Choose the right quad port NIC

With vSphere 5.5 VMware has dropped support for some of the hardware enthusiasts like me used in their home lab (which basically means I consider people who spent quite a few bucks for a home lab to be enthusiasts – are you really sending the right message to us, VMware?). I cannot approve that – to me it’s just a bad move to remove drivers for hardware that would otherwise work fine, even if it was not supported. Which basically would just mean you’d be on your own if something would not work, and VMware Support would just tell you that. Nothing to scare a whitebox user away.

Anyway. I had to face the fact that the onboard and additional PCI Realtek NIC of my lab ESXi would be unusable sooner or later, even if an older driver could be injected into the ESXi 5.5 image, as I explained in a previous post. So I decided to find a setup that would provide at least five network interfaces with presumably long term support. Continue reading

Heads up: ESXi 5.5 crashes Linux iscsi_trgt

If you’re running a standard Linux on your homelab storage box with iSCSI (ietd, iscsi_trgt), you need to take some actions before deploying ESXi 5.5 in your environment. It seems the new ESXi release issues some SMART command on iSCSI targets, which hits a bug in iscsi_trgt. I’m using Debian 7.2 on my lab NAS which comes with iscsitarget 1.4.20.2. Once an ESXi 5.5 tried to access an iSCSI LUN, the iSCSI subsystem crashed completely. You’ll see messages like these: Continue reading

ESXi 5.5 and Realtek 8168/8169

VMware has dropped the support for Realtek R8168 and R8169 NICs in ESXi 5.5, as already posted in some blogs even before vSphere 5.5 became GA. Really bad news for all of us whitebox homelab owners who use the cheap cards and onboard chips to increase the number of NICs available for vSphere networking. Fortunately the drivers included in ESXi 5.1 still work with 5.5, and there are good instructions available by Vladan Seget and Erik Bussink on how to create a custom installation ISO. But if you’re using a Kickstart server (as I still recommend, even with Auto Deploy and also for a small home lab) it is yet easier. Continue reading