Install VMware vSphere ESXi 7 on Intel NUC 10/11

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VMware ESXi is a powerful, enterprise-class type-1 hypervisor which can be be configured to be highly available, scalable, and resilient. ESXi is developed for deploying and serving virtual computers in an infrastructure. It is responsible for coordinating assignment of hardware resources such as Memory, CPU, Storage and Networking. Virtualization technology has completely changed the IT environments and from individual servers; many organizations have moved to server farms with hundreds to thousands operating systems running in Virtual machines (VMs).

VMware has dominated the IT industry Virtualization through company’s continues development and release of solutions with multi-cloud management, network virtualization, and other tools that aims at helping administrators simplify operations. In this article we shall consider installation process of vSphere ESXi 7 on Intel NUC 10/11.

Install VMware vSphere ESXi 7 on Intel NUC 10/11

Visit the VMware vSphere Hypervisor downloads page to get the latest ISO file. Choose the product from available list and proceed to download.

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Once the file is downloaded confirm it is locally available on your system:

$ file ~/iso/VMware-VMvisor-Installer-*.x86_64.iso
/Users/jkmutai/iso/VMware-VMvisor-Installer-7.0U3f-20036589.x86_64.iso: ISO 9660 CD-ROM filesystem data 'ESXI-7.0U3F-20036589-STANDARD' (bootable)

Create Bootable USB drive

A bootable device is required for installation on Intel NUC hardware. Network booting is another option but configuration is an uphill task not fit for single node installation.

1. Create bootable vSphere ESXi on Windows

For users running Windows install and use Rufus to create bootable installation USB drive.

2. Create bootable vSphere ESXi on Linux

Linux users can use Ventoy to create bootable ESXi drive.

3. Create bootable vSphere ESXi on macOS

My base OS is macOS Monterey. For this reason, complete steps used to have a working USB drive on macOS will be shared.

Insert the USB Flash drive then run the diskutil list to check its name and path.

$ diskutil list

/dev/disk0 (internal, physical):
   #:                       TYPE NAME                    SIZE       IDENTIFIER
   0:      GUID_partition_scheme                        *1.0 TB     disk0
   1:                        EFI EFI                     314.6 MB   disk0s1
   2:                 Apple_APFS Container disk1         1.0 TB     disk0s2

/dev/disk1 (synthesized):
   #:                       TYPE NAME                    SIZE       IDENTIFIER
   0:      APFS Container Scheme -                      +1.0 TB     disk1
                                 Physical Store disk0s2
   1:                APFS Volume Macintosh HD - Data     580.5 GB   disk1s1
   2:                APFS Volume Macintosh HD            23.4 GB    disk1s2
   3:              APFS Snapshot com.apple.os.update-... 23.4 GB    disk1s2s1
   4:                APFS Volume Preboot                 490.2 MB   disk1s3
   5:                APFS Volume Recovery                1.1 GB     disk1s4
   6:                APFS Volume VM                      10.7 GB    disk1s5

/dev/disk2 (external, physical):
   #:                       TYPE NAME                    SIZE       IDENTIFIER
   0:     FDisk_partition_scheme                        *4.0 GB     disk2
   1:                       0xEF                         10.4 MB    disk2s2

Next format USB drive with FAT32 filesystem and partition MBR map. Replace diskX with device name of your USB disk.

$ diskutil eraseDisk MS-DOS "ESXI" MBR diskX
Started erase on disk2
Unmounting disk
Creating the partition map
Waiting for partitions to activate
Formatting disk2s1 as MS-DOS (FAT) with name ESXI
512 bytes per physical sector
/dev/rdisk2s1: 7889832 sectors in 986229 FAT32 clusters (4096 bytes/cluster)
bps=512 spc=8 res=32 nft=2 mid=0xf8 spt=32 hds=255 hid=2048 drv=0x80 bsec=7905280 bspf=7705 rdcl=2 infs=1 bkbs=6
Mounting disk
Finished erase on disk2

After formatting unmount the USB drive using the commands below.

$ diskutil unmountDisk /dev/disk2
Unmount of all volumes on disk2 was successful

Mark the USB drive with bootable flag on its first partition using “f 1“, and commit the changes.

$ sudo fdisk -e /dev/disk2
fdisk: could not open MBR file /usr/standalone/i386/boot0: No such file or directory
Enter 'help' for information
fdisk: 1> f 1
Partition 1 marked active.
fdisk:*1> write
Writing MBR at offset 0.
fdisk: 1> quit

Now mount ESXi ISO file you downloaded in your workstation machine. ~/Downloads/VMware-VMvisor-Installer-*.x86_64.iso is complete path to ESXi ISO.

$ hdiutil mount  ~/Downloads/VMware-VMvisor-Installer-*.x86_64.iso
/dev/disk3          	                               	/Volumes/ESXI-7.0U3G-20328353-STANDARD

Copy its contents to the USB flash drive.

rsync -avv /Volumes/ESXI-7.0U3G-20328353-STANDARD/* /Volumes/ESXI

Navigate to USB drive and rename ISOLINUX.CFG to SYSLINUX.CFG file.

cd /Volumes/ESXI
mv  ISOLINUX.CFG SYSLINUX.CFG

Update SYSLINUX.CFG and add the line APPEND -c boot.cfg -p 1 as shown below:

$ vim SYSLINUX.CFG
DEFAULT menu.c32
MENU TITLE ESXi-7.0U3g-20328353-standard Boot Menu
NOHALT 1
PROMPT 0
TIMEOUT 80
LABEL install
  KERNEL mboot.c32
  APPEND -c boot.cfg -p 1
  MENU LABEL ESXi-7.0U3g-20328353-standard ^Installer
LABEL hddboot
  LOCALBOOT 0x80
  MENU LABEL ^Boot from local disk
EOF

Umount the USB drive and begin installation of

$ diskutil unmount /Volumes/ESXI
Volume ESXI on disk2s1 unmounted

Install vSphere ESXI 7 on Intel NUC 10 / Intel NUC 11

Insert bootable USB drive created and power on the Intel NUC appliance. Press F10 at the prompt during boot to open the boot menu and select the installation drive.

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Required files will be loaded for the installer.

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Wait for installation files to be loaded and accept license terms.

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Select a disk where hypervisor operating system is installed. A default datastore is also created on selected disk automatically.

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Select keyboard layout

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Set and confirm root password as requested by installer.

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Configure ESXi 7 on Intel NUC 11 / Intel NUC 10

After an installation of ESXi 7 on your Intel NUC server a “grey and yellow” ESXi direct console (DCUI) screen is shown. Information such as ESXi version, CPU, Memory, build number, and IP address. The link to the UI for administration on a web browser is also printed out in the screen.

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Use F2 to enter configuration screen for ESXi 7. Authentication as root is required.

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You can perform Network Management and set ESXi host network details as shown below.

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Set server’s IPv4 address, Subnet mask and default gateway for the Management network.

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Primary and Alternate DNS, and ESXi hostname can also be set.

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Use the server’s IP address or hostname as set in DNS to access ESXi UI where you can manage the host system.

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We can confirm ESXi hypervisor is now up and running on Intel NUC hardware as seen in screeshot.

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For VMware vCenter server installation use link to access dedicated guide:

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A systems engineer with excellent skills in systems administration, cloud computing, systems deployment, virtualization, containers, and a certified ethical hacker.