How to get the Intel i354 Avoton / Rangeley Adapter to work with VMware ESXi 5.5
We have been working with the Supermicro A1SAi-2750F based on the Intel “Avoton” C2750 processor for the past few days. At this point, we are performing a standard set of compatibility testing. Even though VMware ESXi 5.5 was recently released, it does not support the Intel i354 4-port gigabit Ethernet adapter out of the box. This is unfortunate, but par for the course with VMware compatibility.
Whereas previous Atom iterations had limited potential as a virtual machine platform due to a low memory total limitation as well as the processor limitation, Avoton and Rangeley change this significantly. Along with a 32GB memory limit and 8 out-of-order execution cores, the new Intel C2000 platforms are more interesting as a virtualization platform. Add to this the fact that Intel has added features such as AES-NI acceleration, and a 4-port Intel i354 gigabit Ethernet controller into the Avoton/ Rangeley platform and it makes a case as a very interesting virtualization platform.
Since the Intel i354 network adapter is not supported out-of-box we have to do a similar procedure loading Intel drivers for VMware ESXi as we have done in the past. Previously, we utilized the method for the newer Intel i210 and i350 adapters with VMware ESXi. For the Intel i354 network adapter, we need to use a similar procedure.
Here is the default loading screen on a Supermicro A1SAi-2750F. Luckily, the Supermicro Avoton platform is generally supported using the built-in drivers.
Once it comes time to load the default network adapters, the Intel Avoton platform’s i354 network adapter is not recognized by VMware ESXi. This results in the dreaded “No Network Adapters” warning. At this point, the only option is to reboot. The key is that upon reboot, one needs to modify the ESXi 5.5 installation ISO.
To modify the installation ISO, the first thing we need is drivers. These can be found on the VMware download site. For this example we are using the VMware 126.96.36.199 drivers. There will likely be newer versions subsequent to this article, but a base search would be for “igb 188.8.131.52 driver package” which worked in this example.
At this point, one needs to get ESXi Customizer as we mentioned in the i210 and i350 piece. One can get it here. Upon running the ESXi Customizer tool, one can simply select the VMware ESXi 5.5 ISO for the first line. For the second line one needs to tell the tool where the new igb drivers are that support the i354 network adapter. One tip here is to extract the drivers then point to the VIB file. The OEM .tgz file did not work in our installation. After that one can point to a working directory and let the tool run.
The resulting ISO can be burned to a CD, or easier may be using the onboard IPMI capability to remotely mount the ISO. Once this is complete, the ESXi 5.5 installer will pass the “No Network Adapters” warning and instead allow one to choose an installation drive.
At this point, one can continue their installation as normal. As one can see, the four Intel i354 gigabit NICs are active but DirectPath I/O is not enabled on the Intel C2000 platform.
Hopefully this quick guide helps folks get past this issue. The new Intel Avoton platform is one that fairly inexpensively integrates a decent processor, 32GB of memory (the same as the Intel Xeon E3 series) and a 4-port Intel i354 network controller onto a small package.