VMware ESXi 6.0 and Intel Xeon D / Broadwell-DE
With this week’s Intel Xeon D launch many saw the Xeon D-1500 as a perfect low power virtualization node. The Intel Xeon E3 series has been RAM limited to 32GB for several generations now and Broadwell-DE promised to fix that. We have been using a pre-production version of the Supermicro X10SDV-F with an onboard Intel Xeon D-1540 SoC to test the new platform out this week and have some exciting results. We took the new image of VMware ESXi 6.0 and wanted to see what the new platform has to offer.
As a hardware reviewer, VMware ESXi compatibility with a new pre-production platform often makes for some tension trying to figure out how to get onboard hardware to work. VMware has a much tighter hardware compatibility list (HCL) than Microsoft Windows or many Linux variants so often one has to add drivers to ESXi images manually.
Installing VMware ESXi 6.0 onto a Xeon D server
We installed onto a SanDisk Ultra Fit 16GB drive which is USB 3.0 to match the USB ports on our Supermicro X10SDV-F platform. USB 3.0 booting has been problematic on some platforms so we wanted to test a harder case. The VMware ESXi 6.0 installer had no issue with installing to the USB drive using the iso mounted from IPMI. At this point, we had no drives attached to the system.
Upon restarting everything just worked. There are some part of the machine information that were not visible, which is typical in pre-production gear like this Supermicro X10SDV-F. We can see 8x CPUs at 1.9GHz which is the base clock of the pre-release version of the Intel Xeon D-1540 (the shipping version is 100MHz faster.) DirectPath I/O is supported and we have a 64GB RAM 8 CPU/ 16 thread ESXi 6.0 node idling at 22w now that we have better right-sized cooling. That is really awesome for anyone who has been looking for low power ESXi nodes.
Although we do not have drives attached in this example, there are still 6x SATA 3 ports, a PCIe x4 m.2 port and a PCIe 3.0 x16 slot available on the motherboard so one could actually build a decent vSAN node on this platform.
Following up on our Ubuntu 14.04 LTS results, we see evidence of the Xeon D’s integrated PCH showing up in ESXi 6.0 as Lynx Point which is the code name for the Intel C220 family PCH.
There are certainly more powerful ESXi 6.0 options out there in the market. The fact that the Intel Broadwell-DE platform and Supermicro X10SDV-F pre-production sample we are testing worked out of the box with the VMware ESXi 6.0 installer iso was great to see. It was certainly much easier than the early days with even the first shipping Avoton and Rangely Atom C2000 platforms.