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ESXi on 12th Gen Intel NUC Pro (Wall Street Canyon)

Intel's Alder Lake-based 12th Gen "Wall Street Canyon" NUC Professional series is currently been shipped out. This article takes a deep look at their capabilities to run VMware ESXi. While VMware does not officially support NUCs, they are ubiquitous in many home labs and test environments. They are small, silent, transportable, and have very low power consumption, making them a great server for running your inexpensive home lab. The Wall Street Canyon is available with i3, i5, and i7 CPUs. The i5 and i7 versions are also available with vPro Support.

  • NUC12WSHv7 / NUC12WSKv7 (Intel Core i7-1270P vPro - 4 x up to 4.80 GHz / 8 x up to 3.50 GHz)
  • NUC12WSHv5 / NUC12WSKv5 (Intel Core i5-1250P vPro - 4 x up to 4.40 GHz / 8 x up to 3.30 GHz)
  • NUC12WSHi7 / NUC12WSKi7 (Intel Core i7-1260P - 4 x up to 4.70 GHz / 8 x up to 3.40 GHz)
  • NUC12WSHi5 / NUC12WSKi5 (Intel Core i5-1240P - 4 x up to 4.40 GHz / 8 x up to 3.30 GHz)
  • NUC12WSHi3 / NUC12WSKi3 (Intel Core i3-1220P - 2 x up to 4.40 GHz / 8 x up to 3.30 GHz)

The Wall Street Canyon is Intel's professional line from their 12th NUC Generation and the successor to the 11th Gen Tiger Canyon. This system is intended for professional use cases and has significant enhancements for your homelab running ESXi. Like the previous generation, it has an expansion bay that allows you to install a second network adapter.

Features

  • 12th Gen Alder Lake CPU
  • Intel vPro Support (v5/v7 Models)
  • TPM 2.0 (vPro Only)
  • Up to 64GB of DDR4 SO-DIMM memory
  • Available with and without a 2.5″ HDD slot
  • M.2 Slot (22x80 PCIe x4 Gen4)
  • M.2 Slot (22x42 for SSD or expansion module)
  • Intel 2.5 Gigabit Network Adapter (i225-LM)
  • Expansion bay with second 2.5 GbE NIC option
  • Two Thunderbolt ports (incl. USB 4.0)
  • Three USB 3.2 Gen2 ports
  • Qualified for 24/7 Operation
  • 19V 120W Power Supply

Comparison with predecessor (Tiger Canyon)

  • CPU with Performance and Efficient Cores (12 Cores)
  • Biggest Performance gain in a new NUC generation ever
  • No SDXC Slot

To get an ESXi Host installed you additionally need:

  • Memory (1.2V DDR4-3200 SODIMM)
  • M.2 SSD (22×80), 2.5″ HDD or USB-Stick

 

Model comparison

Tall Kit (2.5")NUC12WSHv7NUC12WSHv5NUC12WSHi7NUC12WSHi5
Slim KitNUC12WSKv7NUC12WSKv5NUC12WSKi7NUC12WSKi5
ArchitectureAlder Lake (Intel 7)
CPUIntel Core
i7-1270P vPro
Intel Core
i5-1250P vPro
Intel Core
i7-1260P
Intel Core
i5-1240P
Performance Cores4x up 4.8 GHz4x up to 4.4 GHz4x up to 4.7 GHz4x up to 4.4 GHz
Efficient Cores8x up to 3.5 GHz8x up to 3.5 GHz8x up to 3.4 GHz8x up to 335 GHz
Cores12 (16 Threads)12 (16 Threads)12 (16 Threads)12 (16 Threads)
TDP35 W
Memory Type2x 260-pin 1.2 V DDR4 3200 MHz SO-DIMM
Max Memory64 GB
ChassisLength x Width x Height
117 x 112 x 54 (Slim Kit: 37)
USB PortsFront: 2x USB 3.2 Gen2
Back: 2x USB 4 (Type-C), 1x USB 3.2, 1x USB 2.0
Internal Header: 2x USB 2.0, USB 3.2 on M.2
Thunderbolt
Ports
2x Thunderbolt 4
(Non-Lite only)
StorageM.2 22x80 (key M) for SATA3 or PCIe x4 Gen4 NVMe OR AHCI SSD
M.2 22x42 (key B) for SATA3 or PCIe x1 Gen3 NVMe OR AHCI SSD
SATA3 2.5" HDD/SDD (H only)
LANIntel I225 2.5 Gigabit LAN
2nd Intel I225 2.5 Gigabit LAN (on expansion module)
Intel VT-xYes
Intel vProYesNo
AvailableQ3 2022Q3 2022Q3 2022Q1 2021
Price$750*$560*$650*$500*

Model Types

The Wall Street Canyon NUC is available with 5 different CPUs. Each version is available in different configurations. The following table explains the various options:

Example: NUC12WSHv70L

TypeExampleDescription
NUC GenNUC1212th Generation Intel NUC
FamilyWS2-letter NUC Family Code
WS - Wall Street Canyon
Form FactorHNUC form factor:
B - Board only
K - Slim Kit
H - Tall Kit (System with 2.5" drive bay)
CPUv7Processor type:
i3 - Core i3
i5 - Core i5
i7 - Core i7
v5 - Core i5 with vPro
v7 - Core i7 with vPro
SuffixE0L - 2nd LAN Adapter included
0Z - "Lite" Model (No Thunderbolt)

HCL and VMware ESXi Support

Intel NUCs are not supported by VMware and are 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.

ESXi 8.0 - ESXi runs out of the box with the original image.

ESXi 7.0 - The Community Networking Driver for ESXi is required.

Currently, there is no driver available for ESXi 6.x

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 I225-LM) - "No Network Adapters" Error with ESXi 7.0
The Community Networking Driver for ESXi is required to install ESXi 7.0 on the 12th Gen NUC. See Installation for instructions.

Storage (AHCI and NVMe)
The storage controller works out of the box with ESXi 7.0 and ESXi 8.0.

Tested ESXi Versions

  • VMware ESXi 8.0
  • VMware ESXi 7.0 U3 (Custom Image only)
  • VMware ESXi 7.0 U2 (Custom Image only)

Installation

When you try to install ESXi 7.0 or 8.0 on a system with a 12th Gen Intel CPU, the installation fails with a purple diagnostics screen:

HW feature incompatibility detected; cannot start

Fatal CPU mismatch on feature "Hyperthreads per core"
Fatal CPU mismatch on feature "Cores per package"
Fatal CPU mismatch on feature "Cores per die"

This problem is caused by the new CPU architecture which includes different types of cores - Performance-cores and Efficient-cores. With vSphere 7.0 Update 2, the kernel parameter cpuUniformityHardCheckPanic has been implemented to address the issue. The option can be configured with the following command:

# localcli system settings kernel set -s cpuUniformityHardCheckPanic -v FALSE 

An easy workaround is to temporarily disable E-cores, install ESXi, set the parameter, and re-enable E-cores. If you want to keep E-cores enabled during installation, see this article with a scripted install example.

If you want to use ESXi 8.0, just download the Image and create a bootable USB flash drive.

If you try to install ESXi 7.0, the installer fails with a "No Network Adapters" error. A driver for the Intel I225-LM 2.5GbE adapter is not bundled in the standard ESXi Image but is available as a community-based VMware Fling.

Download: Community Networking Driver for ESXi

How to create a Custom ESXi Image
This option explains how to create the Custom Image with PowerCLI. The Image can be used to install ESXi from scratch.

  1. Download the driver Net-Community-Driver_1.2.7.0-1vmw.700.1.0.15843807_19480755.zip
  2. Copy the driver to your Build Directory (c:\esx) for example
  3. Open PowerShell
  4. Run the following commands in your build directory:
    # (Optional) Install PowerCLI Module 
    Install-Module -Name VMware.PowerCLI -Scope CurrentUser
    
    Add-EsxSoftwareDepot https://hostupdate.vmware.com/software/VUM/PRODUCTION/main/vmw-depot-index.xml
    Export-ESXImageProfile -ImageProfile "ESXi-7.0.0-15843807-standard" -ExportToBundle -filepath ESXi-7.0.0-15843807-standard.zip
    Remove-EsxSoftwareDepot https://hostupdate.vmware.com/software/VUM/PRODUCTION/main/vmw-depot-index.xml
    Add-EsxSoftwareDepot .\ESXi-7.0.0-15843807-standard.zip
    Add-EsxSoftwareDepot .\Net-Community-Driver_1.2.7.0-1vmw.700.1.0.15843807_19480755.zip
    New-EsxImageProfile -CloneProfile "ESXi-7.0.0-15843807-standard" -name "ESXi-7.0.0-15843807-NUC" -Vendor "virten.net"
    Add-EsxSoftwarePackage -ImageProfile "ESXi-7.0.0-15843807-NUC" -SoftwarePackage "net-community"
    Export-ESXImageProfile -ImageProfile "ESXi-7.0.0-15843807-NUC" -ExportToIso -filepath ESXi-7.0.0-15843807-NUC.iso
  5. Use the ISO image 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. No custom BIOS Settings are required.

If you have already installed ESX (with a USB NIC for example) you can install the newer driver with the following command:

# esxcli network firewall ruleset set -e true -r httpClient
# cd /tmp/
# wget https://download3.vmware.com/software/vmw-tools/community-network-driver/Net-Community-Driver_1.2.7.0-1vmw.700.1.0.15843807_19480755.zip
# esxcli software vib install -d Net-Community-Driver_1.2.7.0-1vmw.700.1.0.15843807_19480755.zip

Performance

The performance of a single NUC is sufficient to run a small home lab including a vCenter Server and 3 virtual ESXi hosts. It's a great system to take along for demonstration purposes. If you have multiple systems and a vCenter Server you can build a powerful cluster.

The following chart is a comparison based on the NUCs PassMark score. The performance gap to previous generations is huge, which is a result of going up from 4 to 16 Cores.

12th Gen NUC compared to 5th Gen with glossy top

Power consumption

NUCs have a very low power consumption. I've measured the power consumption of a NUC12WSHv5 in 3 states: Idle (ESXi in Maintenance Mode), Average Load (1 vCenter, 4 Linux VMs), and during a Stress test. The NUC has been configured with 64GB RAM and no HDD or SSD. The power policy was configured to be "Balanced".

  • Idle: 16 W
  • Average Load: 24 W
  • Stress Test: 65 W

The average operating costs are a little over 5 Euros per month:
17 watt * 24 h * 30 (days) = 17,28 KWh * 0,30 (EUR) = 5,18EUR
Consumption measured with Homematic HM-ES-PMSw1

 

Shopping Guide

 

1.

NUC Kit

NUC12WSHv7

NUC12WSHv5

NUC12WSHi7

NUC12WSHi5

 2.

Memory

nuc-sodimm

1.2 V DDR4 SO-DIMM

Samsung 32 GB Module

Crucial 32GB 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

 5.

USB NIC

ASIX88179

RTL8153

AQC111U

4 thoughts on “ESXi on 12th Gen Intel NUC Pro (Wall Street Canyon)”

  1. Curious, in the performance chart the Core i5-1240P comes in slightly on top of the supposedly more powerful i7-1260P. Is it a simple mistake, or what can explain this?
    Thanks for the great write-up, as always very helpful, both for decisions and actual use!

  2. What is the practical difference betveen vPro and regulat CPU in ESXi? Is it only the performance, or is there something like "better sandboxing" or some other features that ESXi can utilise on vPro CPUs?

    1. I too, have wondered that, as I got the pro edition i5-1240P as we have not been seeing the i5-1250P variants.

      I had hoped that some of the remote access features would be easy to enable so that you could use it similarly to IPMI, etc. However, it doesn’t seem to be that easy to actually set up remote access and I don’t think we have true vPro on the i5-1240P NUCs.

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