Since we already covered Debian based Ubuntu as well as CentOS and how to fix their crashes with Ryzen and get those systems working, we instead changed our attention to VMware ESXi 6.5. The current AMD Ryzen 7 1700 is a low cost 8 core 16 thread option. Especially given the fact that for $329 you get a CPU and heatsink, you can get a $99 motherboard, and add up to 64GB RAM for around $400. That means that with an inexpensive case and PSU for around $900 you can have an 8 core 16 thread system with 64GB of RAM making it one of the best value home server systems around. The question we had was whether VMware ESXi 6.5 would work with AMD Ryzen 7 chips.
Setting Up AMD Ryzen with VMware ESXi 6.5
We took a fairly simple test system and got everything ready to install ESXi. Here is the basic configuration:
- CPU: AMD Ryzen 7 1700X
- Motherboard: ASUS Prime B350-Plus
- Cooler: Noctua NH-L9x65 SE-AM4
- 64GB G-Skill DDR4 (4x 16GB)
- SSDs: 16GB Kingston m.2 2242, Intel DC S3700 800GB, Intel DC S3700 100GB
- PCIe Networking: Intel XL710-DA2 (dual 40GbE) and Intel Desktop Adapter 82572EI (1GbE)
- Video: EVGA GeForce 710 2GB
- KVM: Lantronix Spider external KVM
We knew the ASUS motherboard’s Realtek NIC was not ideal for VMware so we added the XL710-DA2 40GbE adapter as this setup is going into the DemoEval lab next.
Starting VMware ESXi 6.5 Installation on AMD Ryzen
We started the boot process with the VMware ESXi 6.5 installer ISO over our Lantronix KVM. The results were less than promising:
As you can see, VMware seems to not like the default configuration of the AMD Ryzen. For those wondering, we did try both UEFI and standard BIOS booting, as well as switching the installation media to a USB key with the same result, the dreaded VMware ESXi Pink Screen of Death. This is something we hope will be fixed before the AMD Naples server platform launch. VMware still has a large ecosystem.
The good news is that AMD-V extensions are present on the AMD Ryzen CPUs. Furthermore, virtualization does work using KVM using the newer Linux kernels. We even have AMD Ryzen systems in our Docker Swarm cluster. You can see our CentOS and Ubuntu guides for getting Kernel 4.10.1 installed with Ryzen.
VMware is not known for leading hardware support so this result should be little surprise to most in the industry. We suspect that as the AMD Naples platform is released we will see VMware support Zen virtualization.