VMware ESXi 4.1 on Intel D510MO
I set up VMware ESXi 4.1 Update 1 on an Intel Desktop Board D510MO earlier this week and hit a few snags along the way. This hardware is nowhere close to appearing in the VMware Compatibility Guide but some searching showed that a number of people had gotten it working.
My end goal was a diskless setup with ESXi booting from a USB flash drive with networked storage for the virtual machines. The newest versions of ESXi allow installation to USB drives from the normal installer so I started off by booting to the install CD. Even before I was prompted for any input I hit the following error:
vmkctl.HostCtlException Unable to load module /usr/lib/vmware/vkmod/vmfs3: Failure
Some searching turned up a number of responses to the effect of “use supported hardware” but for my purposes that’s not really what I had in mind. Because others were successful with this board I suspected this was only an issue during the install but that it should work correctly once installed.
I next attempted an install from a virtual machine running in VirtualBox on a different machine. I created the VM with a type of “Linux” and a subtype of “Linux 2.6 (64-bit)”. After getting this setup I was able to successfully boot the installer and install ESXi to the USB flash drive. I then moved the flash drive back to the D510 board and it booted successfully.
Once booted though I saw the second hurdle: no NICs were found. This board has a RealTek NIC that’s unsupported by ESXi. I found that some users had created a driver package for ESXi that included the driver needed for the RealTek. The older versions of this driver had numerous reports of network dropouts under load but the newer version 8.018 seems to work well. I copied this file over the top of the oem.tgz file that was on the USB flash drive.
Once installed and with the proper NIC driver in place I finally had a working ESXi install on the D510 board.