file data of the folder OVF into a single file with the format extension .ova.

OVF / OVA is compatible with all virtualization platforms today: ESXi, Proxmox, Hyper-V, XCP-ng, VirtualBox, etc.

Here’s how to create a virtual machine from an OVF / OVA Template using a web client. There is one more way using ovftool that will be shared later.

2. Download the OVF / OVA file to your computer

You can download the OVF / OVA file from the Internet, for example, download the OVA of Ubuntu 20.04 here: Ubuntu 20.04 LTS (Focal Fossa) Daily Build [20220707].

You can also export data from an existing virtual machine into OVF/OVA format and use it to create a virtual machine on another ESXi host.

I choose to download the OVA file of DD-WRT here: dd-wrt virtual appliance ova (casler.org) for an illustrative example.

3. Create virtual machine from OVA Template

Log in to the ESXi Web client, click Create / Register VM to create a new virtual machine

Select Deploy a virtual machine from an OVF or OVA file

Name the virtual machine and select the OVA file from the computer. If using OVF format, you need to select 2 files: *.ovf and *.vmdk.

Select datastore to save the new virtual machine

Select Network, Disk Provisioning: Thick (or Thin if you want to save hard drive)

Review the information and click Finish to confirm

ESXi will upload the OVA file from the computer to the system. Completion time depends on the size of the OVA file. The OVA file of DD-WRT is only about 80MB, so it only takes 5 seconds to finish.

DD-WRT virtual machine has been created successfully on ESXi.

Hope you are succesful.

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