While attending an offsite this week, there were some discussions amongst my colleagues about their new Apple Mac Pro and its USB-C only ports. The discussion was completely unrelated to work, however that did get me thinking about the USB-C peripheral market and specifically their ethernet adapters. While searching online, I came across several new USB-C to gigabit ethernet adapters that were now available and one in particular that was very interesting, was the Plugable USB-C to 10/100/1000 Gigabit Ethernet LAN Network Adapter. What caught my eye about this specific network adapter was that it uses the exact same ASIX AX88179 driver as my USB 3.0 to Ethernet Adapter ESXi VIBs were built off of! There was a good chance this might just work.
As you can probably guess, I was pretty excited and quickly ordered one of the Plugable USB-C Ethernet Adapters. The next challenge was getting access to a system that has a USB-C port. After asking around, I finally got my hands on a Dell XPS 13 which has a USB-C port that I could use for a few days. Funny enough, the Dell laptop only has USB 3.0 and USB-C ports, so the first challenge was to disable Secure Boot since I had built a custom ESXi 6.5 image that included my USB 3.0 Ethernet Adapter VIB. Below are the ESXi VIBs or offline bundles that will be required for this solution.
UPDATE (02/12/19) - A new VMware Native Driver for USB-based NICs has just been released, please use this driver going forward.
- ESXi 5.5 Update 3 USB Ethernet Adapter Driver VIB or ESXi 5.5 Update 3 USB Ethernet Adapter Driver Offline Bundle
- ESXi 6.0 Update 2 USB Ethernet Adapter Driver VIB or ESXi 6.0 Update 2 USB Ethernet Adapter Driver Offline Bundle
- ESXi 6.5 USB Ethernet Adapter Driver VIB or ESXi 6.5 USB Ethernet Adapter Driver Offline Bundle
Please see this blog post for more detailed instructions on installing the VIB as well as accessing the vusbX pNIC.
Disclaimer: This is not officially supported by VMware. Use at your own risk.
Once I got ESXi up and running, I was disappointed to see that the USB-C device was not being detected. I had tried a few more things but nothing worked and I decided to sleep on it. The next morning, I realize maybe there was some additional settings that needed to be tweaked in the BIOS. With a bit of trial/error, I found out that you needed to enable the "Thunderbolt Boot Support" which apparently is disabled by default, at least on this Dell system. Below is a screenshot of the BIOS USB/Thunderbolt Settings and this was the only change required from the system defaults.