Inquiries from customers on the support for ESXi on the latest 2019 Apple Mac Pro 7,1 has slowly been trickling in since the release of the system in late December. Officially, VMware currently does not support this platform and until we have a unit in-house to investigate further, this is the official stance.
With that said, several folks from the community have reached to me and shared some of their findings as it relates to ESXi with the new Mac Pro. A huge thanks goes out to Mike Rimmer who was able to go through the installation process and identified that the on-board NICs were not automatically detected by ESXI and the installation was unable to proceed. With the extensibility of the Mac Pro, Mike was able to add a supported Intel-based NIC to the system so that we could further understand the issue.
Upon closer investigation, it looks like the new Mac Pro uses two Aquantia based 10GbE NIC which is simliar to the 2018 Mac Mini which requires the Aquantia ESXi driver which was developed earlier last year.
AQC107 NBase-T/IEEE 802.3bz Ethernet Controller [AQtion]
Vendor ID: 0x1d6a
Device ID: 0x07b1
Although Mike did not have a chance to confirm this assumption, I did get validation from another customer who made the same observation when he attempted to install ESXi and once the Aquantia ESXi driver was incorporated into the latest ESXi 6.7 Update 3 image, both on-board NICs were automatically picked up by ESXi and installation was successful.
UPDATE 1 (01/16/19) - Thanks to our Graphics team who was kind enough to loan me their 2019 Mac Pro which literally came in yesterday! I had an idea which I wanted to run an experiment on which was to add a PCIe card w/M.2 NVMe SSD and see whether or not the Apple T2 Security Chip would have any affect on whether or not ESXi would be able to see the device. I was not super optimistic but I had a need for an additional M.2 device, so I went ahead and purchased a $15 PCIe adaptor. I was pleasantly surprise to see that ESXi not only detected the device but I was able to format a local VMFS volume and power up a functional VM! I guess this makes sense as only the Apple SSD's are cryptographically tied to the T2 chip and other PCIe devices would not be and this would allow customers to take advantage of this system right now for running non-MacOS guests (yes, T2 still affects the SMC).
🔥 BOOM! 🤜🎤🔥
PCIe adaptor w/M.2 NVMe is NOT affected by the Apple T2 Chip! ESXi is able to see the device but more importantly, I was able to format local VMFS volume and power up a VM! Guess it makes sense, Apple SSD are cryptographically tied to T2#ESXiOnMacPro2019 pic.twitter.com/hod8Irckj9
— William Lam (@lamw) January 17, 2020
I also ran another experiment by connecting a Thunderbolt 3 chassis which also had a supported M.2 NVMe to see if I was going to be lucky again. Although it looks like ESXi 6.7 Update 3 has resolved the PSOD'ing issue, ESXi was not able to see anything on the other end.
Note: Secure Boot must be disabled on the Mac Pro before you can install ESXi, you can find the instructions in this Apple KB.
This was certainly some good news but like the 2018 Mac Mini, the new 2019 Mac Pro also ships with the Apple T2 Security Chip which has proved challenging for ESXi as mentioned here along with some known caveats. For now, I would hold off making any purchases of the new Mac Pro if you intend to run ESXi. VMware does officially support ESXi on the last current generation of Mac Pro 6,1 along with Mac Mini 6,2 and Mac Mini 7,1 which are all on the official VMware HCL.
I will continue to update this article as new information and findings are shared with me.