Upgrading the Homelab with an Intel NUC 11 Extreme Kit

After a few years working on old hardware (self made PCs) running VMware ESXi it was getting time to upgrade the lab environment to be able to write blogs about VMware Horizon and Cloud Pod Architecture, as well as doing more advanced blogs on Azure migration scenarios in the future. 

I researched a lot, which device could be a good fit to save space in my office, but providing great power for my testings. Finally I decided to go for Intel’s 11th generation of the “Next Unit of Computing”, in short NUC. I bought the Extreme Kit, which provides also possibilities to extend the setup with a GPU at a later point of time. 

Picture Source: Picture Link

The device, which looks dangerous and fancy at the same time comes in the following versions: 

Intel Nuc 11 Extreme Kit – Intel i9 11900KB – 24M Cache and a performance up to 4,9GHz
Intel Nuc 11 Extreme Kit – Intel i7 11700B – 24M Cache and a performance up to 4,8 GHz

Both devices support by default a maximum RAM capacity of 64GB and has support for 4x M2 SSDs. Which provide sufficient storage and storage performance for lab environments. The exact specs are referenced in the links above. 

Something to note is that the ESXi hypervisor by default doesn’t support the onboard network interface card. It dropped an error message, saying that the NIC couldn’t be identified. Thanks to a great VMware community there is the Community Network driver, which can easily being injected to make ESXi run. 

Let me outline the steps I’ve taken to make ESXi work. 

First of all, you need to download the download the offline bundles for both ESXi (https://customerconnect.vmware.com/group/vmware/evalcenter?p=free-esxi7) and the Community network driver from the VMware fling site (https://flings.vmware.com/community-networking-driver-for-esxi).  

Afterwards you need to make sure to install the PowerCLI on your Windows machine, to be able to inject the drivers. 

If you haven’t installed PowerCLI yet, do so with the following command:

					Install-Module VMware.PowerCLI -Scope CurrentUser

Once the offline bundles have been downloaded and the PowerCLI is installed the following commandlets can be executed to build a working ESXi image. 

					Add-EsxSoftwareDepot .VMware-ESXi-7.0U2-17630552-depot.zip
Add-EsxSoftwareDepot .Net-Community-Driver_1.0.0.0-1vmw.700.1.0.15525992_17594603.zip
New-EsxImageProfile -CloneProfile "ESXi-7.0.2-17630552-standard" -name "ESXi-7.0.2-17630552-NUC" -Vendor "virten.net"
Add-EsxSoftwarePackage -ImageProfile "ESXi-7.0.2-17630552-NUC" -SoftwarePackage "net-community"
Export-ESXImageProfile -ImageProfile "ESXi-7.0.2-17630552-NUC" -ExportToISO -filepath ESXi-7.0.2-17630552-NUC.iso

Once you have performed the steps you get a working image including the required network drivers.

What you need to do next? Use a tool like Rufus to create a bootable USB key and run the installer of ESXi on your NUC!

I hope you enjoyed this small side post! In the upcoming months I’m going to prepare a series of blogs around Azure Migrate, Horizon Cloud Pod Federation, Azure VMware Solution, so stay tuned!



(Visited 9 times, 1 visits today)

Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *