One question I get asked often is how to make a desktop PC VMware ESXi ready. That question invariably differs from case to case (and I cannot answer all questions) but one of the best bits of advice I can give is to make sure you have at least one networks adapter supported in VMware ESXi. I will be doing a few of these pieces but will touch upon one of my old mainstays today, the Intel Pro/1000 PT Desktop single port adapter. For those wondering, these can be found inexpensively second hand, and will probably continue to do so as they come off of interactive support from Intel in mid-2012. See the Intel Pro/1000 PT ebay search.
A little bit about the card is that the Intel Pro/1000 PT Desktop adapter is a gigabit Ethernet NIC that runs off of a PCIe x1 interface. Note, the PCIe x1 interface makes it compatible with not just x1 physical/ electrical slots but pretty much any PCIe slot you find even PCIe x16 physical slots generally reserved for add-on graphics cards. The controller itself is an Intel 82572GI controller for those that like to search for exact specs. Some big notes here are that this is a bit of an older card so you do have a few offload/ interrupt moderation items present in newer controllers but not the PT line including this single RJ-45 port version.
The Intel Pro/1000 PT Desktop adapter has been supported in VMware ESXi for a long time, here is the VMware ESXi compatibility list entry for the adapter. One can see there that the adapter has been supported in VMware ESXi since version 3.5 and all the way to the current VMware ESXi 5.0 release. Windows 7, Windows Server 2003 and Windows Server 2008 (R2) compatibility is a given as this is a very well supported controller. I have also not had issues in various Linux distributions and FreeBSD. Bottom line, this is one of those adapters that is well supported in operating systems today, and likely will continue to be for a few years out.
Typical power consumption is 3.3w which is not bad, but slightly higher than newer generation chips. Doing the Intel Pro/1000 PT ebay search will usually yield results in the $40-70 each range with possibilities to best offer. I have gotten a few for under $35, but these are pretty decent controllers if you can find a deal on them. A goal here should be to aim for versions with the heat sink as pictured here. They are low TDP parts but a small passive heatsink adds a bit of security. Also, Intel offers a lifetime warranty on these, so if one dies, you have a good chance of getting it replaced. This is an especially important fact once mid-summer 2012 hits and Intel stops interactive support as there is a good chance these NICs will become more plentiful as server pulls. Next week, I will do an overview of the Intel Gigabit CT Desktop adapter which is the successor to the Pro/1000 PT and also a great VMware option.