Recently received an Asustek MiniPC PN51-E1 for my home lab ( Blessing of WFH ). It is just an awesome mini monster with Ryzen 7, 64 GB 3,200 DDR4, 2 TB nvme.
Plan was to create a Vmware ESXI based lab host to deploy multiple VMs. Issue started when tried to install vanilla VMware ESXI 7.0 on it. No network card detected !! Never had this issue before with drivers on Vmware ESXI. I have one Intel NUC as well, installation worked perfectly on that too. Then found vmware esxi doesn't support most of the Realtek NICs. Now ? Tried to find a custom ISO of Vmware ESXI with the drivers pre-installed. But .... nothing. So - started with PowelCLI . After going through a lot of documents finally I created my own custom ISO for Vmware ESXI 6.7 ( 7.0 is not possible due to few reasons ) with almost all available Realtek Network Card Drivers for Vmware ESXI from communities including RTL8125 .
Most helpful resources are:
V-Front Depot for most of the Drivers and latest CPU-Microcode
ESXI Customizer PS or PowerCLI to build customized ISO
I will share the process of making your own custom ISO later. Presently here is the link for custom Vmware ESXI 6.7 ISO for Realtek NICs
How to create your OWN iso ( Easy ):
1st install PowerCLI. Then main task is selecting the offline updates and .VIB files and store those in a single folder, say "C:\temp" . In my case, I used following patches . https://github.com/bidhata/esxi-Realtek-RTL8125/tree/main/codes . You can also create your custom patchs ( VIB ) after compiling the drivers from the source.
Then download ESXi-Customizer-PS.ps1 from their own Github repo - https://github.com/VFrontDe/ESXi-Customizer-PS or https://github.com/bidhata/esxi-Realtek-RTL8125/tree/main/codes . Then open powershell as administrator.
1st task is enabling execution of non-signed ps1 scripts.
Set-ExecutionPolicy -Scope Process -ExecutionPolicy Bypass
Then type like following
.\ESXi-Customizer-PS.ps1 -pkgDir "C:\temp" -vft -load cpu-microcode -v67
Now - let's see what it will do with the options. 1st - it will take local package repo from -pkgDir option , and will process all offline updates and vib files placed into the directory. Then, -vft option will enable V-Front Depot community repo - and from there cpu-microcode,net55-r8168,net51-r8169,net51-sky2,net-r8101,net-r8139too -v67 , all of these drivers will be integrated with the ISO. Added -v67 to create latest patched VMWARE ESXI 6.7 iso as from version 7.0 - driver loading architecture changed so can not use same way to load driver for RTL 8125 as before. So, only upto Vmware ESXI 6.7 is supported.
It will take a bit time to finish and end of the process it will generate your customized Vmware ESXI 6.7 installer ISO.