In this year's summer Intel introduced their new Skylake platform. These motherboards are based on the Z170 chipset and often include onboard Intel i219(-V or -LM) Gigabit Ethernet adapters. VMware ESXi did not properly support the Skylake chipset from the beginning, but it looks like this changed with the release of ESXi 6.0 Update 1 and 5.5 Update 3. I do not own such a system myself, but I have heard reports of users who were able to successfully install ESXi 6.0 U1 on such a system.
However, ESXi 6.0 Update 1 does not (yet) include a driver that supports the i219 NICs. But ESXi 5.5 Update 3 (that was published only few days later) comes with an updated e1000e driver (version 22.214.171.124) that supports these NICs. Here is how you can make best use of it, even if you are already using ESXi 6.0.
If you have already installed ESXi 5.5 on your system (and don't want to upgrade) then you just need to update to the latest patch level which is Update 3a (this also fixes a nasty bug with VM snapshot consolidations that was introduced in Update 3). On my ESXiPatches site you can find a general guideline for updating ESXi to the latest patch level. Here is a very short version of it: In an ESXi shell run
esxcli network firewall ruleset set -e true -r httpClient esxcli software profile update -d https://hostupdate.vmware.com/software/VUM/PRODUCTION/main/vmw-depot-index.xml -p ESXi-5.5.0-20151004001-standard
and reboot. After that you will use the new e1000e driver that supports the i219 NIC.
If you have ESXi 6.0 already installed then you should also update to the latest patch level Update 1a (although this is not necessary for getting the i219 adapter to work):
esxcli network firewall ruleset set -e true -r httpClient esxcli software profile update -d https://hostupdate.vmware.com/software/VUM/PRODUCTION/main/vmw-depot-index.xml -p ESXi-6.0.0-20151004001-standardReboot, and then run
esxcli software vib update -n net-e1000e -d https://hostupdate.vmware.com/software/VUM/PRODUCTION/main/vmw-depot-index.xml
This will install the updated e1000e driver of ESXi 5.5 on your ESXi 6.0 system. After another reboot your i219 NIC should be working!
If you want to have an ESXi 6.0 installation image available with the latest patch level and the updated e1000e driver then you can create that with my ESXi-Customizer-PS script like this:
.\ESXi-Customizer-PS-v2.4.ps1 -v60 -load net-e1000e
Please note: Some people falsely believe that it's GLRoman's e1000e driver from my VIBSDepot that adds the support for the i219 adapter. This is not true! Even if you add the -vft switch to the command above the script will add the net-e1000e package from the VMware Online Depot, because this is a newer version than the one in the V-Front Online Depot (126.96.36.199 vs. 188.8.131.52).
And another final note: With the methods above you add a driver that was built for ESXi 5.5 to an ESXi 6.0 system. This works well, because ESXi 6.0 is still compatible with 5.x drivers. However, if you want to be fully supported with your system then you should wait for an official ESXi 6.0 version of the updated driver. I can imagine that this will be part of the next ESXi 6.0 patch bundle.
This post first appeared on the VMware Front Experience Blog and was written by Andreas Peetz. Follow him on Twitter to keep up to date with what he posts.