The Perfect vSphere 6 Home Lab

12.7.2016: Note: In addition to these Shuttle units, I’ve updated some other vSphere 6.5 lab configurations here.

It has been awhile since we’ve visited my “Perfect vSphere Lab” setups. If you’re not aware of my older perfect setups you can see a few here: ShuttleSH67H3 and Intel NUCs have been my most popular lab guides to date on this site.

However, with vSphere 6 out, the time has come to build out another guide of some good lab hardware. Maybe you’re studying for a VMware certification exam or just want a long term lab solution to avoid any RGE (resume generating events) at work, this post will outline what you need to get the job done as cheaply as possible and using something other than “nested” hosts.

The ESXi Host

DS81_frontDS81_back_01

For the host itself, I am going to recommend you use another small form factor Shuttle box.  A Shuttle DS81. These boxes are small (nowhere near the biggest host you can build) but I recommend these for two huge reasons, small size and low power. They DS81_3D_lefthave dual gigabit network connections as well built in so no need for any additional cards! All of these things equate to what I call a high WAF (wife acceptance factor) so that’s a plus. These boxes consume a fraction of the power that a full desktop uses. My kilowatt measures about 44 watts around 75% usage. Running at least two of them is what I recommend so you can create a cluster. If you’re looking to do anything with vSAN, you will need 3 hosts. My lab environment consists of 3 hosts for that sole reason!

The Processor

For this build you have two options, to go all out or to keep it simple and cheap. It’s really up to you. If you want my opinion, I’d say keep the costs down and buy more hosts instead of put a lot of money into getting just 1 or 2 large hosts. I’d rather have 3 medium sized hosts for a lab any day of the week.

The biggest difference in price from above is a quad core vs a dual core. When you enable HT it will double it either way you go. If the price difference does not seem like much to you, go all out! Feel free to play with the options but since you run out of memory generally first, CPU is a lot less of an issue.

The Memory

In terms of memory, you really need to max out the host here. They are capable of doing 16GB of ram across the entire host. The system has 2x 204pin memory slots that support DDR-1333/1600 with maximum of 8GB per DIMM. This also seems to be a good price point these days. 2 sticks of 8GB memory is one of the cheapest options out there now. Whatever you do, don’t go below 8GB total.

The Disk

First you have to ask yourself if you’ll be playing with vSAN at all. If you’re not interested in vSAN you really only need one of these disks. Well, technically one SD card and optionally another storage disk for local disk. I generally throw in some sort of small SSD in my hosts regardless for fast VM storage and then attach the host to my Synology DS1513+ as an iSCSI SAN. Remember: The Shuttle DS81 also only supports 2.5 inch hard disks! I am going to break this into three different setups:

The Disk Option 1: The I want vSAN setup.

You will install ESXi 6 to the integrated SD slot using the SD card, your 1TB 7200 SATA disk will be used as a capacity disk in vSAN and the 128GB mSATA drive will be used for caching.

The Disk Option 2: No vSAN, but local datastore please.

You will install ESXi 6 to the integrated SD slot using the SD card, the 128GB mSATA drive will be used for a local datastore.

The Disk Option 3: No vSAN, no local disk, only a basic ESXi install. I already have a SAN.

You will install ESXi 6 to the integrated SD slot using the SD card. You won’t have any local datastores so you’ll need to be sure you have some sort of already existing shared storage.

  • SanDisk 8GB SDHC Memory Card Some have stated that some DS81 units no longer ship with the SD card slot. So your backup option is to install ESXi to a USB stick. I would recommend a low profile one like this.

Overall build thoughts:

These machines work great with ESXi 6. One thing to note is that you’ll need to inject a vib into the ESXi 6 installer. This offline bundle adds the NIC drivers to the installer so you will have them. If you follow these steps below with PowerCLI you can do this within 10 minutes.

  1. Download and install vSphere PowerCLI 6.0 to get access to Image Builder. You will need to create an account, but this is free.
  2. Download required package (Place the zip file in C:\esxi)
    – net51-drivers-1.1.0-1vft.510.0.0.799733-offline_bundle.zip
  3. Open VMware vSphere PowerCLI and execute the commands below. This will create a customized ESXi 6 iso that includes all the needed drivers. Be aware that a few commands will take some time, so be patient.
  4. Go to the root of your C: drive and burn the new iso to disk.
#If you've never used PowerCLI before, set the ExecutionPolicy to RemoteSigned. Skip this step if you have already.
Set-ExecutionPolicy RemoteSigned 
#Makes sure the ImageBuilder snapin is added.
Add-PSSnapin VMware.ImageBuilder
#Connects to the software depot. Takes a few seconds to connect.
Add-EsxSoftwareDepot https://hostupdate.vmware.com/software/VUM/PRODUCTION/main/vmw-depot-index.xml
#Adds DS81 drivers.
Add-EsxSoftwareDepot c:\esxi\net51-drivers-1.1.0-1vft.510.0.0.799733-offline_bundle.zip
#Takes the standard ESXi 6 iso image and clones it so we can essentially slipstream in the missing drivers. 
New-EsxImageProfile -CloneProfile "ESXi-6.0.0-2494585-standard" -name "ESXi-6.0.0-2494585-DS81" -vendor "withNICs"
#Take our newly modified profile and spit out an iso to use. This will take a few minutes. Be patient. 
Export-ESXImageProfile -ImageProfile "ESXi-6.0.0-2494585-DS81" -ExportToISO -filepath C:\ESXi-6.0.0-2494585-DS81.iso

 

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83 Responses to The Perfect vSphere 6 Home Lab

  1. James Wilmington says:

    Hello,

    I have been looking for a small “WAF” box for my ESXi projects for ages.

    There were high hopes for the Shuttle DS57u, but the i7 version of this is hard to get hold of.

    The only limiting factor i can see with the DS81 is the REALTEK nics. I was hoping for Intel ones :-(.

    So… as you use ESXi labs a lot, please can you tell us if there is any *real* noticeable difference using Realtek over Intel nics?

    The only other thing i can think of is to have a DUAL intel NIC mini-pcie card.

    Thanks

  2. Rob Ryan says:

    just a fun little note on these guys, there’s 2 versions floating around in the wild, the latest apparently are now missing the SD slot (well, more appropriately access to the SD slot – stupid thing is still on the motherboard, but you can’t get to it because there’s no hole in the front/thru the metal) .. i was shifting my lab over to these and after testing the first one (w/esxi6 installed on SD) and being happy, the subsequent 4 have all been missing said slot (2 from amazon where i got the original one, and 2 from newegg hoping it was just the supplier amazon used. nope.)

    will probably stick with them and just go by some usb sticks, since they seem to be perfectly capable little guys (the 3 take up less space than one of my older shuttle breadboxes do 🙂

    • Ryan Birk says:

      Good to note. Lucky for us USB sticks are cheap!

      • Josh Coffey says:

        Is there another shuttle model that supports the same processors and ram amt, but intel NIC? I’m a little worried about running into issues with the realtec nic on the ds81. If, my worry about that is trivial, then ok, but idk, i’m a noob in this kind of thing, so I’d hope to not create too many issues for myself.

        Thanks!

    • Josh Coffey says:

      Ryan, is esxi supposed to run on the SD cards in this setup? i’m guessing it’s to run on the SD cards and you’d have your guests stored on the hard drives, correct or no?

      • Ryan Birk says:

        It can be ran on an SD card, or a USB stick. VMs run on NAS or the internal HDs.

        • Josh Coffey says:

          excellent. If i buy esxi 6.0 to run on the SDs; does it need to be essentials, essentials plus, or either/or?

          Thanks!

        • Josh Coffey says:

          Wow, Thanks Ryan! THE VMUG ADGANTAGE COMES WITH EVERYTHING, EVEN VSAN! WOW! you just saved me: arm, leg… AND you pointed me in a direction that i could use all vmware items for only $200 a year! I was about to have to spend about $1500 and settle for a free vSan knockoff – starwind. Thank you a ton!

  3. evi says:

    hello,

    ive recently purchased a ds81 i would like to install esxi hypervisor 6.
    i’ve tried downloading the .zip but the link seems to be broken.: net51-drivers-1.1.0-1vft.510.0.0.799733-offline_bundle.zip
    is there anyway of sending it to me please ? i would like the vib file to add to esxi iso.
    or could you possibly send the custom made iso to me please ?

    kind regard, thanx !

  4. Danny says:

    Hey Ryan,

    The last section talks about the vib file and the offline bundle. I checked and the vib file is in the offline bundle. Do I need to download both of these or just one since you posted both?

    Note the location should be changed to “esx” instead of “esxi” in the script.

    I can’t seem to get the vib loaded correctly. ESX will boot but fails due to no network adapters.

    Thanks,
    Danny

    • Ryan Birk says:

      Yes, just use the offline zip file and build the ISO via PowerCLI. Thanks, I’ll change the notes.

      • Danny says:

        Thanks –

        I wasn’t able to get the script to work for some reason. All of the steps completed without error, but the vib didn’t load. I ended up using the old gui version of esx-customizer.

        Here is my lab set up:
        3x Shuttles
        i5, 16GB, SSD tier and HDD tier for VSAN

        I had the same problem with the SD slot (it’s on the board but there isn’t a way to access it from the front). I’m using my old USB drives from the legacy lab.

        I’ll let you know how it runs, thanks for the recommended build!

  5. Mister T says:

    With a 2 box cluster using an option 2 configuration, what is the typical number of VMs one could expect to run in this environment? Is 4-6 a reasonable number? Does the number increase with the number of nodes added?

    • Ryan Birk says:

      A lot of it is going to depend on the sizing of the VMs, Resource Pools, etc but yes, 4-6 is a very reasonable number. I would think that you could do 4-6 easily on each host. So 8-12 total across two of them. If you keep the VMs at a reasonable size maybe even more.

  6. Chip says:

    Ryan, can you comment (maybe with performance numbers?) on how VSAN is working on this setup? Can you provide us with the queue depth as well from the controllers?

    One of the things I’ve noticed with these small VSAN home labs is the absence of any commentary on how well VSAN actually performs. Sure, it will work, but will it work well enough to justify investing in three hosts and outfitting them with extra hardware?

  7. Daniel says:

    Hi Ryan,

    I’m on step 4 attaching the drivers located c:\esxi\ But since mine is not zip it’s a .vib uncompressed. I keep getting path error [4] and [3] with read error. All files are in c:\esxi\

    My location> c:\esxi\net51-drivers-1.1.0-1vft.510.0.0.799733-offline_bundle.vib not zip.

    is the above correct? The only this im changing is the zip to vib.

    I would to send screen shot if possible.

    Thx in advance Ryan,

  8. Daniel says:

    Hello all,

    Was anyone able to complete this task of slipstreaming the drivers. I have the ESXi 6.0 Iso and drivers. Would anyone like to make $$ for your time for creating the image for me. I can send the files needed.

    If interested here’s my email danietec06@yahoo.com

  9. Daniel says:

    Hey Ryan,

    I’m almost there thanks to you but I have a Question, On the last (string) Export-ESXImageProfile -ImageProfile “ESXi-6.0.0-2494585-DS81” -ExportToISO -filepath C:\ESXi-6.0.0-2494585-DS81.iso. “I get a Permission Denied”.

    I did use the “Set-ExecutionPolicy RemoteSigned” command and answered “yes”. Was I supposed to say “no”?

    Thx in advance for your help.

  10. Daniel says:

    Hey Ryan,

    I figured it out, The “Permission denied” error was due to the wrong path to where the new created ISO was deposited.

    Thanks for all your help and you have such a great website.

  11. Andy Cory says:

    Hi Ryan

    I’m looking to set up a Shuttle ESXi 6 box as a hobby project on which to run a few VMs. I’m IT savvy, but pretty new to hypervisors, so was delighted to come across a blog post like yours. Because of my newness to the subject I was reluctant to lay out money on hardware that may or may not work with ESXi, so having advice from someone who has successfully got everything to work is invaluable. The only thing stopping me is that I’d hoped to build a box with 32Gb RAM, and the DS81 maxes out at 16Gb. Have you any ideas of a Shuttle capable of supporting 32Gb that would be suitable as an ESXi 6 host?

  12. JamesT says:

    Hi Ryan,

    I’m at line “Add-EsxSoftwareDepot c:\esxi\net51-drivers-1.1.0-1vft.510.0.0.799733-offline_bundle.zip.”

    Question, I’m I just putting the actual driver.vib single file in the .zip or your whole driver package? I have seen countless people extracting just the .vib driver package. I have tried this both ways.

    My path is above and error I’m always getting is “Couldn’t download from depot at zip:c:\esxi\net51-drivers-1.1.0-1vft.510.0.0.799733-offline_bundle.zip. skipping <>

    What I’m I doing wrong?

    Thanks

  13. JamesT says:

    To continue from above, error says “Error extracting, no such file or directory”. It is the correct path.

  14. DanR says:

    Did you have any issues with ESX seeing the 128GB mSATA drive? I have ESXi 6 up and running, got my nic sorted out, the only hardware my install isn’t recognizing is my mSATA drive. I am shooting for vSAN setup. I can see my 1Tb SATA drive ok, but the SSD mSATA is nowhere to be found…

  15. Alexander says:

    Hi there,
    Thanks for your article, I was really to find it. I was searching for a compact server to run VMware home lab !

    I’ve received my two Shuttle, but I’ve got little issues to perform the installation of ESXi 6.0.

    I’ve followed your instruction to create a custom Iso, but when I boot it up, I get the “No Network Adapters” (“No network adapters were detected …”).

    I get it on the two shuttle, so I assume it’s not a problem from the hardware itself that would be broken when I received it…

    Could it be the driver that hasn’t be added correctly to the iso image ?

    Thanks for your help =)

  16. Boris says:

    Hi Ryan,

    Great post and very valuable info for newbies who want to build small virtual box. I was just wondering what is the difference between SanDisk 8GB SDHC Memory Card which cost almost $100 and any other 8GB SDHC class 4 memory card ?

  17. Kris Hanson says:

    Ryan

    I recently took your vmware class and went ahead and purchased the above equipment.

    I am having trouble with the drivers. I run all the power shell commands but when the ISO boots it tells me it can find and network cards.

    Any thoughts?

    • Ryan Birk says:

      Kris,

      Try using the other method with the Alexander mentions above. That also will embed the drivers and others find it easy to use as well.

  18. enrique says:

    Hi Ryan,

    I have a single i7 machine with 32gb ram, can i use this instead of two waf machines..? Thanks!

    • Ryan Birk says:

      I’m going to say it would be pretty unlikely that it would work out of the box without any kind of drivers. ESXi is fairly picky, you have to strategically build homelabs if you want it to work.

  19. Rob D. says:

    Worked very well, but before Exporting, I had to do 2 things
    1. Set the Image Profile to “CommunitySupported”
    2. Use the Add-ESXSoftwarePackage command to add the Realtek driver from the depot into the new Image Profile

    Great and easy build recommendation. Love the high “WAF” too.

    • Rob D. says:

      I also had to take a dremel tool to the front faceplate as the SD card slot was covered up. I hear this is happening with some of the DS81s that have been shipped. Not the most elegant way to go, but it got the job done.

  20. tobredren says:

    What about the power consumption? Those cpu’s you mention above are TDP 65W and 54W respectively. Add in the motherboard, memory, drives and if you’re not over the 90W power supply, you’re pretty close. These shuttles must run pretty hot and loud?

    • Ryan Birk says:

      It has been awhile since I plugged my killawatt into them to see, but they run warm but not really hot. For a small form factor, I’d say it’s pretty much the norm. They don’t run as cool as my SH67H3 boxes but those are huge compared to these.

  21. Calvin says:

    For a VSAN setup what compatible network switch would you recommend?

  22. Icedude says:

    I also had to do what Rob D did as well to get this to work:

    Use CommunitySupported
    Specifically Add-SoftwarePackage

    New-EsxImageProfile -CloneProfile “ESXi-6.0.0-2494585-standard” -name “ESXi-6.0.0-2494585-DS81” -vendor “withNICs” -AcceptanceLevel CommunitySupported

    Add-EsxSoftwarePackage -ImageProfile ESXi-6.0.0-2494585-DS81 -SoftwarePackage net51-drivers

    Then it worked like a champ. I good explanation of the process can be found at:
    http://blogs.vmware.com/vsphere/2012/04/using-the-vsphere-esxi-image-builder-cli.html#more-3186

    Thanks Ryan for getting me started. I purchased you recommended labs and just got the first “server” up and running.

  23. Alex says:

    what are the pros and cons vSan vs local datastore?

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  25. Bennie says:

    Hi Ryan,

    Thanks for this post, I love it so must that I started building this setup with the DS81.

    I have 1 issue still open, I have problems setting MTU to 9000, the max the nics accept is 4000.

  26. Nigel says:

    I tried the below;

    Crucial 16GB Kit (8GBx2) DDR3-1600 MT/s (PC3-12800) 204-Pin SODIMM Notebook Memory

    But it only worked when I removed the top stick and had 8Gig instead of 16. Have ordered some Kingston sticks that are on Shuttle’s ds81 compatibility list instead Kingston KVR16S11/8

  27. John J says:

    Hi Ryan,
    I have a ds81 and vmware esxi installed , however need to check if we can boot a Windows 7 Virtual machine from an USB bootable. Since we dont have a CD on the DS81 , USB is the only option. But cant seem to boot it from the USB. USB controller and USB disk is seen as connected via the vsphere client .

  28. Great post Ryan. Can you please elaborate on why you moved away from the Intel NUCs in favor of the Shuttles?

  29. Phil K says:

    The guys I work with are all using the NUC i7 version with 32gb ram. The reason being that NSX needs quite a bit of RAM to function properly. What are your thoughts on this? Is the 16GB build a little short-sighted or is having ESXi 6.0 worth using the build you recommend?

  30. So I am going to jump in and answer the NUC and NSX question.

    First of all the limitations on the NUC are going to be NIC’s if you want to properly set up a segmented environment for NSX and storage etc (you are using different switches for storage aren’t you?? 😉 ).

    Secondly the NSX Manager can have it’s resources reduced, as well as that you can also just deploy a single controller but remember neither of these are supported by VMware and would only be advised in lab environment.

    You can build an NSX environment with limited resources in the cluster but obviously the more hosts in the cluster (even with just 16GB per host) the better you’re going to be.

    Personally speaking I am still running 3 SH67H3’s for my management cluster (yes home lab), with 2 HP Micro Servers (limited by the BIOS to only use 16GB) for my consumer layer. I can’t justify replacing the i7 3770’s for the D1541 based motherboards just yet.

  31. Michael@VMware says:

    I went with the Shuttle DS87, and everything else on the list.

    • Ryan Birk says:

      Nice, you’ll have to let me know how the 87 works out. I have not tried it yet.

      • Michael@VMware says:

        Amazon had the DS87 $12 cheaper than the DS81..which is the only reason I went that way…

        • Mirza says:

          Michael –
          How are the DS87 working out for you? Was it a pretty straight forward install? I’m considering purchasing the DS87 too, but just want to be sure before I hit the buy button

  32. Walter says:

    Hi Ryan,

    While the post is old. See you’re still replying so here’s mine…

    Do you have any recomendations for building a box for certiciations but n vmware certification? I want to get some networking and security certifications in (Cisco, Juniper, F5, CEH, etc) and I want to replicate what we see in labs with Web Servers, ws hosts, ad servers, network appliances provided in vm form, etc. and hooking this up to my home network lab that includes actual physical network devices (routers, switches, firewalls).

    This will be for a HOME lab, not used 24/7 at all, but I do want to be able to spin up several vms, etc.

    After reading some I went ahead not sure if a mistake or overkill reading here, and purchased a Xeon 1246 v3. Chose that to get some server quality components without needed the extra features of the v5 series that also come with increased cost in motherboards, ddr4 ram, etc.

    I wanted to pair with an Asus P9D-C/4L motherboard, and 32 GB ECC RAM.

    Not sure if I can/should run ESXi off usb flash or something else, and if. 3TB disk would be good for the VMs.

    Again this is for a home lab for certifications that would only be used as we perform labs, etc.

    Thanks!

  33. Rasoul says:

    Great site, this lab guide is exactly what I was looking for.
    I keep running into a problem though. I followed the PowerCLI steps and got no error messages in the output. Burned the ISO file and still I get the error No Network Adapters when I boot to the new image and run setup. I’m using the Shuttle DS81. I’ve tried it twice. Once using another VIB I found on the realtek site, but could be the wrong file. Any thoughts?

  34. Gus Monteiro says:

    Thanks, Ryan, for your inspiring post.

    I’m just about to start purchasing three hosts based on your list, but now Shuttle has the new DH170, which supports Skylake, and it’s in stock at Amazon. Not a lot of performance difference, of course, but likely lower power consumption. Aside from processor and chipset, all else seems pretty much the same as the DS8x line.

    Could you please share your thoughts on whether this would be a just-as-nice setup, but more future proof than the DS8x line? I confess I’m leaning in the DH170 direction, but I would lean right back to DS81 or DS87 if there’s really no value.

    Many thanks!

    • Mirza says:

      Gus –
      Have you already ordered DH170? I was looking at it and was interested in for the mere fact that you can have up to 32GB of RAM however, Skylake doesn’t show to be on the compatibility chart on VMware site and I’m seeing a lot of reviews from folks running into issues while installing ESXi on Skylake proc..

  35. Antonio says:

    I was looking for a “perfect” vSphere 6 home lab, but also for a money saving and low energy / low sound system. The N3150/J3160-systems are energy saving systems and you can order them for only a few bucks. They can’t be used with “direct path i/o – hardware passthrough” and they are not so performant as bigger systems, but ESXi is running stable – without expending too much money.
    In many blogs people think, that these systems won’t run with ESXi, but this isn’t true. A trick is needed to make them up and running, because the SOC-graphics is incompatible with ESXI, read here:
    http://mobiletiger.jorba.de/vmware-esxi-6-0-n3150-itx-intel-celeron-braswell-platform-problem-solved/
    Summary: Not “perfect”, but very cheap, ultra silent and functional for a home lab with some VMs.

  36. Josh Coffey says:

    Is vSAN free with the free ESXi or no? If vSAN is free in any capacity, what are its limitations? If it isn’t free, what else could I use in it’s place (free) to accomplish creating the same thing that vsan would have accross the three hosts and their storage resources? I’m wanting to do this as a home test-lab very badly, but have to be fiscally mindful. Thank you very much, your article was very helpful and straightforward. Not to mention, very good information to help us geeks save some money!

    • Ryan Birk says:

      No, it is not free. Your best bet would be to use an openfiler or FreeNAS VM and build a simulated SAN out on that. You won’t really find any free tools for a distributed SAN solution.

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  38. Phil says:

    Hi Ryan… just confirming a few things. I just picked up a Dell Poweredge R710 2x Xeon X5560 2.8ghz / 48gb memory/ 2x 1tb hd / SATA Perc 6i

    do I want ESXi6 to run from a usb stick on the server and leave all of the internal resources for VM’s?

    thanks
    Phil

    • Ryan Birk says:

      Hey Phil, I would install it to a USB stick OR the 710s should have an internal SD slot you can use. I’d leave my actual internal HDs for VMFS volumes or pull them out if you’re using a SAN/NAS.

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  40. Alex says:

    Hi Ryan,

    I am about to obtain Shuttle DH110 with Intel i211+i219LM Dual Lan and up to 32 GB DDR3 supported. However, I heard that Skylake processors are not supported in ESXi 6.0-6.5 and I have some doubts if I will be able to get NICs drivers for ESXi. Could you please give some advice in this regards.

    Thank you.

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  45. Josh Coffey says:

    Ryan,

    When i try to perform this step:#Takes the standard ESXi 6 iso image and clones it so we can essentially slipstream in the missing drivers., i get this error:

    PS C:\WINDOWS\system32> New-EsxImageProfile -CloneProfile “ESXi-6.0.0-2494585-standard” -name “ESXi-6.0.0-2494585-DS81” -vendor “withNICs”
    New-EsxImageProfile : Cannot process argument transformation on parameter ‘CloneProfile’. No image profile has a name
    that matches ‘ESXi-6.0.0-2494585-standard’. You may want to use the Get-EsxImageProfile cmdlet to search for an image
    profile.
    At line:1 char:35
    + … w-EsxImageProfile -CloneProfile “ESXi-6.0.0-2494585-standard” -name ” …
    + ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    + CategoryInfo : InvalidData: (:) [New-EsxImageProfile], ParameterBindingArgumentTransformationException
    + FullyQualifiedErrorId : ParameterArgumentTransformationError,VMware.ImageBuilder.Commands.NewImageProfile.

    I looked into using the ESXi-Customizer: https://www.v-front.de/p/esxi-customizer.html, but i have windows 10, and it will not work with windows 10. any thoughts? anything else i should try, or something i’m missing?

    Thanks! You’re blog is great and i’m glad to get started!

    • Josh Coffey says:

      I’m assuming the process above is to use the net51-drivers-1.1.0-1vft.510.0.0.799733-offline_bundle.zip, run the commands, and it creates an ISO file from that process?? Or am i already supposed to have an ISO and this process injects the drivers into that ISO? Thing is, I signed up for vmug.com, and downloaded the ISO i need (it’s esxi 6.5). But of course, it will not work as is because it is missing the ds81 drivers. So i’m kinda stuck in the middle, can i use your process here (which i think is for esxi 6.0 only), and upgrade to 6.5, or do i somehow get to add the drivers to the ISO (6.5) i already have?

      Thanks!

      • Ryan Birk says:

        You can either install 6.0 and then upgrade to 6.5 (either via iso or esxcli). See: http://www.vladan.fr/how-to-upgrade-esxi-6-0-to-6-5-via-cli-on-line/ or just build a 6.5 iso customized. The cli upgrade process is dead easy and that’s how I’ve been doing it for years now. The image profile name for 6.5 is “ESXi-6.5.0-4564106-standard” so just substitute that instead when you go to clone it with New-EsxImageProfile. That whole process will generate you a 6.5 iso then, and use your VMUG keys afterward.

        • Josh Coffey says:

          #If you’ve never used PowerCLI before, set the ExecutionPolicy to RemoteSigned. Skip this step if you have already.
          Set-ExecutionPolicy RemoteSigned
          #Makes sure the ImageBuilder snapin is added.
          Add-PSSnapin VMware.ImageBuilder
          #Connects to the software depot. Takes a few seconds to connect.
          Add-EsxSoftwareDepot https://hostupdate.vmware.com/software/VUM/PRODUCTION/main/vmw-depot-index.xml
          #Adds DS81 drivers.
          Add-EsxSoftwareDepot c:\esxi\net51-drivers-1.1.0-1vft.510.0.0.799733-offline_bundle.zip
          #Takes the standard ESXi 6 iso image and clones it so we can essentially slipstream in the missing drivers.
          should this method still work and spit out a custome esxi 6.5 image (granted i just replace the image profile names like you said)?:

          New-EsxImageProfile -CloneProfile “ESXi-6.0.0-2494585-standard” -name “ESXi-6.0.0-2494585-DS81” -vendor “withNICs”
          #Take our newly modified profile and spit out an iso to use. This will take a few minutes. Be patient.
          Export-ESXImageProfile -ImageProfile “ESXi-6.0.0-2494585-DS81” -ExportToISO -filepath C:\ESXi-6.0.0-2494585-DS81.iso

          i tried it, but no ISO was produced…

          Thanks man, you’re a big help. I’m completely new to this.

    • Ryan Birk says:

      Yea, the GUI version isn’t supported anymore. Use his newer script (works with Windows 10) https://www.v-front.de/p/esxi-customizer-ps.html and that should do it for you. As for the above, you can try a newer build and run New-EsxImageProfile -CloneProfile “ESXi-6.0.0-20161101001s-standard” -name “ESXi-6.0.0-DS81” -vendor “withNICs”. That should work, just export it with the name “ESXi-6.0.0-DS81” instead of the old “ESXi-6.0.0-2494585-DS81” above.

      • Josh Coffey says:

        The custom Image script works really well. very cool. I created an image successfully and loaded the drivers into the image. But it doesn’t look like the NIC drivers work on esxi 6.5. so far, i have not been able to get my host to talk on the network. Do you know of esxi 6.5 licenses work on 6.0, or no?

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