Homelab - Will ESXi 7.0 run on Intel NUC?

esxi-on-5th-gen-NUC5i3MYHEVMware vSphere ESXi 7.0 is here and while you might want to wait before you upgrade your production, it's time to explore the new features in your Homelab. I've received questions on whether it is safe to upgrade and some folks are already having trouble with the upgrade.

First of all, short answer:
Yes - ESXi 7.0 will run on 5th - 10th Gen NUCs.

Long answer...

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VMware Products without vSphere 7.0 Support at GA Day

VMware vSphere 7 has been released a couple of days ago. Before you jump in and upgrade your Production or Test environment, make sure that the software you are using on top of vCenter/ESXi is supported. To check if a product version is supported, refer to VMware Interoperability Matrix.

When checking the Interop Matrix, make sure that there is both, a minimum and a maximum version that is supported. For example, ESXi 6.0 support has been dropped in vSphere 7 which means that all ESXi Hosts need to be upgraded to at least ESXi 6.5.

I'm going to monitor the progress regularly and keep an updated list on my vSphere 7.0 landing page, so make sure to bookmark the following link: vSphere 7.0 Landing Page Read more »

New ESXCLI Commands in vSphere 7.0

In vSphere 7.0 the command line interface esxcli has been extended with new features. This post introduces the new and extended namespaces.

Quick Summary
49 new ESXCLI commands including:

  • 2 Hardware
  • 4 Network
  • 13 NVMe
  • 16 Software
  • 5 Storage
  • 9 System

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Export-ESXImageProfile fails with WinError 10054

When creating an ESXi ISO Image from VMware's Online Depot by using the PowerCLI command Export-ESXImageProfile -ExportToISO, the creation might fail with the following error message:

Export-ESXImageProfile : [WinError 10054] An existing connection was forcibly closed by the remote host

Creating an offline .zip bundle (-ExportToBundle) works without any problems. To work around this issue, create the .zip bundle first and then create the .iso file from the local software depot. Read more »

VMware vSphere 7.0 introduces Cascade Lake EVC Mode

To simplify vMotion across CPU generations VMware has introduced Enhanced vMotion Compatibility (EVC). EVC automatically configures server CPUs with Intel FlexMigration or AMD-V Extended Migration technologies to be compatible with older servers. In vSphere 7.0 a new EVC mode has been introduced.

Intel Cascade Lake Generation
Compared to Intel Skylake EVC mode, the Cascade Lake EVC mode exposes additional CPU features:

  • AVX-512 Vector Neural Network Instructions (AVX512VNNI)
  • XGETBV with ECX=1 (XGETBV_ECX1)
  • The processor is not susceptible to Rogue Data Cache Load (RDCL_NO)
  • Enhanced Indirect Branch Restricted Speculation (IBRS_ALL)
  • The Processor is not susceptible to Microarchitectural Data Sampling (MDS_NO)

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VMware vSphere 7.0 GA - Download Links Available

Today VMware made vSphere 7.0 bits available for everyone to download. VMware vSphere 7.0 is now GA. Read more »

Intel NUC Latest BIOS Version as Table and JSON (Daily Updates)

An Intel NUC BIOS Version overview is now available at virten.net. The page displays the latest version from all BIOS types and their corresponding NUC models. The page is updated every day. You can access the page in the "Homelab" menu.

The latest BIOS Version list is available as a table and JSON file. Read more »

Intel NUC Recommended BIOS Settings for VMware ESXi

The following BIOS settings are recommended for Intel NUC Systems running VMware ESXi. The list was created based on the latest 10th Gen Frost Canyon. Available options may differ with older NUCs.

To enter the BIOS, press F2 after powering on the system. Read more »

VMware EVC Mode to Enable Intel Gen5-Gen10 NUC vMotion

Many VMware Homelabs are based on Intel NUCs. It is also very common that generations are mixed which can lead to compatibility issues when trying to vMotion VMs across different generations. This is typically where VMware EVC comes into play.

VMware EVC creates a baseline of CPU instructions for virtual machines running on ESXi hosts. When you add newer Hosts, EVC hides the new CPU instructions to the virtual machines. While this works great for Xeon CPUs used in professional servers, it has some limitations with consumer CPUs used in the Intel NUC ecosystem.

The problem has become worse with the latest 10th Gen Comet Lake/Frost Canyon NUC. Despite having a 10th generation CPU, it requires the EVC baseline to be configured to "Sandy Bridge", which is the 2nd generation of Intel Core-i CPUs:

  • NUC10i7FNH/NUC10i7FNK (Intel Core i7-10710U - 6 Core, up to 4.7 GHz)
  • NUC10i5FNH/NUC10i5FNK (Intel Core i5-10210U - 4 Core, up to 4.2 GHz)
  • NUC10i3FNH/NUC10i3FNK (Intel Core i3-10110U - 2 Core, up to 4.1 GHz)

When you try to activate VMware EVC higher than Sandy Bridge, the following error message is displayed:

Compatibility
The host's CPU hardware does not support the cluster's current Enhanced vMotion Compatibility mode. The host CPU lacks features required by that mode.

When you try to add the Host to an EVC Enabled Cluster, the task fails:

Operation failed!
The host's CPU hardware does not support the cluster's current Enhanced vMotion Compatibility mode. The host CPU lacks features required by that mode.
CPUID faulting is not supported.
See KB 1003212 for more information.
Host is of type: vendor intel family 0x6 model 0xa6

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ESXi on 10th Gen Intel NUC (Comet Lake - Frost Canyon)

Intel's Comet Lake-based 10th Gen Frost Canyon NUC series is currently rolled out and after some initial problems with the NIC driver, it is time to take a look at their capabilities to run 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 Frost Canyon is available with i3, i5, and i7 CPU. It's the first series that is available with a Hexa-Core CPU and full 64GB Memory support. Besides that, there are only minor improvements compared to their predecessor, the Bean Canyon.

  • NUC10i7FNH/NUC10i7FNK (Intel Core i7-10710U - 6 Core, up to 4.7 GHz)
  • NUC10i5FNH/NUC10i5FNK (Intel Core i5-10210U - 4 Core, up to 4.2 GHz)
  • NUC10i3FNH/NUC10i3FNK (Intel Core i3-10110U - 2 Core, up to 4.1 GHz)

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