Homelab

ESXi on ASRock Industrial NUC 1100 Series (11th Gen Intel "Tiger Lake" CPU)

ASRock Industrial has a NUC-like small form factor (SFF) system in their portfolio, which is very similar to Intel's latest 11th Gen NUC Series. With the global shortage of microchips the availability of 11th Gen NUCs, especially the Dual-NIC "Pro" models, is still limited. While looking for alternatives, the ASRock Industrial NUC1100 Series came out as a great alternative to the original NUC Series.

SFF systems (also known as Barebone, Nettop, SoC, or Mini-PC) like Intel's or ASRocks's NUC are not officially supported by VMware but they are very widespread in the homelab community. They are small, silent, transportable, and have very low power consumption, making them great servers in your homelab. The ASRock 1100 Series is available with i3, i5, or i7 CPU and supports up to 64GB of Memory. All models are equipped with two Network adapters, one with 1 Gigabit and a second adapter with 2.5 Gigabit support. Both adapters can be used with the latest VMware ESXi 7.0.

  • NUC BOX-1165G7 (Intel Core i7-1165G7 - 4 Core, up to 4.7 GHz)
  • NUC BOX-1135G7 (Intel Core i5-1135G7 - 4 Core, up to 4.2 GHz)
  • NUC BOX-1115G4 (Intel Core i3-1115G4 - 2 Core, up to 4.1 GHz)

Will ESXi run on the ASRock Industrial NUC 1100 Series?
Yes. It is possible to install ESXi. Due to missing i219V and i225LM drivers in the original image, it is required to create a custom Image using a community-created driver. Instructions on how to create the Image are included in this article. This problem is not specific to ASRock's 11th Gen. The custom image is also required for Intel's 11th Gen NUC and some older models.

Read More »ESXi on ASRock Industrial NUC 1100 Series (11th Gen Intel "Tiger Lake" CPU)

VMware ESXi 7.0 Update 2 on Intel NUC

VMware vSphere ESXi 7.0 Update 2 has been released this week and before you start to deploy it to production, you want to evaluate it in your testing environment or homelab. If you have Intel NUCs you should always be very careful when updating to new ESXi releases as there might be issues. Please always keep in mind that this is not an officially supported platform.

Within the 7.0 releases, there are many issues with consumer network adapters, like the deprecation of VMKlinux drivers and thus the missing support for Realtek NICs, and the up and downs with the ne1000 driver.

To be on the safe side, I'm doing a quick checkup on which NUCs are safe to update and what considerations you have to take before installing the update. Also, I'm quickly explaining the options to workaround the crypto64.efi issue.

Read More »VMware ESXi 7.0 Update 2 on Intel NUC

11th Gen Intel NUC - Which is the best candidate to run ESXi?

Intel has finally announced their 11th Generation NUCs. For the first time, all three product lines are announced at the same time. The NUC series is very popular to be used in homelabs or for running VMware ESXi. They are small, silent, transportable, and have very low power consumption.

In this article, I'm going to take a look at the 3 different product lines and how they compare to each other and previous NUCs.

Read More »11th Gen Intel NUC - Which is the best candidate to run ESXi?

VMware vSAN on Consumer-Grade SSDs - Endurance analysis

When you are running an ESXi based homelab, you might have considered using vSAN as the storage technology of choice. Hyperconverged storages are a growing alternative to SAN-based systems in virtual environments, so using them at home will help to improve your skillset with that technology.

To get started with vSAN you need at least 3 ESXi Hosts, each equipped with 2 drives. Alternatively, you can build a 2-node vSAN Cluster using a Raspberry Pi as a witness node.

VMware maintains a special HCL that lists supported drives to be used with vSAN. In production setups, it is very important to use certified hardware. Using non-enterprise hardware might result in data loss and bad performance caused by the lack of power loss protection and small caches.

This article takes a look at consumer-grade SSDs and their durability to be used with vSAN. Please be aware that non-certified hardware should only be used in homelabs or for demo purposes. Do not place sensitive data on vSAN that is running on consumer hardware.

Read More »VMware vSAN on Consumer-Grade SSDs - Endurance analysis

Update ESXi 7.0 with VMKUSB NIC Fling to 7.0 Update 1

The USB Native Driver Fling, a popular ESXi driver by Songtao Zheng and William Lam that adds support for USB-based Network Adapters, has been updated to version 1.7. The new version has added support for vSphere 7.0 Update 1.

When you download the latest version, you notice that there are separate versions for 7.0 and 7.0 U1. Both versions are only compatible with their corresponding ESXi version, which makes direct updates a little bit more complex.

This article explains how to upgrade ESXi hosts with USB-based network adapters in a single step.

Read More »Update ESXi 7.0 with VMKUSB NIC Fling to 7.0 Update 1

Will ESXi 7.0 Update 1 run on Intel NUC?

VMware vSphere ESXi 7.0 Update 1 is here. If you have Intel NUCs in your homelab you should always be very careful when updating to new ESXi releases as there might be issues. Please always keep in mind that this is not an officially supported platform.

Typically, you see problems with new major releases (eg. the Realtek problem in ESXi 7.0) but this time we seem to run into a problem with 8th Gen NUCs in the 7.0 U1 release. The Intel I219-V (6) network adapter fails to load after upgrading to ESXi 7.0 U1. When you try to do a fresh installation, it fails with the well known "No Network Adapters" error.

To be on the safe side, I'm doing a quick checkup on which NUCs are safe to update and where you have to implement a workaround.

In the meantime: Stay Calm, you can run ESXi 7.0 U1 on the 8th Gen NUC!

Read More »Will ESXi 7.0 Update 1 run on Intel NUC?

ESXi with USB NIC for vSAN and Storage - A Good Idea?

About a month ago, the USB Native Driver Fling has added support for 2.5 Gbit Network adapters. Until then it was clear that the embedded network interface is faster and more stable, compared to a 1Gbit USB Network adapter. I've never used a USB NIC for storage or management traffic.

With the support of 2.5GBASE-T network adapters, I wondered if it is a good idea to use them for accessing shared storage or for vSAN traffic.

It is obvious that a 2.5 Gbit adapter has a higher bandwidth, but due to the USB overhead, there should be a penalty to latency. But how bad will it be? To figure out the impact, I did some testing.

Read More »ESXi with USB NIC for vSAN and Storage - A Good Idea?

11th Gen NUC - First Details on Intels Tiger Canyon NUC

Details on the 11th Generation of Intels NUC have been revealed recently. Intel's NUC series is currently the most used system in the homelab market. They are small, silent, transportable, and have very low power consumption, making it a perfect system for labs or as a home server.

The 11th Gen is just around the corner and has, compared to its predecessor (Frost Canyon) which did not have outstanding innovations, a lot of cool new features.Read More »11th Gen NUC - First Details on Intels Tiger Canyon NUC

Black Screen when connecting a Monitor to Intel NUC running ESXi

When you are using an Intel NUC or other consumer hardware to run ESXi and connect a monitor to access the DCUI console, you see a black screen only. If you do not have a monitor connected during the boot process, you can't access the screen later. The screen will remain black, making troubleshooting impossible.

In Homelabs you usually do not have a monitor connected to all of your servers but in some cases (ESXi crashes or you need to reconfigure network settings) you want to connect a monitor to your system. A simple trick can help in that situation.Read More »Black Screen when connecting a Monitor to Intel NUC running ESXi

Realtek NIC and ESXi 7.0 - Use Passthrough to make use of the Adapter

Realtek Adapters are very common in consumer hardware and SFF systems. Using SFF systems to run ESXi is a good option for home labs as they are inexpensive and have a low power consumption. Unfortunately, the Realtek RTL8168, which is used in Asus PN50 or ZOTAC ZBOX Edge for example, is not supported in ESXi. The problem can be solved with a community created driver in ESXi 5.x and 6.x but not in ESXi 7.0, due to the VMKlinux driver stack deprecation.

You can work around the problem by using an USB based NIC to manage ESXi. Using USB NICs works fine and stable, but at this point the embedded NIC is useless. If you want to use it, you can use passthrough to add it to a virtual machine.

Read More »Realtek NIC and ESXi 7.0 - Use Passthrough to make use of the Adapter