Installing ESXi Kernel Modules Made Easy!

Kernel modules play a crucial role in 3rd-party solutions tightly integrated with ESXi, such as the NVIDIA vGPU solution. Installing these solutions requires deploying the kernel module, or vib, on ESXi hosts. This task can be time-consuming, posing challenges in maintaining consistency across multiple ESXi hosts. However, with the vSphere 7 release, the process of installing and managing kernel modules has evolved, leveraging the vSphere Lifecycle Manager (vLCM) desired state image.

Components

The vLCM desired state comprises the ESXi base image and optionally includes vendor add-ons, firmware integrations, and standalone components. These components may encompass drivers, async VMtools versions, and more. In the vLCM Image Depot, there’s a convenient option to manually upload updates for custom components.

Uploading Custom Components

Let’s take the example of the NVIDIA vGPU kernel module. Within the Image Depot view under Lifecycle Manager, click ‘Actions’ and choose the ‘Import Updates’ option. 

This allows you to select a custom component, usually presented in ZIP bundles containing all the necessary files. The wizard then initiates the file upload, seamlessly adding the manual updates to the repository.

Incorporating into the Desired State

Once the custom component, such as the NVIDIA vGPU driver, is included, it becomes an integral part of the desired state image. Similar to the ESXi base image and optional addons, the power of the vLCM desired state image lies in the consistency and standardization it enforces across all hosts in the cluster. Upon achieving compliance with the desired state, all hosts run identical versions for elements defined in the desired state image configuration.

Updating the desired state image necessitates host remediation within the cluster to install the new bits. Watch the video below for a comprehensive walk-through, covering editing the desired state image with the custom component, remediating hosts to compliance, and verifying the correct installation of the kernel (vib) module on the hosts!

–originally authored and posted by me at https://core.vmware.com/blog/installing-esxi-kernel-modules-made-easy–

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