While reinstalling home lab with vSphere 6.7, I was remembered (the hard way) that my on-board NIC is based on Realtek 8111 chipset which is not included in the default vSphere installation media.
I had to go accept the challenge of finding the drivers and creating a new bootable vSphere ISO. Nothing I haven't done before, but since it is not often I've decided to make it a blog post.
First I needed to find the drivers. Using a bit of google foo I found the blog of a long time vExpert (thank you) which has also a collection of drivers. I've downloaded the net55-r8168 offline bundle . From VMware site I've downloaded offline bundle for vSphere 6.7. Placed both of them in the same folder and opened a PowerCLI prompt.
First, create a new software depot using the two bundles:
Next, create a new image profile: see what profiles exist, clone one and change its acceptance level to "community" (because the driver I am about to load is community signed):
Add the driver to image profile:
Lastly, generate the vSphere 6.7 ISO containing the driver:
In one picture, it looks like this:
One more step is needed. Since we have the ISO, we just need to write on a bootable USB. To do this, I've downloaded Rufus, portable version. Run the software, select destination a USB stick (it will be overwritten so better not having any useful data on it), selected the source my new ISO and pressed start.
If during the creation of the bootable stick you are asked to update menu.c32, press YES. After it finishes I've plugged the stick in my physical box and happily installed ESXi.
File download test reached 800 Mbps, a normal value keeping in mind the connectivity between my laptop and the ESXi host.
Driver not supported in vSphere 7
Unfortunately the driver is not supported anymore in vSphere 7 due to legacy VMKlinux drivers no longer being supported. Trying to add the drivers to custom image will fail with the following error:
Trying to upgrade to vSphere 7 gives the error, although in a prettier format:
Options are either keep 6.7 and run 7.0 nested or look for another NIC.