ESXI doesn't support Realtek NICs [FIXED]
So..... This is frustrating..
In this I'm gonna assume that you know about your virtualization jargon and what ESXI is.
So, I decided to build my own HomeLab using ESXI. In the process I got to know some pretty frustrating stuff. One of them being that, ESXI doesn't support Realtek NICs. Most commonly used motherboards comes with built in Realtek Ethernet controllers. As you can imagine, the motherboard I started working also had Realtek Ethernet.
The reason behind this can be a marketing strategy to get people to buy newer hardware or it very well can be that Realtek isn't really a high-end Ethernet controller. They're mostly meant for handling an internet connection and a Gigabit level workload. And frankly, I've never seen Realtek in any server grade hardware. Servers are meant to run 24/7 at extremely high workloads. So it's logical for them to not allow low- end hardware on servers.
Is there a workaround?
Yes. There is.
But that's limited to ESXI 6.7 and below.
The trick is that you can create a custom ISO with the drivers of your particular Realtek or any other NIC drivers using a software called ESXI-Customizer. It's not supported as of 2015, but still it gets the job done. You can use this software to inject your NIC's drivers into the .iso file, making it capable of using your hardware.
If you need to use a newer ESXI version. You're gonna have to find a ESXI supported Network Interface Card.
Just make sure you're getting something that's on the compatibility guide of ESXI. You can use this guide below to find supported hardware for your build.
For this you can do what I did and look for old server NICs. Just a Gigabit adaptor like this one below
This only costs me about 10$. You can look for one on eBay or from a local used hardware selling website. Chances are you're gonna find one for a cheaper price. But you're gonna have to look for one actively. Try Facebook groups and things like that to reach people.
If ESXI 6.7 is enough for you, you can create a custom .iso to make it work. But as you can imagine, if you want your server to support future iterations of ESXI, you should consider investing in a server grade NIC. If you go for a used one, you can save a money too. At least, that's what I did.