With the upcoming release of vSphere 7.0 Update 1 and specifically ESXi 7.0 Update 1, support for the onboard NIC of the Intel NUC 10 (Frost Canyon) is now included and the community ne1000 VIB driver is no longer needed. If you had previously installed the community driver, you can uninstall the VIB after successfully upgrading to ESXi 7.0 Update 1.
The popular USB Native Driver Fling for ESXi has just been updated to version 1.6 and is one of our larger releases.
Here are some of the key new features, for complete list, please refer to the Changelog tab on the Fling site.
- Support for 4 additional USB NICs including the highly requested RTL8156 which is a 2.5GbE USB NIC and can be found on Amazon for as low as $25 USD. For more details, please refer to Requirements tab on the Fling site.
- Support for persisting VMkernel to USB NIC MAC Address mappings which was an issue when using multiple USB NICs. Upon reboot, ESXi may randomize the mappings which can cause issues. For more details on this feature, please refer to the Instructions tab on the Fling site.
- Simplified method for persisting USB NIC bindings. For more details, please refer to the Instructions tab on the Fling site.
For Intel NUC 10 (Frost Canyon) owners who have installed ESXi may have noticed that even after disabling Intel's Trusted Platform Module (TPM), the following warning message "TPM 2.0 device detected but a connection cannot be established." is still being displayed in the vSphere UI as shown in the screenshot below.
Thanks to Reddit member mscaff and casperette who recently discovered and confirmed that the latest BIOS (FN0044) resolves an issue where disabling TPM in the BIOS was not actually working which would explain the behavior observed above. The really interesting thing is that I had initially ran into this problem several months back and after speaking with some internal VMware folks, I was able to get rid of this message without this update. This involved installing Windows 10 and clear the TPM keys which may have still been cache but since then, it has not been reproducible by other folks. In any case, it is always recommended to check and update to latest BIOS to ensure you have all the latest bug fixes.
Lastly, Intel states support for TPM 2.0 for these NUCs, so why is ESXi complaining? Well, it has to do with the interface type and not with SHA1 vs SHA256 which are both supported on the NUC 10. The NUC only supports CRB but proper compliant TPM 2.0 chip must support FIFO which is not configurable the last time I had checked. For more detail requirements and configuration of TPM 2.0 on ESXi, please refer to this blog post.
When it comes to selecting a platform for a vSphere Homelab, there are many options which include building your own "whitebox" system. For the large majority of folks, the preference is to purchase a ready to use kit such as an Intel NUC or Supermicro which both extremely popular. These systems not only work well but their form factor is also ideal for home offices where space is always at a premium.
With that said, there are many other small form factor (SFF) platforms that exists out in the market and not just Intel-based systems, but also AMD SFF kits which are being introduced and have been getting many inquiries about. As someone who keeps a close eye on this market for new and interesting platforms, I have been re(sharing) some of these new updates on Twitter.
Although Twitter is great way to share and discuss news, it is not the best place to consolidate this type of information that can easily be searched. This was one the motivation for putting together this post for both informational awareness but also something that can be updated over time. This was certainly a challenge when asked about other SFF options, especially in the AMD space where I was not able to easily point folks to. Below is a collection of SFF for both Intel and AMD that I have come across, some of which are currently being used for vSphere Homelabs and others having the potential given their specification. In addition, I suspect many of the kits below which report 32GB of memory as their max should be able to go up 64GB as I have shown in the past with NUC platform.
If folks have other SFF kits they would like to share or confirm that works with latest versions of vSphere, feel free to leave a comment which can help others in the VMware Community.
As many of you know, the onboard Intel NIC (8086:0d4f) found in the 10th generation of the Intel NUC (Frost Canyon) is not automatically recognized by ESXi and requires an updated ne1000 VIB which was released earlier this year. An unfortunate side affect after patching or upgrading an ESXi host which contains this modified ne1000 VIB is that it will be replaced by a newer version of the VIB and causes the NIC to no longer be recognized again.
A quick workaround is to simply re-install the modified ne1000 VIB and network connectivity will be restored which is less than ideal. A new vSphere Image Profile can also be created that contains both the patch/upgrade you intend to apply along with the modified ne1000 VIB, ensuring that you remove the newer version which may not be ideal as well. In speaking with Songtao, a VMware Engineer who I worked with on the USB Network Native Driver for ESXi, about this issue and he came up with a very simple solution. Lets choose a different name for the VIB module which removes all the complexity mentioned above. This solution would allow for both drivers to coexists and more importantly, it is persistent across patching and upgrades of ESXi.
My homelab is a constant experiment and hardware components are moved around for various testing, especially when it comes to networking and storage. When needing to move around an M.2 NVMe SSD, complexity of taking apart a system will vary on the platform but generally it is inconvenience. When I came to learn that Icy Dock, a manufacturer of storage enclosures, will be releasing a removable M.2 NVMe SSD tray that is connected to PCIe expansion slot, I knew I had to get my hands on it.
The good folks over at Icy Dock were kind enough to send me an early evaluational unit of the upcoming MB840M2P-B which is now available for $69.
will be released in August and should retail for around $80 USD (final prices are still TBD). The use case above may not apply to most folks and is probably unique to my specific hardware usage but I think this is still a very interesting solution that is still useful to be aware of if you are your own homelab whitebox and have a spare PCIe slot. Icy Dock also produces many other types of storage enclosures that you might find interesting based your own needs.
For my setup, I installed the MB840M2P-B into my Intel NUC 9 Pro, which is definitely not easy to take apart. This is especially true for the two M.2 which is attached to the NUC Element but even more painful to get to the 3rd M.2 which is located under the baseboard. For my specific use case, this was well worth using up one of the PCIe slots on the NUC 9 Pro! This enclosure can also be added to the new 2019 Mac Pro which is another platform that Icy Dock sees benefiting from this solution.