Tag Archives: USBNIC

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.

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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!

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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.

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Tips for using USB Network Adapters with VMware ESXi

Running Intel NUCs and other SFF systems with ESXi is a proven standard for virtualization home labs. One major drawback is that most of the available SFF systems only have a single Gigabit network adapter. This might be sufficient for a standalone ESXi with a few VMs, but when you want to use shared Storage or VMware NSX, you totally want to have additional NICs.

This article explains some basics to consider when running USB-based network adapters with ESXi.

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ESXi VMKUSB NIC Fling adds support for 2.5GBASE-T Adapters

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 1.6. The new version has added support for RTL8156 based 2.5GBASE-T network adapters.

Multi-Gigabit network adapters with 5GBASE-T are available for a while, but those 5GbE adapters cost about $100 USD. The new driver allows the usage of 2.5GbE adapters that are available for as low as $25 USD. The driver was released yesterday, and luckily I already own a bunch of 2.5GbE adapters, so I could give it a test drive immediately.

CableCreation USB 3.0 to 2.5 Gigabit LAN Adapter (CD0673)

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NSX-T and VMKUSB NIC Fling - MTU Size Considerations

When configuring an NSX-T Overlay network you have to increase the default MTU size of 1500. It is critical that the MTU is configured across the whole platform (Network Adapters, Distributed Switches, Physical Switches, NSX-T Uplink profiles). A typical MTU size is 1600 or 9000. Be careful when using high MTU sizes, as most of the drivers used in the VMKUSB NIC Fling do not support MTU size 9000 and thus, the overlay communication will silently fail.

The relevant part is when you change the MTU Size in the dvSwitch configuration.

When you change the MTU size, the configuration is pushed to all connected network interfaces. Make sure to verify that the NIC has actually configured to the correct MTU:

[root@esx4:~] esxcfg-nics -l
Name    PCI          Driver      Link Speed      Duplex MAC Address       MTU    Description
vmnic0  0000:00:1f.6 ne1000      Up   1000Mbps   Full   00:1f:c6:9c:47:13 1500   Intel Corporation Ethernet Connection (2) I219-LM
vusb0   Pseudo       uether      Up   1000Mbps   Full   00:24:9b:1a:bd:18 1600   ASIX Elec. Corp. AX88179
vusb1   Pseudo       uether      Up   1000Mbps   Full   00:24:9b:1a:bd:19 1500   ASIX Elec. Corp. AX88179

In that case, the vusb0 adapter has been configured to 1600 which is fine and sufficient for NSX-T.

If you try to change the MTU size to 9000, you do not see any error messages on the dvSwitch, but the vmkernel.log reveals that the MTU could not be set:

2020-07-19T16:10:42.344Z cpu6:524356)WARNING: vmkusb: Set MTU 9000 is not supported: Failure
2020-07-19T16:10:42.344Z cpu6:524356)WARNING: Uplink: 16632: Failed to set MTU to 9000 on vusb0


Solution: ESXi Installation with USB NIC only fails at 81%

When you try to install ESXi 7.0 with a USB NIC only, the installation fails at 81% with the following error message:

Exception: No vmknic tagged for management was found.

Some homelab systems like the Intel 10th Gen NUC are not equipped with a compatible network adapter. As a workaround, you can use a USB NIC and create a customized image to install ESXi. The installation fails as the ESXi installer can't assign the USB NIC as a management adapter because it specifically searches for a "vmnic#", not "vusb#" adapter.

This article explains how to proceed with the 81% installation error and get the system to work.

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How to add the USB NIC Fling to ESXi 7.0 Base Image

Many people are using the USB NIC Fling by William Lam and Songtao Zheng in homelabs. To make a fresh installation or upgrade as simple as possible, I've created a new Image Profile that contains the USB NIC driver.

This article explains how to create a custom ESXi 7.0 Image including the NIC driver to either upgrade previous versions of ESXi or make a fresh  ESXi installation with USB NIC support.

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