How ESXi-Customizer supports ESXi 5.0 - FAQ

I got a lot of feedback after posting the new ESXi-Customizer (with support for ESXi 5.0) and the "anatomy"-article explaining its technical background. It looks like I haven't been clear enough on some points and need to provide some additional information. So here is a list of frequently asked questions (FAQ), I might update it from time to time, so stay tuned.

1. Can I use existing drivers (made for ESXi 4.x) for customizing ESXi 5.0?

No, you can't. Driver binaries compiled for ESXi 4.x are not compatible with ESXi 5.0. They just won't be loaded. Instead vmkload_mod will throw the error message "Module does not provide a license tag".

2. What input does ESXi-Customizer expect for customizing ESXi 5.0?

It expects a gzip-compessed tar-file (with extension .tgz) that includes exactly three files:

  • /usr/lib/vmware/vmkmod/<driver-module> (the binary driver module)
  • /etc/vmware/<driver-name>.map (maps PCI device IDs to the binary module)
  • /usr/share/hwdata/driver.pciids.d/<driver-name>.ids (maps PCI device IDs to display names)
Nothing more is needed. All other steps outlined in the "anatomy"-post will be done by ESXi-Customizer.

3. When and where will ESXi 5.0 compatible community drivers be available?

ESXi device drivers are derived from device drivers written for the Linux kernel. However, it is necessary to make specific changes to the source code of a stock Linux driver to turn it into an ESXi driver. An experienced Linux developer can find out what changes are necessary by studying the complete source of the existing ESXi drivers that are shipped with ESXi 5.0.

The source code of these drivers has not yet been published by VMware. However, they are obliged to do this (sooner or later), because most of the original Linux drivers are licensed under the GNU GPL requiring that the source code of derived works also needs to be publicly available.
So, we need to wait for VMware to publish the OpenSource code of its drivers (we can expect it here), and for some knowledgeable people to compile new ESXi 5.0 compatible drivers then.

I am confident that this will happen in the near future. And I expect the new drivers to become available at Dave Mishchenko's, the home of the ESXi Whitebox HCL.

4. Does ESX-Customizer support creating a bootable USB-key with ESXi 5.0?

No, it does not. If the machine that you want to install ESXi on does not have a CD-ROM drive, you can help yourself by installing ESXi 5.0 using any other machine (that has a CD-ROM drive) onto a USB key drive. Once you have a bootable USB key you can use that to also boot any other machine!
The easiest and safest method is to use a virtual machine provided by VMware Workstation or VMware player to do the initial install. Yes, ESXi 5.0 can be installed in a VMware Workstation VM - just select "ESX Server 4" as the guest OS type.

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