Once and a while ESXi needs to be installed on a device of which the drivers (NIC / Storage) are not built into the ISO installer (yet). In my case it’s needed for the vExpert homelab Maxtang NUC device. This device has a Realtek PCIe NIC’s not supported by ESXi 8. Because of that limitation, I used a Realtek USB based NIC, supported by the USB Network Native Driver for ESXi fling.

When a network driver is not available to complete the creation of the default vSwitch and management network kernel port during the ESXi install phase, the ESXi installer quits with the message that no suitable NIC is found for the management network. For this use-case I needed to create a customized ESXi 8 installer with the USB Network native driver.

Prerequisites

PowerCLI dependency on Python

Since PowerCLI 13, the ImageBuilder and AutoDeploy modules are cross-platform. Both modules are dependent on Python which needs to be installed and configured. Check out William his post how to configure Python for MacOS and mine regarding Windows.

How to install PowerCLI 13.0 and use new Image Builder & Auto Deploy cmdlets on Apple Silicon?

PowerCLI 13 update and installation hurdles on Windows

Create ESXi Customized ISO Installer

I’m assuming that PowerCLI 13 is installed, Python configured and the required ESXi and driver files are stored in your ‘Download’ folder. As source, I used the vSphere 7 documentation “Create a Custom ESXi ISO Image with PowerCLI Cmdlets“.

Check base image version info

Check the ESXi version of the depot zip file.

PS /Users/User/Downloads> Get-DepotBaseImages -Depot ./VMware-ESXi-8.0-20513097-depot.zip

Version            Vendor       Release date
-------            ------       ------------
8.0.0-1.0.20513097 VMware, Inc. 09/23/2022 17:33:13

Check driver version info

Check the version of the driver inside the zip file.

PS /Users/User/Downloads> Get-DepotComponents -Depot ./Downloads/ESXi800-VMKUSB-NIC-FLING-61054763-component-20826251.zip

Name                    Version                     ID                                                  Vendor      Release date
----                    -------                     --                                                  ------      ------------
VMware-vmkusb-nic-fling 1.11-1vmw.800.1.20.61054763 VMware-vmkusb-nic-fling:1.11-1vmw.800.1.20.61054763 VMware, Inc 11/21/2022 06:22:41

Create software specification

Create the software specification file in the ‘Downloads’ folder. For example: “vmware-esxi8-custom-iso.json“.

{
    "base_image": {
        "version": "8.0.0-1.0.20513097"
    },
    "components": {
       "VMware-vmkusb-nic-fling": "1.11-1vmw.800.1.20.61054763"
   }
}

Generate custom ISO image

Create the custom ESXi 8 ISO file.

PS /Users/User/Downloads> New-IsoImage -Depots “./VMware-ESXi-8.0-20513097-depot.zip” , “./ESXi800-VMKUSB-NIC-FLING-61054763-component-20826251.zip” -SoftwareSpec “./vmware-esxi8-custom-iso.json” -Destination “./VMware-ESXi-8.0-20513097-custom.iso”

PS /Users/User/Downloads> ls -l ./VMware-ESXi-8.0-20513097-custom-depot.iso -rw-r--r--  1 user  staff  649576448 Dec  5 15:51 ./VMware-ESXi-8.0-20513097-custom-depot.iso

Write ISO to USB stick

Now the customized ISO file can be written to a USB stick. Depending on your used OS different tools are available. For writing ISO files to a USB stick I lately use Balena Etcher, which is a simple to use multi-platform (Windows, Linux , Mac) solution to do just that.

To conclude

Now all the preparations are in place to install ESXi 8 with the USB Network Native Driver included. More to that in a new post.

Useful links

PowerCLI 13

PowerCLI 13 update and installation hurdles on Windows

How to install PowerCLI 13.0 and use new Image Builder & Auto Deploy cmdlets on Apple Si

Create a Custom ESXi ISO Image with PowerCLI Cmdlets

USB Network Native Driver for ESXi Fling

Balena Etcher


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