ESXi on 8th Gen Intel NUC (Coffee Lake - Bean Canyon)

Intel's Coffee Lake-based 8th Gen Bean Canyon NUC is an ideal candidate for running VMware ESXi. NUCs are not officially supported by VMware but they are very widespread in many homelabs or test environments. They are small, silent, transportable and have very low power consumption, making it a great server for your homelab. The Bean Canyon is available with i3, i5, and i7 CPU. It's the first series where the i5 is also equipped with a Quad-Core CPU, so both - the i5 and i7 - are ideal candidates for ESXi.

  • NUC8i7BEH/NUC8i7BEK (Intel Core i7-8559U - 4 Core, up to 4.5 GHz)
  • NUC8i5BEH/NUC8i5BEK (Intel Core i5-8259U - 4 Core, up to 3.8 GHz)
  • NUC8i3BEH/NUC8i3BEK (Intel Core i3-8109U - 2 Core, up to 3.6 GHz)

Features

  • 8th Gen Intel Coffee Lake CPU
  • 64GB of DDR4 SO-DIMM memory (32GB are supported, but 64GB works without problems)
  • Available with and without 2.5″ HDD slot
  • M.2 slot for PCIe or X4 Gen 3 NVMe
  • External Micro SDXC Slot
  • Intel I219-V Gigabit Network Adapter
  • Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C)
  • USB 3.1 Gen2
  • Intel Optane Memory Ready

Comparison with predecessor (Baby Canyon)

  • Quad-Core CPU in i5 and i7 models
  • Uniform TDP (28W)
  • i3 models with Thunderbolt 3 support

To get an ESXi Host installed you additionally need:

  • Memory (1.2V DDR4-2400 SODIMM)
  • M.2 SSD (22×42 or 22×80), 2.5″ HDD or USB-Stick

Model comparison

Model (2.5") NUC8i7BEH NUC8i5BEH NUC8i3BEH
no 2.5" Slot NUC8i7BEK NUC8i5BEK NUC8i3BEK
Architecture Coffee Lake (14 nm)
CPU Intel Core i7-8559U Intel Core i5-8259U Intel Core i3-8109U
Base Frequency 2.7 GHz 2.3 GHz 3.0 GHz
Max Frequency 4.5 GHz 3.8 GHz 3.6 GHz
Cores 4 (8 Threads) 2 (4 Threads)
TDP 28 W
TDP-down 20 W
Memory Type 2x 260-pin 1.2 V DDR4 2400 MHz SO-DIMM
Max Memory 64 GB (32 GB officially supported)
USB Ports 2x USB 3.1 Gen2 (front panel)
3x USB 3.1 Gen2 (back panel)
2x USB 2.0 (internal header)
Thunderbolt 3 Port (40Gbps) Yes Yes Yes
USB 3.1 Gen 2 Port (10Gbps) Yes Yes Yes
Storage M.2 22x42/80 slot for SATA3 or PCIe X4 Gen3 NVMe OR AHCI SSD
SATA3 2.5" HDD/SDD
SDXC Slot
LAN Intel I219-V Gigabit LAN
Intel VT-x Yes
Intel vPro No
Available Q3 2018 Q3 2018 Q3 2018
Price $600 $450 $320


HCL and VMware ESXi Support

Intel NUCs are not supported by VMware and not listed in the HCL. Not supported means that you can't open Service Requests with VMware when you have a problem. It does not state that it won't work. Some components used in the NUC are listed in the IO Devices HCL.

ESXi runs out of the box starting with the following releases:

  • ESXi 6.5 Update 2 (Build 8294253) released in May 2018
  • ESXi 6.7 Update 1 (Build 10302608) released in October 2018

To clarify, the system is not supported by VMware, so do not use this system in a productive environment. I can not guarantee that it will work stable. As a home lab or a small home server, it should be fine.

Network (Intel I219-V) - "No Network Adapters" Error
The network adapter does not work out of the box with ESXi versions prior to 6.7u1 or 6.5u2. If you need older ESXi versions to work you have to inject the ne1000 driver manually to the installer image (ESXi 6.5: 0.8.3-7vmw.650.2.50.8294253 / ESXi 6.7: 0.8.4-1vmw.670.1.28.10302608).

SD Card
8th Gen NUCs are equipped with a Micro SDXC Slot. Unfortunately, there is no driver available for ESXi at the moment so it's not possible to use the SD Card slot.

Tested ESXi Versions

  • VMware ESXi 6.5 U2
  • VMware ESXi 6.5 U3
  • VMware ESXi 6.7 U1
  • VMware ESXi 6.7 U2
  • VMware ESXi 6.7 U3

Delivery and assembly

The Box contains a short description of 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 very scratch-sensitive, so be careful with it.

The installation is very simple. Remove 4 screws on the bottom and remove the lid and the 2.5" drive holder. The assembly takes about 5 minutes to open the NUC, install memory, NVMe SSD module and a 2.5" drive.

Installation

No customization is required to install ESXi 6.5U2 / ESXi 6.7U1 or later on the 8th Gen Bean Canyon NUC. I recommend to use the latest image provided by VMware to Install ESXi:

The simplest way to install ESXi is by using the ISO and Rufus to create a bootable ESXi Installer USB Flash Drive. If you don't have access to ESXi Binaries you can sign up for a free version.

There is a problem with the ESXi installer when UEFI boot is enabled. To work around the issue, configure the NUC to boot in legacy mode. This step is required for the installation only and can be changed back after.

  1. Power on the NUC
  2. Press F2 to enter BIOS
  3. Disable Secure Boot (Advanced -> Boot -> Secure Boot)
  4. Enable Legacy Boot (Boot Order > Legacy > Legacy Boot)
  5. Press F10 to save and exit

Now you should be able to proceed with the ESXi installation. The installer might seem to be stuck for about 2 minutes at "nfs4client failed to load", just be patient. When the installation is finished you can disable Legacy Boot.

Warning: If you've installed ESXi to an NVMe drive, you have to disable Legacy boot as NVMe can only boot with UEFI.

Performance

The performance of a single NUC is sufficient to run a small home lab including a vCenter Server and 3 ESXi hosts. It's a great system to take along for demonstration purposes. The i7 is even faster than the Hades Canyon and the i5 is, thanks to its quad-core CPU, on a par.

The following chart is a comparison based on the NUCs PassMark score:

Power consumption

NUCs have very low power consumption. The NUC8i7BEH with an M.2 NVMe draws about 25W. With that, the average operating costs are at about 5-6 Euros per month:
25 watt * 24 h * 30 (days) = 18 KWh * 0,30 (EUR) = 5,40 EUR
Consumption measured with Homematic HM-ES-PMSw1

Shopping Guide

1.

NUC Kit

NUC8i7BEH

NUC8i5BEH

NUC8i3BEH

 2.

Memory

nuc-sodimm

1.2 V DDR4 SO-DIMM

Samsung 32 GB Module

 3.

M.2 SSD

M.2 SSD List

 4.

 2.5" HDD

25inch-hdd

2.5" Hard Disk Drive List

 5.

USB Stick
nuc-usbstick

USB Flash Drive

  1. hi
    I also use this as homelab
    it's great

    Have you encountered this problem?
    smartd: [warn] t10.NVMe____Samsung_SSD_970_EVO_Plus_250GB__________505FB19157382500: REALLOCATED SECTOR CT below threshold (0 < 90)

    esxcli storage core device smart get -d t10.NVMe____Samsung_SSD_970_EVO_Plus_250GB__________505FB19157382500
    Parameter Value Threshold Worst
    ---------------------------- ----- --------- -----
    Health Status OK N/A N/A
    Media Wearout Indicator N/A N/A N/A
    Write Error Count N/A N/A N/A
    Read Error Count N/A N/A N/A
    Power-on Hours 4158 N/A N/A
    Power Cycle Count 31 N/A N/A
    Reallocated Sector Count 0 90 N/A
    Raw Read Error Rate N/A N/A N/A
    Drive Temperature 35 85 N/A
    Driver Rated Max Temperature N/A N/A N/A
    Write Sectors TOT Count N/A N/A N/A
    Read Sectors TOT Count N/A N/A N/A
    Initial Bad Block Count N/A N/A N/A

    • Your SSD has a problem. Can you check smart stats with this command? (This Will tell you TBW):

      # esxcli nvme device log smart get -A vmhba0

  2. While the micro SDXC reader may not be detected by ESXi, it is possible to passthrough the reader to a guest VM.

  3. I have recently got hold of a Hades Canyon and installed esxi 6.7, installed bios 58.

    Only one network adapter (vmnic1) has a status of connected, the 2nd adapter (vmnic0) is showing as 'notconnected' I have reversed cables to rule out a cabling issue. The Nic lights are flashing green at both ends. I have attached the esxi 'configure management network' menu screenshot and also a the view from the esxi client which permanently shows link down.

    Can anyone advise on possible issue and next troubleshooting steps please?

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