The last year or two hasn't been kind to homelabbers' budgets. Supply chain issues have had an insurmountable impact not only on new parts and servers, but on the second hand market as businesses desperately snap up what they need. Fortunately, supply chain and global economic recovery are making both availability and pricing of some components affordable again.
In a previous blog post, I touched on the options available for servers. Mini PCs and NUC like systems offer a lot of value, especially with the Fling drivers that add Intel and Realtek USB NIC functionality. The Fling drivers allow for USB network cards to be added to systems that have limited or no supported network adapters. Such is the case with the Lenovo ThinkCentre M75q Gen 2. It only has one network card onboard, the RealTek 8111 gigabit adapter. RealTek does not make a driver for ESXi, and while drivers have existed in the past, they were vmklinux and community based, meaning they do not work in ESXi 7.0. There are also a handful of new Intel network cards that do not have a supported driver, but this is answered by a Fling driver as well. The workaround is to add gigabit and 2.5GbE USB network cards to the system, and inject the Fling driver to the ESXi image prior to install.
Hardware wise, I have added a CableCreation USB 3.0 Gigabit LAN 2.5Gbe adapter for the storage network, as well as a TP-Link UE300 Gigabit adapter for management.
To do so, we will need to install PowerCLI. I'll include the install commands which were taken from this link:
- Open PowerShell as an administrator
- Run the following command: Install-Module VMware.PowerCLI -Scope CurrentUser
- Press "y" if prompted, then enter
- Add an offline bundle to work with, in this case I'm using an offline bundle I created previously:
- Add-EsxSoftwareDepot ESXi-7.0U3-USBNIC.zip
- Get-EsxImageProfile (in this case, it listed ESXi-7.0U3-USBNIC as the profile)
- Add-EsxSoftwareDepot ESXi703-VMKUSB-NIC-FLING-51233328-component-18902399.zip (this will change in the future, be sure the filename matches!)
- New-EsxImageProfile -CloneProfile "ESXi-7.0U3-USBNIC" -name "ESXi-7.0U3-injected" -Vendor "vshoestring"
- Add-EsxSoftwarePackage -ImageProfile "ESXi-7.0U3-injected" -SoftwarePackage "vmkusb-nic-fling"
- Export-ESXImageProfile -ImageProfile "ESXi-7.0U3-injected" -ExportToIso -filepath ESXi-7.0U3-injected.iso
- Export-ESXImageProfile -ImageProfile "ESXi-7.0U3-injected" -ExportToBundle -filepath ESXi-7.0U3-injected.zip