Although there has not been any news in some time regarding the support for ESXi on the latest Apple Mac Mini 2018 and the recently released Apple Mac Pro 2019, there has definitely been work happening behind the scenes at VMware. Today, I would like to share a pretty significant update as a result of some of these efforts.
One of the biggest issue which I had observed when using a T2-based Apple system with ESXi is that it would fail to boot a MacOS Guest and just keep rebooting the VM. I am very happy to announce that this issue has been resolved and ESXi can now properly recognize the Apple System Management Controller (SMC) device which is used as part of the MacOS Guest start up process. This now means a MacOS Guest will be able to properly boot on a T2-based Apple system.
Another impact of a T2-based Apple system with ESXi is that storage and networking devices connected to the Thunderbolt 3 ports are not visible. I am also happy to announce that this issue has been resolved and ESXi can now see PCIe devices that are attached to the Thunderbolt 3 ports.
An ESXi Advanced Setting change is required for Thunderbolt 3 to work correctly and the following command will need to be executed after installing ESXi:
esxcli system settings kernel set -s pciExperimentalFlags -v 16
Once the setting has been applied, a system reboot will be required and your PCIe devices will show up properly. In future, this additional configuration may not be required and can be detected based on the underlying hardware.
Both of the fixes mentioned above are included in the latest ESXi 6.7 Patch 02 (ESXi670-202004002) release which is available today! Hopefully this was the news that many of you have been waiting for 😀
UPDATE (06/25/20) - The Apple 2018 Mac Mini 8,1 is now officially on the VMware HCL and is fully supported with ESXi 7.0b, which contains the fixes mentioned above. See note below on 06/23 for more information.
UPDATE (06/23/20) - ESXi 7.0b has just been released and contains fixes for both the MacOS guest boot issue support for Thunderbolt 3 devices which now enables support for the vSphere 7 release. One additional enhancement, customers no longer need to configure the ESXi Advanced Setting to enable Thunderbolt 3 support, this is now automatically configured based on detecting an Apple hardware system such as an Apple Mac Mini 2018 or Apple Mac Pro 2019. This is a patch release and you will need to go to the VMware Patch Portal site to download and apply the update.
Now, before you rush out to start deploying MacOS Guests on either the Mac Mini or Mac Pro, I do have to mention that neither the Mac Mini 2018 or the Mac Pro 2019 will be officially supported by VMware. Due to the current situation that we are all in with COVID-19, personnel access to VMware facilities like many other organizations has been severely restricted and/or prohibited. In fact, much of the early validation was done by yours truly using a Mac Mini 2018 which I had access to (Thanks Michael Roy) as Engineering did not have access to hardware during the shelter in place orders. This also means that certifications of these platforms is still on-going and until these systems are officially listed on VMware's HCL, they will not be officially supported by VMware.
Disclaimer: VMware currently does not officially support the Apple 2019 Mac Pro7,1
Here is screenshot of a MacOS 10.15 (Catalina) VM running on a Mac Mini 8,1 (2018) with NVMe storage provided over Thunderbolt 3
- The local Apple NVMe SSD is still not recognized by ESXi. A USB device should be used to boot and install ESXi
- External storage using either Thunderbolt 3 and/or network based storage such as NFS or iSCSI should be used for VM storage
- Mac Pro and Mac Mini with 10GbE networking will still require a driver. Marvell (formally Aquantia) has also just released an official Native ESXi Driver for their AQtion based network adapter which you can find here (driver supported with both 6.7 and 7.0)
Fixes mentioned above will also be available in a future update of vSphere 7.0. vSphere 7 is now supported as of 06/23/20