I have had the ASRock Z97 Extreme 6 + Intel Core i7 4790K combination in my workstation for a time and only briefly tried running ESXi 5.5 while testing some network and RAID drivers. Previously I have had great use for VT-d in my server, but since this combo was for my workstation I chose a CPU only based on performance. Now, many months later, I stumbled on the fact that this very CPU supports VT-d, in contrast to previous ‘K’ model CPU. Since VT-d is not widely used, I couldn’t find anyone else that has tested the VT-d support on this hardware, which is why I decided to find out if it does.
- Motherboard: ASRock Z97 Extreme 6, bios 1.60
- Processor: Intel Core i7 4790K
- Memory; Kingston 16GB
- Storage: Intel 530 SSD 120GB
- Storage controller: IBM ServeRAID M1015 / LSI SAS 9211-8i, top most PCI-E slot
- ESXi 5.5u2
BIOS Setup of the ASRock Z97 Extreme 6
The settings for VT-x and VT-d are hidden under different menus in the UEFI BIOS. VT-x is found under CPU configuration as “Intel Virtualization Technology” and VT-d under Chipset configuration with the same name. VT-x was enabled by default but VT-d was disabled. Here is also a note showing VT-d support or not. As we can see in the image below, VT-d is supported with this CPU and motherboard.
To get support for both of the onboard NICs, please see my other post regarding driver inclusion to an ESXi ISO.
I usually install ESXi on a USB thumbdrive to separate the ESXi installation from the datastore. This is made even more easy on some of ASRock’s motherboards since they have an onboard USB header. For this simple test, I decided to use a single SSD connected to the onboard SATA controller.
Once ESXi is installed the passthrough settings can be found under Configuration – Advanced Settings. For this test I chose to pass through the following devices:
- Onboard Realtek NIC
- Onboard ASMedia USB3 controller
- LSI 9211-8i SAS HBA
Everything was working really well with this combination and it is a welcomed surprise to see Intel enable VT-d for the Devil’s Canyon CPUs. Only the Core i7-4790K was tested at this point but it should be pretty safe to assume that the Core i5-4690K will work as well.