Using the Apple Mac Mini 2018 as VMware ESXi homelab host

Begin November Apple released there new Apple Mini 2018 models. The last Mac Mini was from 2014. My first question: Is it possible to use the new Mac Mini 2018 as VMware ESXi host? So I’ve borrowed a Mac Mini 2018 model with the following specifications:

  • Mac Mini 2018,
  • CPU: Intel Core i3 3.6 GHz 4-core 6MB shared L3 cache
  • Memory: 8 GB
  • Disk: 128 GB SSD storage
  • 1 Gb Ethernet adapter

The new Apple Mini 2018 comes in two basic configurations. The basic configurations can be changed (CPU, memory, disk and Ethernet adapter) during the ordering process.

Model comparison:

Models Models
Processor Intel Core i3 3.6 GHz 4-core 6MB shared L3 cache

configurable to:

Intel Core i7 3.2 GHz 6-core Turbo Boos 4.6 GHz 12MB shared L3 cache.

Intel Core i5 3.0 GHz 6 core Turbo Boost up to 4.1GHz
9MB shared L3 cacheconfigurable to:Intel Core i7 3.2 GHz 6-core Turbo Boos 4.6 GHz 12MB shared L3 cache.
Memory Two user-accessible slots for 8,16,32 or 64 GB of 2666MHz DDR4 SO-DIMM (*1) Two user-accessible slots for 8,16,32 or 64 GB of 2666MHz DDR4 SO-DIMM (*1)
Storage 128,256, 512, 1 TB or 2 TB GB PCIe- based SSD 512, 1 TB or 2 TB GB PCIe- based SSD
Graphics Intel UHD Graphics 630 Intel UHD Graphics 630
Networking 1 x Gigabit Ethernet port

802.11ac Wi-FI wireless networking

IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n compatible

Optional:

  • 10 Gb Ethernet (optional)
1 x Gigabit Ethernet port

802.11ac Wi-FI wireless networking

IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n compatible

Optional:

  • 10 Gb Ethernet (optional)
Connections and Expansion Four Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) port with support for:

  • DisplayPort
  • Thunderbolt (up to 40 Gbps)
  • USB 3.1 Gen 2 (up to 10 Gbps)
  • Thunderbolt 2, HDMI, DVI and VGA supported

Two USB 3 ports

HDMI 2.0 port

3.5 mm headphone jack

Four Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) port with support for:

  • DisplayPort
  • Thunderbolt (up to 40 Gbps)
  • USB 3.1 Gen 2 (up to 10 Gbps)
  • Thunderbolt 2, HDMI, DVI and VGA supported

Two USB 3 ports

HDMI 2.0 port

3.5 mm headphone jack

Dimensions 19,7 x 19,7 x 3,6 cm 19,7 x 19,7 x 3,6 cm
Weight 1.3 kg 1.3 kg
Warranty Your Mac mini comes with 90 days of complimentary technical support and a one-year limited warranty. Your Mac mini comes with 90 days of complimentary technical support and a one-year limited warranty
Remote Management No No
Listed in the VMware Compatibility Guide No. So there no official support from VMware. No. So there no official support from VMware.
Starting price € 899 (*2) € 1.249 (*3)

(*1) There are two memory slots available.

(*2) The 2018 Mac mini starts at € 899,00 with an i3 processor, 8 GB RAM and 128 GB SSD storage and 1 Gb Ethernet adapter.

(*3) The 2018 Mac mini starts at € 1249,00 with an i5 processor, 8 GB RAM and 256 GB storage and 1 Gb Ethernet adapter.

Installation of VMware ESXi on the Mac Mini 2018 model

Is it possible to install and run VMware ESXi on the Mac Mini 2018? Yes with some caveats such as hardware that is not recognized. The Mac Mini 2018 model  is installed with VMware ESXi 6.7 Build 10302608 (ESXi 6.7 U1). Creating a VMware ESXi USB stick is explained in the following blog post, link.

Configuration steps:

  • The PCIe-based SSD is not recognized by VMware ESXi. Create an USB key with ESXi installed.
  • The Mac Mini 2018 includes a T2 Security Chip, the T2 chip prevents booting booting non legitimate trusted operating systems using secure boot. For ESXi secure boot needs to be disabled. To disable secure boot, boot in the “macOS Utilities”:
    • Turn on your Mac and press and hold the Command (⌘)-R key immediately after you see the Apple logo

  • Select the “Startup Security Utility” in the Utilities menu.
  • Choose “No Security” and select “Allow booting from external media”.
  • In the “Startup Security Utility” menu select the Apple icon and select “Shut down”
  • Insert the USB drive in one of the USB ports on the back of the Mac Mini 2018
  • Press the power button on the back of the Mac Mini and keep the Option (⌥) key pressed for the Startup Manager. Select “EFI Boot” to boot the USB key.

  • The USB key will start with the ESXi installation.

Overview

Here is a quick overview of screenshots from ESXi 6.7 U1 on the Mac Mini 2018:

Some considerations

  • VMware ESXi 6.7 U1 is tested on the Mac Mini 2018 model with a USB stick to boot ESXi. The new Apple Mini 2018 model includes a T2 security chip that use secure boot. Disable secure boot to run VMware ESXi.
  • The 50% CPU and 67% memory load will use around 35 watt.
  • The Mac Mini 2018 comes assembled from Apple.
  • The CPUs that Apple uses in the Mac Mini 2018 are based on Intel Coffee Lake 8th generation. The CPU is embedded and not upgradeable!
  • The new Mac mini allows for memory upgrades up to 64GB on two slots. The memory is it not soldered on the motherboard and is SO-DIMM based. 16 GB cost € 240,00, 32 GB cost € 720,00 and 64 GB cost € 1680,00 extra. To save money go for third-party memory from Kingston or Corsair for example. On iFixit a Mac Mini 2018 memory replacement guide can be found, link.
  • The Apple storage in the Mac mini is PCIe-based and not upgradeable. So size the SSD for the future!
  • The PCIe-based SSD is not recognized by VMware ESXi!
  • The 1 Gb Ethernet NIC is recognized by ESXi as “Broadcom Corporation NetXtreme BCM57766 Gigabit Ethernet” adapter.
  • The 10 GbE NIC is not recognized by VMware ESXi. The NIC is an Aquantia AQC107 and there are no ESXi driver on the moment.
  • The Thundebolt controllers are not recognized by ESXi.
  • The USB ports are redirected to VMware ESXi.
  • A Teardown of the Mac Mini 2018 model can be found here, link.

Pros & Cons

Pros Cons
Management No remote management included
Form factor Great looks and form factor
Noise level Very low
Power consumption Low. Between ~11w and ~40w with the i3 4-core CPU, 8 GB RAM and 128 GB SSD config and ESXi installed with 1 VM.
Memory Up to 64 GB (2 memory banks) memory The memory from Apple is expensive (32 GB will cost € 720,00 and 64 GB will cost € 1680,00 extra). Go for third-party memory memory to save costs. Adding third-party memory  means you need to dissemble the Mac Mini!
Upgradeability Only the memory can be upgraded. The CPU and SSD are embedded, soldered and not upgradeable.
Ports The USB controller and ports are recognized by ESXi. The Thunderbolt controllers are not recognized by VMware ESXi. When the Thunderbolt controllers are regornized great Direct Access Storage (DAS) solutions can be build.
Extension There no room for adding add-on cards and extra disks inside the Mac Mini 2018 box.
Ethernet 1 GbE Ethernet NIC is recognized by ESXi
  • Only one Ethernet adapter as port available.
  • The 10 GbE adapter is not recognized by VMware ESXi
VMware ESXi support Is tested with ESXi 6.7 U1 when booting from USB key. The 1 GbE NIC is recognized by ESXi. The VM runs from a NAS device over the 1 GbE adapter. Not on the HCL
Storage Use an USB stick to boot ESXi and use remote storage such as a NAS to boot VMs. The PCIe-based SSD is not recognized by ESXi.
Pricing For a new homelab host I’ll need at least 32/64 GB memory. When buying the memory from Apple the pricing gets extremely high on the Apple Mac Min 2018.

Conclusion

The new Mac Mini 2018 hardware specifications are a great refreshment compared to the old Mac Mini 2012 model, but it comes with a very high price for the most homelabers. The PCIe-based SSD, 10 Gb Ethernet adapter and Thunderbolt controllers are not (yet) recognized by VMware ESXi. I think there are better homelab options available on the moment for less money.

Announcements made at VMworld 2018 Europe

In Augustus I did a blog post (link) about the announcements made at VMworld 2018 US. This week it’s time for VMworld Europe in Barcelona with 12000 attendees. The vision of VMware is still the same as the last years: any cloud, any application, any device.

 

In this blog post an overview of new announcements made from VMworld Europe 2018:

  • vCloud Suite Platinum announced. vCloud Suite platinum is a bundle with vRealize Suite and vSphere Enterprise Plus that includes now VMware AppDefense. VMware AppDefense is a security product that learn the application behavior, with this knowledge secure the application. More information can be found here, link.
  • VMware Cloud Foundation  3.5 announced. VMware Cloud Foundation is an integrated software stack with compute, storage, networking with cloud management and monitoring software to built a SDDC. VCF 3.5 has greater deployment options and support for example vSphere 6.7 U1 and Kubernetes. More information can be found here, link.
  • IBM and VMware establish an industry-first, fully-managed, high-availability cloud to minimize outages. More information can be found here, link.

 

 

  • VMware and AWS Accelerate Global Roll Out of VMware Cloud on AWS. VMware announced the expansion of VMware Cloud on AWS in Europe and the United States, with expected additional new regions forthcoming in AWS EU (Ireland), AWS West (N. California) and AWS East (Ohio) in Q4 2018.

  • VMware Cloud on AWS added disaster recovery options for the hybrid cloud. This enables hybrid cloud disaster recovery options with Site Recovery Manager that eliminates costs because there no need for pre-provisioning the entire cloud. It’s called a elastic cloud model for disaster recovery.
  • Announcing Project Dimension Beta. Project Dimension delivers edge and data center infrastructure as-a-service, combining VMware’s compute, storage, networking solutions with hyper converged hardware, managed by VMware. More information can be found here, link.
  • Pivotal Container Service (PKS) will be available as cloud service.
  • Expanding the VMware PKS portfolio with a new acquired partner called Heptio. Heptio helps organizations to deploy and operationalize Kubernetes. More information can be found here: link
  • VMware blockchain beta program. More information can be found here, link.
  • VMware ESXi on a Raspberry PI as prototype. How cool is this for the IoT edge space! I’m interested in the use cases for ESXi on Arm.

  • Workspace One. With the following new enhancements:
    • Workspace ONE Intelligence Automation Connector
    • Workspace ONE Sensors for macOS.
    • Dell Provisioning for VMware Workspace ONE

More information can be found here, link.

  • Horizon 7 on VMware Cloud on AWS:
    • General availability of Horizon 7 (VDI and RDSH, Full Clones and Instant Clones) and App Volumes on VMware Cloud on AWS with the upcoming releases of Horizon 7.7 and App Volumes 2.15.
    • Second, we are enhancing Horizon 7 on-premises and on VMware Cloud on AWS by integrating with the Horizon Cloud Service and taking the first step to extend Horizon 7 with cloud-based management service. This will help consolidate and simplify management of global hybrid and multi-cloud deployments. With this announcement, we will be releasing unified visibility, health monitoring, and helpdesk services delivered from the Horizon Cloud Service for Horizon 7 deployments for both on-premises and on VMware Cloud on AWS. And specifically, for Horizon 7 on VMware Cloud on AWS, we will be previewing the automated installation of the Horizon 7 infrastructure.

More information can be found here, link.

Streams  and breakout sessions overview

  • VMworld 2018 Europe Day 1 General Session, Link

 

Review NAKIVO Backup & Replication – Multi-Tenancy, licensing and conclusion

In the last part of the NAKIVO Backup & Replication review I highlight the Multi-Tenancy option, licensing and the final conclusion.

Multi-Tenancy and branding

NAKIVO supports multi-tenancy to deliver Backup-as-a-Service (BAAS) and Disaster-Recovery as a Service (DRaas). The tenants are isolated from each other and cannot access other tenants. Each tenant can access their own environment through  a self-service portal and perform all data protection of recovery tasks.

For each tenant custom branding can be used.

A single copy of NAKIVO can create and manage up to 1000 tenants providing a single pane of glass. The multi-tenancy option is available in the Enterprise Essentials en Enterprise license.

Licensing

The following licensing options are available for NAKIVO Backup and Replication for VMware and Hyper-V.

Number of licenses available per  organization Support Price (€) per socket Description
Basic 4 1 year included 84 Basic backup
PRO Essentials From 2 to 6 1 year included 169 Basic backup including backup copy and Backup to Cloud services for small environments up to 6 socket licenses.
Enterprise Essentials From 2 to 6 1 year included 249 All the backup options are included such as Disaster Recovery and Multi-Tenancy (BAAS and DRaaS) for small environments up to 6 socket licenses..
Pro Unlimited 1 year included 329 Same as the Pro Essentials edition with unlimited licenses.
Enterprise Unlimited 1 year included Request price Same as the Enterprise Essentials edition with unlimited licenses.

More information about the editions, options and pricing can be found here, link.

Another licensing option is the NAKIVO Cloud Provider Edition for cloud providers who host multiple customers. With this edition you can buy a pool of licenses per Virtual Machine. All the license are pooled together and can be used over the tenants.

Final conclusion

In  the last months I did multiple blog posts about NAKIVO Backup & Replication v7.5 and v8. I highlighted the following topics:

  • Review NAKIVO Backup & Replication v7.5 released, link
  • Installation and basic configuration, link
  • Backup and Recovery, link
  • Replication, link
  • Multi-Tenancy, editions and licensing and the final conclusion (this post).

The installation, configuration and management of NAKIVO Backup & Replication is very simple. I really like the the Virtual Appliance option and the possibility to install NAKIVO B&R on a NAS device. This saves licensing and hardware costs. The management is done by web browser so no extra software is needed to install.

The backup, restore and replication jobs are wizard based. Within a couple of minutes the configuration is done. There a multiple ways to recover data such as individual files, objects such as Active Directory and SQL, complete VMs and recover VMs cross platform.

Replication of VMs can be done for Disaster Recovery. In version 8 a new feature is added called “Site Recovery”. With this new feature you build automated recovery workflows with one-click failover, failback, and datacenter migration. The recovery workflows can be tested non-disruptive to make sure you meet the RTOs.

For cloud providers who offers Backup-as-a-Service (BAAS) and Disaster-Recovery as a Service (DRaas) there is a multi-tenancy option with custom branding for each tenant. Per VM licensing is available for cloud providers.

And as final the licensing and pricing of NAKIVO is very competitive and attractive when comparing them to other data protection solutions.

In short my final conclusion about NAKIVO Backup and Replication: Simple, fast, lots of great features and competitive pricing.

Next week VMworld Europe 2018 in Barcelona will start. NAKIVO will show at VMworld some new enhancements that will be available in NAKIVO Backup & Replication v8.1.

More information about NAKIVO can be found here: link