Today, we have an exciting update to give on our USB Network Native Driver for ESXi Fling which has had two updates since releasing earlier this year and has been extremely well received by the VMware community. As many of you know, I am always on the look out for new and innovative tech that can help enable our customers, especially when it comes to building home labs to learn about the latest and greatest VMware software.
UPDATE (06/08/20) - QNAP has just published the updated firmware for their QNA-UC5G1T USB NIC which resolves some of the performance issue observed with the initial release.
Several months back, I came to learn about a really cool USB-based Multi-Gigabit Network Adapter (QNA-UC5G1T) from QNAP which can negotiate with speeds up to 1Gbps, 2.5Gbps and 5Gbps. I was not familiar with the multi-gig specification but it it looks like it was created as a standard back in 2016 as IEEE 802.3bz. This initially evolved from advancements in wireless technology but more recently it started to make its way into ethernet-based devices.
Although this particular device is from QNAP, the underlying chipset is actually from Aquantia, now part of Marvell. If the name sounds familiar, it should as Aquantia is also the vendor to Apple for their 10GbE NICs in both the 2018 Mac Mini and new iMac Pros. In fact, their chipsets are also used in a number of Thunderbolt 3 to 10GbE NICs which also works with ESXi. Access to 10GbE is certainly more common these days but it certainly is not for everyone and not all platforms can be expanded to support it.
The QNA-UC5G1T device is not only small but because it is USB-based, you are more likely to have spare USB ports on your system than say a traditional PCIe slot or Thunderbolt 3 port. From a cost standpoint, this device is about half the cost of the 10GbE Thunderbolt adapter coming in at $79 USD and can be ordered from Amazon. As far as I know, QNAP is the only vendor who has produced a multi-gig USB adapter, but perhaps in the future, there will be other vendors.
Over the last couple of months, we have been working hard to get this device enabled for ESXi and thanks to the hard work from Songtao (VMware Engineer) and the folks from Aquantia, we now have our very first release which is included as part of the latest Fling v1.2 release. I think this device will enable some new and interesting possibilities for VMware-based Home Labs, especially for those needing additional bandwidth and connectivity without requiring additional investments into network infrastructure.
Note: During the development of this driver, we had access to a newer version of the Aquantia firmware which was required for the device to function. This device may not be recognized by ESXi until the new firmware is made available to the general public by Aquantia, which should happen in the coming weeks.
One additional thing to be aware of is that although the underlying chipset can go up to 5Gbps, because the physical device is a USB 3.1 Gen 1, it is actually limited to about ~3.7Gbps. From our initial testing, we have also found that the speed can vary based on the type of USB controller found in a system and you may want to try different ports to see which will give you the best performance. Speaking of performance, from my limited testing via iPerf, I have been able to achieve the following:
|Intel 6th Gen NUC||USB 3.0 (Type-A)||2.68 Gbps||3.01 Gbps|
|Intel Hades Canyon NUC||USB 3.1 (USB-C)||3.12 Gbps||2.94 Gbps|
We certainly will continue to look at how we can improve the performance in the future and if you have any feedback or comments, please drop us a note on the Fling page which is monitored by both myself and Songtao.
Kevin Golding says
I guess it should also be said that confirming the USB controller in the system you are using needs to be checked against the HCL? I can imagine people trying to fill up a PCI based USB controller with these things..
Good to see VMware still doing stuff to help out on this type of stuff
William Lam says
We actually don't officially support USB-based NICs, so whether its on the HCL or not shouldn't really matter 🙂
I have an ESXi 6.5 host with the Intel X540-T2 and a storage device that has NBase-T cards that support 2.5 & 5 Gbps. When I connected them to the ESXi host they autoneg to 1Gbps. If I check the manual options I only see 100/1000/10000. So I was wondering if this is because the Intel X540-T2 does not support NBase-T itself or if its the ESXi driver (ixgbe) that does not support it? And if its the latter is there another driver that does? Thanks
Jason Wong says
"This initially evolved from advancements in wireless technology " is kind of misleading, it actually didn't evolve from advancements in wireless technology, but rather because advancement in wireless technology.
As Wifi technology advance, wireless speed starts to exceed 1Gbps and the uplink port for most wireless AccessPoint and SOHO router would become the bottleneck.
5G Ethernet was meant to solve this problem without major upgrades in cabling required for a full upgrade to 10G.
Ricardo Matos says
I used your driver recently to add an "extra NIC" to my host and migrate back to vswitch from dvswitch. I've also been doing the math on expanding my homelab's network, and the upgrade path to 2.5Gbe is looking really appetizing. All thanks to your great work on this driver!
William, I'm only seeing 1GB negotioted rate on the QNAP 5GB USB nic inside VMware, also getting shocking VSAN performance, There also doesn't appear to be a way to select the speeds for Negotiation.
Hi William, I have this working in ESXi 6.5 but when I look at the link options I only see 10/100/1000. Should I be seeing 1000/25000/5000? Thanks
What is the required firmware version for the QNA-UC5G1T to support 5000Mbps? Mine has firmware version 2.5.30, which only auto negotiates a 1000Mbps connection.
William Lam says
Apologies for the delay, but I just received news this morning that QNAP has finally published the latest firmware for the QNA-UC5G1T which resolves a number of issues including performance as mentioned earlier. You can find the download and instructions at https://www.qnap.com/en-us/download?model=qna-uc5g1t&category=firmware
Just an update. Bought the QNA-UC5G1T yesterday, installed the latest fling drivers in my ESXi 7.03 setup and only got 1Gbit from it.
I would have thought they shipped with the latest firmware, but reading the changelog for the 3.1.6 firmware, I saw that "- Improved power consumpsion. LEDs are disabled with unpluged cable.".
My LED were lit when no network cable was plugged in, so I guessed it can not be on the latest version.
Installed the drivers for it on a Windows 11 machine, plugged it in and updated the firmware. Now it shows 5Gbit/s as it should =)
So, yes, this thread is still valid. Make sure to install the drivers on a windows machine and update the firmware!