Intel NUC Skull Canyon (NUC6I7KYK) and ESXi 6.0

As part of my ongoing expansion of the HomeDC, I was excited to learn about the availability of the latest Quad-Core Intel NUC a few months ago. Last friday I received my first Intel NUC Skylake NUC6I7KYK. I only started setting it up this afternoon. I usually do disabled a few settings in the BIOS, but following the warning from fellow bloggers that people had issues getting the Intel NUC running with ESXi [virtuallyghetto.com] I did take a deeper look prior to the install. I was able to install ESXi 6.0 Update 2 (Build 3620759) on my 4th try after disabling more settings in the BIOS.

Here is the screenshot of the ESXi Host Client of the Intel NUC6I7KYK with BIOS 0034.

nuc6i7kyk_ehc

Here is a quick screenshot of the physical machine. I was planning to use the SDXC slot with an SDXC 32GB card to store the boot configuration of ESXi, but unfortunately I did not see the SDXC as a valid target during the ESXi install process. So I keep the USB key I was boot from and select it as the target. On the screenshot below you will also notice an extra Network card, the StarTech USB3 Gigabit Ethernet Network Adapter which driver you can get from VirtuallyGhetto’s web page Functional USB 3.0 Ethernet Adapter (NIC) driver for ESXi 5.5 & 6.0. Thanks William for this driver.

nuc6i7kyk_startech

The Bill-of-Materials (BOM) of my assembly…

Here below you can see the Intel NUC with the two Samsung SM951 NVMe disks and the Crucial memory.nuc6i7kyk_open

To get ESXi 6.0 Update 2 to install I disabled the following BIOS Settings.But as people have commented back after more test, you really only need to disable the Thunderbolt Controller to get ESXi to install.

BIOS\Devices\USB

  • disabled – USB Legacy (Default: On)
  • disabled – Portable Device Charging Mode (Default: Charging Only)
  • not change – USB Ports (Port 01-08 enabled)

BIOS\Devices\SATA

  • disabled – Chipset SATA (Default AHCI & SMART Enabled)
  • M.2 Slot 1 NVMe SSD: Samsung MZVPV256HDGL-00000
  • M.2 Slot 2 NVMe SSD: Samsung MZVPV512HDGL-00000
  • disabled – HDD Activity LED (Default: On)
  • disabled – M.2 PCIe SSD LEG (Default: On)

BIOS\Devices\Video

  • IGD Minimum Memory – 64MB (Default)
  • IGD Aperture Size – 256MB (Default)
  • IGD Primary Video Port – Auto (Default)

BIOS\Devices\Onboard Devices

  • disabled – Audio (Default: On)
  • LAN (Default)
  • disabled – Thunderbolt Controller (Default: On)
  • disabled – WLAN (Default: On)
  • disabled – Bluetooth (Default: On)
  • Near Field Communication – Disabled (Default is Disabled)

BIOS\Devices\Onboard Devices\Legacy Device Configuration

  • disabled – Enhanced Consumer IR (Default: On)
  • disabled – High Precision Event Timers (Default: On)
  • disabled – Num Lock (Default: On)

BIOS\PCI

  • M.2 Slot 1 – Enabled
  • M.2 Slot 2 – Enabled
  • M.2 Slot 1 NVMe SSD: Samsung MZVPV256HDGL-00000
  • M.2 Slot 2 NVMe SSD: Samsung MZVPV512HDGL-00000

Cooling

  • CPU Fan Header
  • Fan Control Mode : Cool

Performance\Processor

  • disabled Real-Time Performance Tuning (Default: On)

Power

  • Select Max Performance Enabled (Default: Balanced Enabled)

Secondary Power Settings

  • disabled – Intel Ready Mode Technology (Default: On)
  • disabled – Power Sense (Default: On)
  • After Power Failure: Power On (Default was stay off)

Sample view of the BIOS Onboard Devices as I deactivate some Legacy Device Configuration.

nuc6i7kyk_bios_onboard

 

26/05 Update: Only the Thunderbolt Controller is stopping the ESXi 6.0 Update 2 installer to run properly. Re-activiting it after the install does not cause an issue in my limited testing.

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  • Yves Illi

    Nice idea but the NUC has no RIB? So if you wan’t to remotly upgrade or change the ESX host there is no possibility? Also there are rumors that there will come a 10 GbE to Thunderbolt3 Adapter soonish…

  • truth seeker

    I can’t enable jumbo frames on the onboard NIC of the Skull Canyon NUC using either EHC or esxicli. This is the error I get from CLI:

    esxcli network vswitch standard set -m 9000 -v vSwitch0
    Unable to set MTU to 9000 the following uplinks refused the MTU setting: vmnic0

    ——–
    Any ideas?

    • Yep, I was not able to get jumbo frames on the Intel I219-LM. But I believe you can get a MTU of around 4000 running.

  • S

    Would you mind sharing what sort of disk speeds you get with this setup and VSAN (even if its a single node (cluster)?

    Not benchamrks but real world speeds like copying an ISO from one VM to another stored on the same VSAN datastore would be interesting!

  • Marcelo Costa

    Erik, first of all, thank you very much for sahring your experience and knowedge with us.
    I have some doubts:
    1) Is there a way to VMware ESXi 6.0 understand the usb ports are USB 3.0? Right now, when I create the virtual USB controller, it only allows USB 2.0 virtual ports. I read some articles explaning that it is neeed to change the USB xHCI configuration on UEFI, but I did not find that option on Skull Canyon UEFI setup.
    2) Any way to make the onboard wirelless controller works on ESXi 6.0?

  • Thank you Erik. Very good article thank you for sharing all these details. Help me to setup mine.

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  • Jason

    Nice. Is the performance good? I am using an old NUC right now and wanted to use this for the quad i7 which the non-gaming models do not have right now with HT support. I currently have an old dual core i3 DC3217IYE and it seems to run fine but have been adding VMs and want to step up the power. It also runs my pfSense home firewall VPN.

  • Lorenzo Vogelsang

    Awesome article Erik! I was able to successfully install Esxi on my brand new Intel Nuc Skull Canyon. Once installed Esxi 6 Update 2 i have configured the Datastore but i’am always receiving an error when trying to create a new VM. Have you experienced the same issue? (maybe it’s not related to the Intel NUC) Thanks

    • Which version of ESXi 6.0 Update 2 do you use (Build number) ?
      Have you applied the latest one that came out this week ? A few bugs where ironed out ?
      How did you create the VMFS Datastore ? Using a vCenter or using the Embedded Host Client ? https://labs.vmware.com/flings/esxi-embedded-host-client ?

      • Lorenzo Vogelsang

        I will let you know what build number i have. Here is what i did:

        – Installed ESXi 6.0 Update 2

        – Configured the Samsung SSD as VMFS Datastore
        – Tried to create a VM

        All these operations were performed using the ESXi web interface. Is this wrong?
        Thank you very much

        • In theory it should work, but there might have been a bug in the ESXi Embedded Host client when it performed the local VMFS Partition formatting. So either you use the older vSphere C# Client on a PC to connect to the ESXi and recreate the VMFS partition, or you upgrade the ESXi host and the ESXi Embedded Host Client and retry formatting the VMFS partition

          ESXi upgrade from console

          esxcli network firewall ruleset set -e true -r httpClient

          esxcli software profile update -p ESXi-6.0.0-20161104001-standard -d https://hostupdate.vmware.com/software/VUM/PRODUCTION/main/vmw-depot-index.xml

          esxcli network firewall ruleset set -e false -r httpClient

  • Roel Butterhoff

    I have the same nuc and it looks like esxi 6.0 does not recognize the default LAN adapter. Is that why you have an additional LAN adapter via USB?

    • I’ve got ESXi 6.0 Update 2 running and it saw the integrated LAN adapter Intel I219-LM without any issue during install.
      The additional LAN adapters is to have more bandwidth and use them for dedicated network traffic (Distributed Virtual Switch DVS).

  • Harold Chong

    Hi,

    Has anyone tried installing ESXi 6.5 on the Skull Canyon yet? I am having a nightmare getting it to boot up after installing it on a USB Flash drive.

    • I’m running ESXi 6.5.0 Build 5320096 on them without an issue.

      • Harold Chong

        I’ve downloaded mine from VMUG EVALExperience as build 5310538. Are you using the standard iso or the Offline Bundle?

      • ManagerJosh

        Curious – does the SD slot and/or the Thunderbolt port work on ESXi 6.5 and Skull Canyon?

      • Jason

        My problem with 6.5 on Skull Canyon is that there seems to be a disk issue. Writing and partitioning VMs on them is dog slow.

      • Rick Miranda

        I installed ESXi 6.5.0 no problem but I can’t get it to store any configuration changes. I have a Samsung 960 EVO Series – 500GB NVMe – M.2 Internal SSD (MZ-V6E500BW) for storage. Any suggestions?

  • mbg_ch

    Thank you for your article, I have installed ESXi 6.0 Update 2 on the Skull Canyon NUC. The install was fine, the ESXi starts and I can connect. But after 10 mins, I get a purple screen with an Exception 14. Is the problem that I use the LAN port instead of an USB-LAN adapter?
    Regards, Martin