VMware Homeserver – ESXi on 4th Gen Intel NUC

Whether you want to build a vSphere Home Lab for testing or a Home Server, basic requirements are the same: decent price, good performance and low power consumption. The Intel NUC (Next Unit of Computing) family has grown to the 4th generation, including some great enhancements for ESXi Hosts. Definitely the best enhancement is that Intel has added a SATA port to the board, that allows to use more than a single mSATA SSD.

intel-nuc-4th-gen

Intel NUC Systems are available as system board only and with a chassis. The 4th Generation NUC is available with 3 type of CPUs: Celeron, i3 and a i5. You can choose between a chassis with, or without 2.5″ drive support.

Available Models (Kit / Kit with 2,5″ Slot / Board only):

  • D54250WYK / D54250WYKH / D54250WYB: Intel Core i5-4250U (up to 2x 2.60 GHz)
  • D34010WYK / D34010WYKH / D34010WYB: Intel Core i3-4010U (2x 1.7 GHz)

Review

Features

The Kits are shipped with:

intel-nuc-components

  • Chassis
  • System board
  • Processor (soldered)
  • 19V, 65W power adapter
  • Power cord (Type B, E, G, or no cord)
  • VESA Bracket

To get an ESXi Host installed you need:

  • Memory (SO-DIMM DDR3)
  • mSATA SSD, 2,5″ HDD or USB-Stick

Model comparison

D54250WYK D54250WYKH D54250WYB D34010WYK D34010WYKH D34010WYB DN2820FYKH
(No ESXi support)
Form factor UCFF
Processor Core i5-4250U Core i3-4010U Celeron N2820
Clock Speed 1.3 GHz (2.6 max) 1.7 GHz 2.4 GHz
Cores 2 2 2
HT YES YES NO
Max Memory 16 GB 16 GB 16 GB
Network 1x 1Gb Ethernet 1x 1Gb Ethernet 1x 1Gb Ethernet
Ports 4x USB 3.0
2x USB 2.0 (int.)
1x SATA
4x USB 3.0
2x USB 2.0 (int.)
1x SATA
1x USB 3.0
2x USB 2.0
Intel VT-d YES YES NO
VT-x with EPT YES YES YES
AES YES YES NO
TDP 15 W 15 W 7,5 W

intel-nuc-guide

HCL and ESXi 5.x Support

All Intel NUC systems have hardware support for virtualization and a 64-bit capable CPU. Therefore it should be compatible to VMware ESX. SATA and Network drivers are not included in the ESXi Base Image, so you have to create a customized Image. This is very easy with ESXi-Customizer by v-front.de:

This article explains how to create a customized Image for ESXi more detailed.

To clarify, the system is not supported by VMware (No HCL entry), so do not use this System in a productive environment. As a home lab, or a small home server it should be fine.

Tested ESXi Versions

  • VMware ESXi 4.1
  • VMware ESXi 5.0
  • VMware ESXi 5.1
  • VMware ESXi 5.5

Delivery and assembly

The NUC is shipped in well designed box. The Box contains a short description how to open and assemble the components. The system is a little bit heavier than it looks and has a high build quality. The upside is scratch-sensitive, so be careful with it.

To assemble the memory, you have to remove 4 screws on the bottom. The assembly is really quick, it took about 5 Minutes to open it, install the memory/SSD modules, and close it. The 2.5″ enabled version also allows to fit a 2.5 hard disk into it.

intel-nuc-4th-gen-with-2.5-slot

Setup

To install the NUC you need an external USB CD drive. Create a customized ESXi ISO and use the USB CD drive to install the NUC. When you have the proper drivers installed, the installation should succeed without problems. I would recommend to install ESXi on an USB Stick. That allows to use the SSD and HDD for VMware vSphere features like VSAN.ESXi-on-Intel-NUC

Power consumption

Due to its Haswell technology, the power consumption is very low:

Idle: 5-10W
Peak: 25W

With that, the average operating costs are at about 3-4 Euros per month:
20 watt * 24 h * 30 (days) = 12,96 KWh * 0,25 (EUR) = 3,24 EUR
Consumption measured with Voltcraft Energy Monitor 3000

Intel NUC Gen 3 vs. Intel NUC Gen 4

Intel’s 4th Generation NUC leverages the Haswell technology.

+ Lower Power Consumption
+ SATA Port
+ Chassis with 2,5″ drive support
+ Additional USB 3.0 slots
- no vPRO Technology (i5 only)

Shopping Guide

1.

Chassis

intel-nuc-4th-gen-100px

D54250WYK (Core i5)
D54250WYKH (Core i5 with 2.5″ slot)
D34010WYK (Core i3)
D34010WYKH (Core i3 with 2.5″ slot)

 2.

Memory

nuc-sodimm

Crucial 16GB Kit (2x 8GB) DDR3 1600 MHz

Samsung 8GB (PC3L-12800) DDR3L 1.35V 

 3.

 SSD

nuc-ssd

Crucial m4 64GB mSATA SSD

Crucial m4 128GB mSATA

 4.

 2.5″ HDD

25inch-hdd

2.5″ Hard Disk Drive List

 5.

USB Stick
nuc-usbstick

SanDisk Cruzer Fit 8gb

Leave a comment ?

48 Comments.

  1. Great write up, do you know if any of these have multiple nics and can they run ESXi5.5.

    Will be taking my vcap this year and will need some of these for a home lab.

    • None of them have multiple NICs. Testing Failover and vSwtich configuration for VCAP can be done with Virtual ESXi Hosts very nice.

  2. All of those mSATA SSD links on Amazon are ridiculously overpriced.

    NewEgg has a legit Mushkin 64GB with free shipping for $69:

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820226369

  3. Intel says that the Celeron version has already been released, but I can’t find it in any stores. I’ve read other places that they’re going to release it this quarter. Do you know more?

  4. Bloody Nokia Adept

    ML, I know it sounds weird but that’s true — DN2820 has being released in Czech Republic and Slovakia, two small countries in the Central Europe. The price is some around $160. Find more details at https://www.google.com.ua/search?q=Intel+DN2820 :wink:

  5. Hi

    Power consumption including hard disk measured? Running with Virtual Server?

  6. can you run (2) disks at the same time on the new model? (one mSATA & one SSD)?

  7. In the model comparison AES says NO for D34010WYKH but the CPU is thought to be Core i3-4010U and that one

    http://ark.intel.com/de/products/75107

    states it HAS AES-NI. Since I’m planning to buy one – could you verify this?

  8. Super post! What 16GB memory kit did you use?

  9. Anyone had any luck with a dn2820fykh. I get the stuck relocating modules with unmodified modules and a blank screen just after that with the .vib s put in.

  10. I have the same Problem like Mick with the dn2820fykh. Installation stops with “relocating modules…” after import Realtek Drivers from here: http://www.bussink.ch/?p=1228

  11. Hi,

    Does USB (USB3) passthrough work for the guest system? I’d like to use D54250WYKH at least for pfsense firewall and NAS storage. For the NAS I would need to use propably USB attached hard drives.

    • yes passthrought working

      • Just to clarify, passthrough of individual USB devices connected to the host does work, but runs fairly slow (a USB3 hard drive copied a 10G file of zero’s at 35MB/sec).

        However, passthrough of the USB 3.0 controller to a VM does NOT work. The passthrough screen only shows the internal USB 2.0 EHCI controller (which does passthrough fine), and doesn’t mention the USB 3.0 XHCI controller anywhere. Hopefully 5.5 Update 2 or 6.0 or whatever the next one is will add support for it.

        • So the external usb ports are of no great use for the VM’s?

          Running ESXi 5.5U1 on a D54250WYK (usb stick boot with mSSD as local datastore) I tried to add a usb controller to a VM but could not get a connected usb device (1TB usb harddisk) added. I thought about a small NAS VM with attached usb harddisk to make nfs shares available.
          Looks like I have to wait…

  12. I’m having the same issue as Mick and Domi. I have a 2820 (Celeron kit) w/4G and a single 2.5″ spinning SATA drive.

    I tried the custom build with the link to the two vibs you referenced, but it didn’t seem to make any difference (still hung at “Relocating Modules”).

    I found another post that said to add the option to “ignoreHeadless=TRUE”, but it still hung.

    When I rolled back to ESXi 5.1U1, it would go past the “Relocating Modules” but only to a black screen.

    Any help/advice would be greatly welcomed and appreciated.

  13. Is there any way at all of running a NUC with more than one NIC installed?

    Is it possible to use USB or mini-PCIe?

    Thanks!

    • I have not tried a mini-PCIe to NIC card.
      You can’t use a USB-NIC in ESXi. You can use usb passthrough to use the device inside a virtual machine probably.

  14. Hi fgrehl,

    For D34010WYKH, can you try if the vtd works for HDMI? Can a vm get the HDMI output (video and audio)?

  15. I have a D34010WYK with an Crucial M500 msata ssd. When i install esxi i cannot select this drive.

    I loaded a general sata ahci .vib, i enabled ahci in bios.

    Can anyone help me with this problem?

  16. Installer VMware Vsphere 5.5 sur un NUC | Pense-Bête - pingback on March 19, 2014 at 6:31 pm
  17. Hello, I have this running but I cannot get my Thunderbolt Ethernet Adapter to work with the vghetto-apple-thunderbolder-ethernet.vib although, it works fine with my mac mini. If anyone can solve this problem and allow me to use two nics on my NUC, I would buy you some beer :)

  18. Hello,

    thank you for this guide. I am now a proud owner of esxi 5.5 on Intel NUC 4th gen with the i5-4250U.

    One thing i do not understand is the summary tab in esxi displays 2 processors each @ 1,895 Ghz. While the base frequency of the proc is at 1.3 Ghz and with turbo boost reaches 2.6 Ghz, i do not understand how the 1.895 value shows up.
    Does this mean the proc is capped at 1895 Mhz ? If so, how to fix this? Do i need to disable power saving and speedstep in bios?

    thank you!

  19. i don’t undrstand the ctrl+p for enable kvm amt function into D54250WYKH not working? please help me.

  20. “Crucial 16GB Kit (2x 8GB) DDR3 1600 MHz” link a wrong memory because NUC series 4 need 1,35 Volt Sodimm ! :evil:

  21. Thanks so much because that is awesome post. I only wants to clarify that the nuc celeron model 2820 seems dont have vt-d technology (like i3 and i5 models have) and cannot do passtrougth devices to vm´s. Can anyone confirm that testing on real life ?.
    Sorry about my english ! :oops:

  22. My Intel NUC D34010WYKH arrived today. Thanks for the posts.I have Erik Bussink style Shuttle XH61Vs for the heavy duty VMs but needed small ESXi hosts for the homelab ‘production cluster’ so i3 should be fine.
    Have also used http://itq.nl/shoebox-size-datacenter-hardware/ as inspiration. Just need some work on a case to accommodate the JetWay mini-pcie dual NICs now.

  23. NO vPRO on the I5 version of the intel nuc 4 gen!!!

    based on this site i got the I5 version but in gen4 nucs they no longer have vpro AMT ;-(

    chip cpu on intel page and see

  24. Home Lab for 2014 - pingback on May 7, 2014 at 5:54 am
  25. I install the esxi 5.5u1 to INTEL nuc with PXE BOOT

  26. FYI – I was able to install ESXi 6.0 Beta on my 4th gen NUC (D34010WYK) without injecting any drivers; it recognized the nic AND my Patriot Pyro M3 mSATA disk right out of the box. Still doesn’t seem to recognize the Intel 7260 WLAN card though, but then I’ve never tried to use wireless on an ESXi server. Is it even supposed to work?

  27. Thank you for this great Guide. The disadvantage on the nuc is – only 1 nic. To Test Cluster functions it is Not enough.

    Alternatives are

    http://www.startech.com/Networking-IO/Adapter-Cards/USB-3-to-Dual-Port-Gigabit-Ethernet-Adapter-NIC-with-USB-Port~USB32000SPT#dnlds

    Does anyone know it can work with vmware esx?

    Are there drivers available?

    • Unfortunately this is not possible. An USB NIC is not supported by ESXi.
      With usb passthrough you can use the NIC inside a virtual machine, but the ESXi can’t use it due to missing drivers.

    • There are NIC adapters on Mini PCI Express that should work, the downside is that you have to make a way out of the NUC, to actually connect an ethernet cable.

  28. Okay, maybe you should point out that not a single release of ESXi works on the DN2820FYKH :sad:

  29. The following NIC add,s 2x1Gb NIC to the NUC. You can work the cable on bottom of the unit. Use this link for install and driver insert
    http://trainingrevolution.wordpress.com/2013/12/30/installing-vsphere-esxi-5-5-on-an-intel-nuc-d54250wyk/

    mSATA Dual Intel NIC
    http://www.picco.nl/catalog/product_info.php/manufacturers_id/15/products_id/5185

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