I have received several questions from customers asking how to go about installing the latest ESXi 5.5 Update 2 Patch03 on the Apple Mac Pro 6,1. Luckily, I was able to borrow one of the Apple Mac Pro 6,1 we had within VMware Engineering for a couple of days to document the process.
Step 1 - A prerequisite that must be met prior to installing ESXi is to have the Apple boot ROM update on the Mac Pro 6,1 running on MP61.0116.B05 or higher. This great piece of tidbit came from Josh who discovered issues while trying to install ESXi and found out this was a requirement after opening a case with Apple Engineering. It turns out that there is not an EFI update and the ONLY way to update the boot ROM was to install Yosemite (OS X 10.10) as it contains an update which can be applied to the Mac Pro. Thanks Josh for sharing this tip with us!
You can check the boot ROM by either following this Apple KB here or by running system info with an OS X image on a bootable USB device which is what I did to verify as seen in the screenshot below.
Step 2 - Once you have met the prerequisite, you will need to download the offline bundle for ESXi 5.5 Update 2 Patch03 which contains the Mac Pro 6,1 enablement along with other bug fixes. You can do so by going to VMware Patche portal and under ESXi, you should find ESXi550-201410001.zip at the very top.
Step 3 - Next you need to convert this offline bundle into an ISO image that you can load onto a USB device, this is the simplest way to install ESXi. To do so, you will need a Windows system as it uses a tool called VMware Image Builder which is only available for Windows. Image Builder is part of the PowerCLI toolkit which can be downloaded here.
Step 4 - Once PowerCLI has been installed go ahead and launch the it and we are ready to start authoring our ISO image
Step 5 - Add ESXi offline bundle that we download by running the following command:
Step 6 - You will need to select the particular ESXi Image Profile to create your ISO image from, you can view the four Image Profiles by running the following command:
Get-EsxImageProfile | format-wide
Step 7 - You will want to select the one that contains the all patches including security and VMware Tools called ESXi-5.5.0-20141004001-standard by running the following command:
New-EsxImageProfile -CloneProfile "ESXi-5.5.0-20141004001-standard" -name "ESXi55u2-p03" -Vendor virtuallyGhetto
Step 8 - We now need to export the Image Profile we have selected to an ISO by running the following command:
Export-EsxImageProfile -ImageProfile "ESXi55u2-p03" -ExportToISO -filepath C:\VMware-ESXi-5.5u2p03-Mac-Pro-6-1.iso
Step 9 - Once the ISO has been created, you can now create a bootable USB containing your ESXi installation. I like to use Unetbootin but there are several other tools you can use, select whichever one you are comfortable with.
Step 10 - Plug the USB device into your Mac Pro and make sure to hold down the "ALT" key so you can select the device to boot from and you can start your ESXi installation as you would normally.
Thunderbolt Ethernet Adapter Support
I know there were a couple of questions from folks asking whether the Thunderbolt Ethernet Adapter would be recognized by ESXi on the new Mac Pro 6,1 and I can confirm, it does as shown in the screenshot below:
GPU Passthru Support
I know a couple of you have asked whether the two Radeon 7870 GPU's could be passthru into a guest OS such as Mac OS X or Windows and it looks like they can from the ESXi point of view, however this is not officially supported by VMware, so YMMV on whether the guestOS can actually make use of the GPU.
For Windows it looks like it was able to properly detect the GPU (as shown in the screenshot) below and for Mac OS X it does not look like it's properly detecting the GPU. I will see if I can investigate this further but there is a good chance that passthru for Mac OS X guest will not work.
If you have made it this far and realize you rather not go through that long process (which is quite short actually), then I you will be quite happy to see that I have done the hard work for you and have created an ESXi 5.5 Update 2 Patch03 ISO which you can download here. Hope you enjoy your new Mac Pro and running ESXi on top of it!