Upgrade VMware ESXi 5.1 to ESXi 5.5 on a Gigabyte Brix using esxcli

Background

Between ESX 5.1 and ESXi 5.5, VMware removed the bundled driver for the Realtek RTL8111E NIC, which is embedded in the Gigabyte Brix.

This means that if you try to boot a normal ESXi 5.5 installer, it won’t find the NIC driver and will refuse to install/upgrade your ESXi 5.1 instance.

Installing VMware ESXi 5.5 on the Gigabyte Brix

Scope

This article covers the steps required to install VMware ESXi 5.5 on the Gigabyte Brix, and a few other systems that use non-supported NICs that worked in ESXi 5.1.

brix running esxi 5.5

Virtualization Home Lab: Setting up VMware ESXi on the Gigabyte Brix

2013-09-23 00:27: Added information about ESXi 5.5 not including RTL8111E support
2013-09-23 22:23: Added a link to installing ESXi 5.5 with RTL8111E support

In my last post, I covered my journey of finding a small, quiet, low-power virtualisation lab computer that can run nested virtualisation.

The final system

To summarise, here’s the system I ended up with, after much consideration:

  • Gigabyte Brix, Core i5 barebones kit (GB-XM11-3337) [Buy in the UK]
  • 16GB (2x8GB) SO-DIMM Crucial RAM
  • Plextor M5M 256GB SSD [Buy in the UK]

brix vs xbox controller

Virtualization Home Lab: Choosing a suitable computer (quiet, low power with nested virtualization support)

Recently, after about 2 years away, I’ve started to get back into Virtualisation. As part of that, like any true geek, I wanted to build a Home Lab.

I had some criteria for the homelab computer:

  1. Must be quiet
  2. Should be power-efficient/low power. Energy in the UK is expensive!
  3. CPU must support Intel VT-x with EPT, and VT-d virtualisation technologies
  4. Under £600 (roughly $1,000)
  5. System must be powerful enough to run nested hypervisors (enough RAM, CPU and Storage capacities)
  6. Minimal self-build. I don’t have the inclination to build a white-box solution. If you do, check out Chris Wahl’s awesome resources.

And some nice-to-haves:

  1. Compact physical footprint
  2. Preferably run VMware ESXi without any installer ISO hacks or driver mods
  3. It should have enough Storage capacity to host AutoLab and some Hyper-V instances, too.

How to boot the Gigabyte Brix with Wake-On-LAN

I’ve been playing with getting the Gigabyte Brix to Wake-On-LAN.

Most Windows-based tools didn’t work out of the box for me; but after some experimentation with the Depicus Wake on LAN cmd tool, I worked out the information required to wake it up generally.

wolcmd <mac of target> <ip of target> <network subnet mask> <port 8900 or port 7>

For my system, the command was:

wolcmd <mac without punctuation> 192.168.1.10 255.255.255.0 8900

Hopefully this is useful for other people to WOL their Gigabyte Brix from any OS 🙂

Note that you must have Erp in the BIOS disabled for this to work. If you enable Erp in the BIOS (which enables super-low power usage) Wake-on-LAN doesn’t function from a powered-off state.