October 31, 2014

VMware ESX SATA and PATA Compatibility Cheat Sheet

VMware storage features Series

Would you run VMware ESX on SATA? You might in a lab environment! Here's what to look for.

The VMware ESX hardware compatibility list is awesome but it’s kind of hard to wade through. It’s super-detailed, but difficult to navigate if one is browsing for compatible hardware. Although SATA and especially PATA aren’t exactly mainstream in enterprise datacenters, they’re the most-likely storage attachment for labs and tinkerers like me.

So I decided to put together a “cheat sheet” listing the compatible SATA and PATA chipsets. In the spirit of openness, I’m presenting this data here for all to see, and I welcome corrections and updates. Indeed, I’ll try to keep this page up to date as new hardware is added!

PATA Drivers for ESX

Parallel ATA isn’t widely available anymore, but those desiring to run ESX on older hardware will want to make sure it uses one of the following controllers. Sadly, there aren’t many of them, and not many “hobbyist” motherboards use these specific chipsets. But that’s the fact of it.

That’s it. Three chipsets from two vendors. Both are server-oriented, too, so they’re harder to find in cheaper desktop motherboards.

You’re likely safe if you use an Intel ICH7 server board, but most use other-brand controllers that won’t work without some hacking. And you might not want to hack on your storage drivers…

SATA Drivers for ESX

The situation is a little brighter for the new SATA standard. Although lots of serial ATA controllers remain unsupported, there are enough here that an average shopper ought to be able to spot one of them on a motherboard.

Again, buying an Intel board is preferred, though the latest Sandy Bridge chipsets (P67/H67) are notably absent. I’ve heard that the controllers may function fine, however.

Stephen’s Stance

No enterprise will probably use non-RAID SATA for a production VMware ESX server, but it’s interesting to know what’s supported. Although most of these are fairly dated (the latest platforms are notably absent), they may be backwards-compatible with the items on this list. I’d love to hear from folks who have successfully run ESX 4 on Intel’s new PCH controller found in the P67, or H67 boards specifically!