ESXi 6.0 on low end hardware (part one)

By | January 2, 2016

I recently blew away all my low power vm lab running XenServer 6.5 and installed Vmware ESXi 6.0. Why I am not exactly sure but I just got bored with XenServer. Not that it’s doesn’t work or anything, in fact in my environment it did probably mostly everything I wanted. However I usually do this once a year, ie just blow it all away and start again.

So I was looking on the Vmware compatibility site and noticed that the NICS in my low power server is now supported in ESXi 6.0 where this was a hack in 5.5, so I thought why not. However last time I did this I got a bit annoyed that after the trial period ran out I couldn’t do much. It was here that I noticed vCenter Server Essentials which has a license entitlement for 3 servers with up to 2 processors each. As I have three servers here this looked like a good option to have Vmware legally licensed at home. It also includes updates for 3 years at a small additional cost so I sprung for VMware vSphere Essentials Kit for 3 hosts (Max 2 processors per host) + Subscription for 3 Years at $666.60. I went through this phase of OMG what have done but once I had put up the bucks there was no going back LOL

So I have been busy over the last week getting to know Vmware ESXi a bit better. So time to document a few things.

The hardware :

ESXi hosts is 3 x Intel NUC with i3 Procs and 2 x 8Gb DDR3 1600Mhz memory in each, 2 of these have Intel 256Gb SSD and one has a Intel 80Gb SSD. They can also connect to an NFS share on my Synology but I mostly use local storage as the SSD is much faster and most of my VM are small.

Links : Intel Mini PC – NUC Core i3 (BOXDC3217IYE) 2 HDMI + RJ45 see (this are old and not made any more)

Vcenter Host is one of these Intel Mini PC – NUC Celeron (DCCP847DYE) 2 HDMI + RJ45 with 2 x 8Gb DDR3 1333Mhz SO-DIMM for 16Gb with a 64Gb SSD drive running Windows Server 2012 R2.

Installing not using a CD see here


Three i3 NUC on the left and Celeron on the right. For more information about power consumption etc see here  Count on about 10-15 Watts for each one, probably less than your TV on standby 🙂

The Vcenter host caused me the most grief. On first try I tried to run it as a VM, but it’s 8Gb minimum !! and it was a slug as a VM on this hardware. So, I then realized I had this old Celeron NUC I wasn’t using for anything but it only had 8Gb memory in it and Vcenter is totally anal about memory requirements, I got something like this software needs 8192Mb to run but you have 7912Mb !!!!!!! Arghh

So, a quick run around town to find 2 x 8Gb DDR3, had to settle on a Kingston and a Transcend, both 1600Mhz class 11 and they seem to work OK together. So these went into one of the i3 NUC that had 2 x 1300 and the 2 x 1300 went into the Celeron NUC. (that killed a day just there). So, installed OS and then Vcenter would install. Once I had Vcenter installed then and only then I started wiping my three hosts 🙂

So, USB installer was used see here  and I then installed one host after the other. Was happy to see it recognize my NIC’s




Intel NUC recognized by ESXi (also works with XenServer but not with server 2012, you have to do a hack on the Windows 8 drivers).


My poor old Vcenter host. An older Celeron NUC with no case, and disabled fan and exposed heat-sink. It’s mostly cooler like that and I don’t really care what it looks like anyways.

In part 2 I will go into a bit more detail about how all this works in real life (very well actually).


The mini DC. I get about 10 minutes backup power from a desktop PC UPS.


VM’s running with Vsphere client connected to Vcenter (I don’t much care for the web client to be honest)


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