VMware ESXi on X10SDV-4C+-TLN4F

I recently setup VMware ESXi 6.5 on a Supermicro X10SDV-4C+-TLN4F and wanted to share my experience. This covers upgrading to ESXi 6.5u1, installing NIC drivers, and passthrough of the AHCI SATA controller to give direct drive access to FreeNAS.

Hardware

Here's what I'm using in this server. The SSD is used for the ESXi installation and critical VMs.

  • Supermicro​ X10SDV-4C​+-TLN4F-O
  • Crucial 16GB DDR4-2133 CT16G4WFD8213 x2
  • Samsung 960 EVO Series - 250GB PCIe NVMe

Download, Install, Upgrade ESXi

The first thing is to get the hypervisor installed and upgraded. I found the upgrade URL in a random forum -- it's not available from VMware download pages on the free license accounts.

  • Visit the VMware ESXi download page
  • Create an account
  • Click the License & Download tab.
    • You'll need a License Key from this area to enter into the ESXi install
  • Use the "manually download" option, it'll download, verify the image using the SHA sum. Put it on a USB and install it.

After getting a feel for the VMware ESXi web UI, upgrade to ESXi 6.5u1:

  • Enable ssh server with Host -> Manage -> Services tab -> Enable TSM-SSH
  • Connect to the host with ssh
  • Execute these commands and restart the host:
esxcli network firewall ruleset set -e true -r httpClient

esxcli software profile install -p ESXi-6.5.0-20170702001-standard -d https://hostupdate.vmware.com/software/VUM/PRODUCTION/main/vmw-depot-index.xml

esxcli network firewall ruleset set -e false -r httpClient

Update the NIC drivers

Time to update the NIC drivers. The default ESXi install doesn't have working 10G ports and the 1G ports didn't work as well as I expected with the VMs.

The basic approach is to execute vmkchdev -l, find the hardware, then search VMware support for the downloads. It's a lot of work. Instead, if you have the Supermicro X10SDV-4C+-TLN4F, below is a link of the needed native and vmklinux drivers for the 1G and 10G NICs.

Here a link of just the *.vib files, or if you'd rather have a zip of zips straight from VMware. These contain:

  • igbn-1.3.1-1OEM.600.0.0.2768847.x86_64.vib
  • ixgben-1.4.1-1OEM.600.0.0.2768847.x86_64.vib
  • net-igb_5.3.3-1OEM.600.0.0.2494585.vib
  • net-ixgbe_4.5.2-1OEM.600.0.0.2494585.vib

Get one of the zips above and copy the *.vib files to ESXi in, say, /tmp. Install each one individually using esxcli software vib install -v /tmp/thefile.vib. Now Reboot.

Passthrough of AHCI SATA Controller

Here I cover how to enable SATA controller passthrough since Some hardware cannot be toggled passthrough on/off until /etc/vmware/passthru.map is updated. That's the case for the AHCI SATA controller.

Assuming the Supermicro motherboard with the Intel Lynx controller, simply add these lines to the end of /etc/vmware/passthru.map and reboot:

# Intel Lynx Point AHCI Controller
8086  8c02  d3d0    false  

After the reboot, toggle passthrough on the Intel Lynx Point AHCI Controller:

  • Host -> Manage -> Hardware tab -> PCI Devices subtab
  • Find Intel Lynx Point AHCI Controller in the list. Select it.
  • Click on Toggle Passthrough
  • Reboot

Done! You can now attach the controller to a VM and get native speeds.


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