Intel X79 whitebox for vSphere 5 and Hyper-V 3


Update August 8 2012: Added Microsoft Windows 2012 Hyper-V screenshots and link to blog post how to enable the Intel 82579V NIC

Update August 9 2012: Updating to the latest BIOS enables support for DirectPath I/O in VMware vSphere. Screenshot added

In an earlier blog post (found here) I mentioned that it is time for a new homebrew whitebox based on the Intel X79 chipset. With the X79 chipset it is possible to install 64GB of memory (8 x 8 GB). Because the 8 GB DIMMs are expensive on the moment, I decided to use 8 x 4GB DIMMs (total 32GB).

I decided to create one physical host for testing VMware vSphere 5, vCloud Director, VMware SRM, VMware View 5 etc. The possibility to create a physical ESXi5 server, create virtual ESXi  hosts on it and start VM on the virtual hosts is great! This feature is called nesting. How to do this, can be found on William Lam blog found here.

Components used for the VMware ESXi 5 / Microsoft Windows Server 2012 whitebox:

  • Intel i7-3820 CPU 3.60 GHz, 4 cores, with Hyper threading 8 cores
  • Zalman CNPS10X performance cooler
  • Asus P9X79 s2011 motherboard. Some specs:
      • Socket 2011
      • 8 DIMM slots, supports 64GB memory
      • Expansions slots: 2 x PCIe 3.0 (dual x16), 1 x PCIe (x8 mode), 2 x PCIe 2.0 x1, 1 x PCI
      • 2 SATA 6 Gb/s port, 4 x SATA 3 Gb/s
      • LAN: Intel 82579V Gigabit LAN controller
  • 2 x Corsair Vengeance DDR3- 1600 16GB (4 x 4) kit, total 32GB memory (max 64GB)

The case, power supply, graphical card, RAID controller and extra NIC(S) are reused. Here are some photos of the configuration:

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When the hardware  configuration was done and tried to power on the system, nothing happened (black screen). The appears that BIOS of the motherboard didn’t know the i7-3820 CPU yet. The cool thing is that the motherboard has a function called “USB BIOS Flashback”. It is possible to flash the BIOS without CPU or memory installed. Here are the steps:

  • Download the latest BIOS from the Asus site;
  • Extract the BIOS on a USB stick;
  • Rename the BIOS file, example: rename “P9X79-ASUS-0906.ROM” in “P9X79.ROM” (important);
  • Place the USB stick in the USB port with the WHITE interior on the back;
  • Press the BIOS flashback button for 3 seconds and the light will begin to flash;
  • Don’t turn of the computer during the BIOS flash;
  • When the flashing light stop, the BIOS has been complete;

After the BIOS update was finished, the system boots and I was able to install VMware ESXi and Windows Server 2012 and enable the Hyper-V role.

vSphere 5 / ESXi 5 screenshots:

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Hyper threading enables 8 cores 32GB memory
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The onboard SATA controller is listed as Patsburg 6 Port SATA AHCI controller.

Software-RAID does not work

The hardware RAID controller is added as extra PCI card

The onboard Intel 82579V NIC is not supported in ESXi5. Use the procedure found here to add the NIC. Use at your own risk!

The Intel 82574L NIC is added as extra PCIe card.


The latest firmware includes support for DirectPath I/O


Microsoft Windows Server 2012

It is possible to install Microsoft Windows 2012 and enable the Hyper-V role. Here are some screenshots:

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The onboard Intel 82579V NIC is not recognized in Windows Server 2012 by default. How-to enable the Intel 82579V NIC is explained in this explained in this blog post.

This whitebox is a great extension to my home lab!


22 thoughts on “Intel X79 whitebox for vSphere 5 and Hyper-V 3”

  1. How much did this setup cost you, and have you connected the rig to a power meter to see how much W it uses?

  2. @AJ The I7 CPU, 32GB memory, Zalman cooler and the Asus P9X79 s2011 motherboard around 700 euro.

  3. Asus P9X79 s2011 motherboard is this the pro or deluxe version of motherboard? Does this mobo work without any hassle with esxi 5?

    Thank you in advance

  4. Hi,

    I have found your post interesting, and I want to build a similar machine.

    How noisy is the box (specially the fan) ? To know if it is possible to put it somewhere in more or less hidden in the living room.

  5. @sjnelle VMDirectPath is NOT supported on this board. It is performing good, but this depends on many factors as probably you know.
    @anael The cooler is audible. Search for a low noise cooler.

  6. Hi,

    after i read your post, i bought a p9x79, 2 x Corsair Vengeance DDR3- 1600 16GB, i7 3930k. I installed a modified (NIC support) vShere Hypervisor 5 (ESXi) (The free version) from USB-Stick. I put a HDD to the internal SATA-Port (i tried both 6gb / 3gb). The installationprocess run without errors. After the installation the Server reeboots and the following error occours:

    Do you have any idea what´s wrong? Can you post your BIOS settings? Did run ESXi with HDD´s connected to the local ports or did you used only the external raid-controller?

    Thanks for your help and sorry for my poor english,

    Best regards,


  7. I first heard the x79 platform from here, and now the x79 vmware esxi5 testbed has been setup for a long time in my lab, they are working fine, below is the spec. for you all reference.
    Intel 3930k
    32G DDR 3/1300
    ASUS X79
    Adaptec 2405/ 6405e raid card(use 6405e you will need to patch driver into the installation ISO or use adaptec made ISO file.)
    Intel old gigabit NIC (on-board intel not work, till now seems no vib file for this card.)
    WD velociraptor 600GB/10000rpm x 3

  8. Hi,

    I just finished build the same configuration with SSD for system and 3x1TB for storage.
    I’ll buy the intel compatible NIC tomorow
    Did you succeeded to view Intel controler RAID volume in windows 8 ? And also install other drivers ?



  9. I was running ESXi 5 in P9X79 DELUXE motherboard without problem. But recently, after I installed windows 7 as dual boot, my ESXi network (via Realtek RTL 8111E) is disconnected just few seconds after accessing it. Do you know anything need to be changed in ESXi server or the network card setting? Thank you very much!

  10. Hi,
    My set up is as below:

    Intel i7-3820 CPU 3.60 GHz, Asus P9X79 Delux, 850 W power supply,
    SSD 120 GB(For openfiler 1), SSD 240 GB(For openfiler 2), 1 TB HDD (for vcenter and DC)
    Cooler master cooler for the processor
    64 GB Ram

    Problem is Realtek shows only 100 Mbps speed. Moreover, Intel NIC doesn’t install. I tried above steps from Chilli. DHCP doesn’t work, i have to assign IPs manually.

    I’m new to vmware, so can somebody be kind enough to help me out?

    Thanks in advance.

  11. Hi Ivo,

    If you would build your system “today” what would you use:
    – Still the same motherboard,
    – Would you switch to a Ivy Bridge CPU,
    – Is there a problem with the 64GB RAM on this board.
    – What is still on your wish list?

    I’m planning to build my new system with 2 hosts with Hyper-V 3.0 and with a Synology DS412+ (Link Aggregation enabled on the 2 NIC’s) and with network teaming (for at least the data) on the 2 Hyper-V hosts. So I can do some serious testing 😉 and beef up my certifications for the 2012 MS product lines.

    Great post, you are number 1 ranked for whitebox configs 😉

    Cheers, Chris.

  12. Did u actually try to passthrough the onboard sata controller to a VM? I added a pci sata controller with a disk for a VM i wanted to passthrough the onboard sata controller to but after reboot all controllers disapper from vsphere!!! Can u report any issue if you tried this feature? Thank you.

  13. Hi, i got the same Mobo with 6 HDD connected but ESXi does not see any, some are part of a raid group, and some are non-raid members. Any advanced BIOS setting i need to set ?

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