One of the challenges of the whitebox-ESX community is the need for current drivers for hardware that is not on VMware’s HCL. It appears the Open Source Community has found a way to build, and modify Linux drivers for ESX/ESXi. The benefit of this is now, common 3rd party hardware is now available for use on ESX. While it is not supported by VMware, it does not preclude users from using these drivers. For example, RealTek RTL8139B NIC’s now work, the same goes for ICH9/10.
ESX 3.5U4 was released by VMware. It appears the support they have added, ICH9/10, older Intel NIC’s, is eerily similar to what the community has added. I’m excited about this, since community drivers will certainly expand the use of ESX beyond vendor-based equipment. On the VMware forums, VMware themselves have not ruled out incorporating the drivers into future 3.x releases. Here’s hoping 4.x will support the same driver model.
More details can be found here.