Intel does not preconfigure SMBios information for their NUCs. When you install VMware ESXi, Manufacturer and Model information in the Summary tab are missing. Intel provides a tool for system integrators that allows customizing the BIOS.
Intel's 7th Gen NUC is currently rolled out and after a resolved issue with the NIC driver, it's time to take a look at their capabilities as homeserver running VMware ESXi. NUCs are not officially supported by VMware but they are very widespread in many homlabs or test environments. They are small, silent, transportable and have a very low power consumption, making it a great server for your homelab. I've posted a preview of the new models about 2 months ago. Gen7 NUCs are available with i3, i5 and i7 CPU.
I've received reports that the ESXi 6.5 and ESXi 6.0 installer fails to load on the latest 7th Gen NUCs:
The main issue is that the I219-V NIC is not recognized, so the installer fails with the well known "No Network Adapters" error message. Today I managed to get my hands on a NUC7i3BNH to narrow down the issue. By now I've not managed to get the embedded Network Adapter to work. A workaround with a USB-based NIC is possible.
[Update 2017-02-25 - A fix is available]
In vSphere 6.5 the smallest supported memory configuration for the vCenter Server Appliance has been raised from 8GB to 10GB. The smallest "Tiny" deployment size allows up to 10 ESXi Hosts and 100 Virtual Machines. Resources in Homelabs are limited and you might want to lower the memory consumption of the vCenter Servcer Appliance. This article explains how to lower the resource consumption to be able to lower the memory to about 6GB without noticable impacts.
The 7th Generation of my favorite Homelab systems are ready to be launched and the shipping is expected to start in Q1 2017. Intel NUCs are small, silent, transportable and have a very low power consumption, making it a perfect system for labs or as a home server. Intel has put its latest Kaby Lake mobile CPU into the mini system.
Intel NUCs were never officially supported by VMware but they have a great community support. Their 4th, 5th and 6th Generations are proven in many home labs or even for demonstrating Virtual SAN deployments.
Home labs are great to study, extend your knowledge and try out new features. Of course, the hardware is also useful to be used for other purposes like file servers, home automation, media streaming servers and so on.
There are some features to be considered for any type of deployment at home to have a better control and maybe to save some money.
In ESXi 6.5, there are some changes concerning devices connected with USB. The legacy drivers, including xhci, ehci-hcd, usb-uhci, and usb-storage have been replaced with a single USB driver named vmkusb. The new driver has some implications if you are trying to use USB devices like USB sticks or external hard disks as VMFS formatted datastore.
Some people have reported that they have issues with USB Datastores since ESXi 6.5. I've tried to reproduce and fix those problems. This post explains the changes in the new version and how to create VMFS 5 or VMFS6 formatted USB devices as datastore on your ESXi host.