VyOS and other Linux builds unable to use vmxnet3 or "VMware Paravirtual SCSI" adapter on vSphere

Have you seen this selector when building machines on vSphere?

Operating System Selector

This causes some fairly common issues in NOS VMs, as most don't really know what distribution the NOS is based on.

"Guest OS Version" doesn't just categorize your workload, though. Selecting "Other Linux" instructs vSphere to maximize compatibility and ensure the VI admin receives a reliable deployment - which means it'll run some pretty old virtual hardware.

VMware curates its lifecycle "Guest OS" settings here. Note that "Other" isn't described: https://partnerweb.vmware.com/GOSIG/home.html

Two commonly preferred settings for virtual hardware aren't available with this particular OS setting, and they both cause potential performance issues:

  • LSI Logic Virtual SCSI
  • Intel E1000 NIC <---If you're wondering, it will drop your VM's throughput

Let's cover how we'd fix this in vSphere 7 with a VM. The example in this procedure is VyOS 1.4.

Updating Paravirtualized Hardware

First, let's change the Guest OS version to something more specific. Generally, Linux distributions fall under two categories, Red-Hat, and Debian derivatives - Gentoo/Arch users won't be covered here because they should be able to find their own way out.

Since we know VyOS is a well-maintained distribution, I'll change it to "Debian 11." While this is technically lying, we're trying to provide a reference hardware version to the virtual machine, not accurately represent the workload. This menu can be reached by selecting "edit VM" on the vSphere console:

Virtual Machine Options

Second, let's change the SCSI Adapter:

Virtual SCSI

Replacing network adapters will take a little bit more work. Re-typing existing interfaces is not currently supported in vSphere 7, so we'll need to delete and re-create. In this example, we can set a static MAC address so that the guest distribution can correlate the new adapter to the same interface by setting the MAC Address field to static. Since I'm life cycling a VM template, I don't want to do that!

If you're editing an existing VM, make a backup. If it's a NOS, export the configuration. There is no guarantee that the configurations will port over perfectly, and you will want a restore point. Fortunately, lots of options exist in the VMware ecosystem to handle this!

VM Settings

Refactoring / Recovering from the change

With my template VM, the only issues presented were that the interface re-numbered and the VRF needed to be re-assigned:

1set interfaces ethernet eth2 address dhcp
2set interfaces ethernet eth2 vrf mgmt

Since we have the VM awake and in non-template-form, we can update the NOS too. (Guide here: https://docs.vyos.io/en/latest/installation/update.html)

 1vyos@vyos:~$ add system image https://downloads.vyos.io/rolling/current/amd64/vyos-rolling-latest.iso vrf mgmt  
 2Trying to fetch ISO file from https://downloads.vyos.io/rolling/current/amd64/vyos-rolling-latest.iso  
 3% Total % Received % Xferd Average Speed Time Time Time Current  
 4Dload Upload Total Spent Left Speed  
 5100 436M 100 436M 0 0 12.0M 0 0:00:36 0:00:36 --:--:-- 11.7M  
 6ISO download succeeded.  
 7Checking SHA256 (256-bit) checksum...  
 8% Total % Received % Xferd Average Speed Time Time Time Current  
 9Dload Upload Total Spent Left Speed  
10100 106 100 106 0 0 215 0 --:--:-- --:--:-- --:--:-- 215  
11Found it. Verifying checksum...  
12SHA256 checksum valid.  
13Checking for digital signature file...  
14% Total % Received % Xferd Average Speed Time Time Time Current  
15Dload Upload Total Spent Left Speed  
160 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 --:--:-- --:--:-- --:--:-- 0  
17curl: (22) The requested URL returned error: 404  
18Unable to fetch digital signature file.  
19Do you want to continue without signature check? (yes/no) \[yes\]  
20Checking MD5 checksums of files on the ISO image...OK.  
22What would you like to name this image? \[1.4-rolling-202112040649\]:  
23OK. This image will be named: 1.4-rolling-202112040649  
24Installing "1.4-rolling-202112040649" image.  
25Copying new release files...  
26Would you like to save the current configuration  
27directory and config file? (Yes/No) \[Yes\]: Yes  
28Copying current configuration...  
29Would you like to save the SSH host keys from your  
30current configuration? (Yes/No) \[Yes\]: No  
31Running post-install script...  
32Setting up grub configuration...  
34vyos@vyos:~$ show system image  
35The system currently has the following image(s) installed:  
371: 1.4-rolling-202112040649 (default boot)  
382: 1.4-rolling-202103130218 (running image)  
40vyos@vyos:~$ reboot  
41Are you sure you want to reboot this system? \[y/N\] y


To cover the major points of this article:

  • Selecting "Guest OS" in vSphere can present significant performance improvements or problems depending on what you choose. The selector chooses what PV hardware to provide to a VM, and it'll try to preserve compatibility and be conservative.
  • VM Hardware is a separate knob entirely, updating it won't make the newer hardware available without the "Guest OS" selector
  • Consult your NOS vendor on what to select here, if applicable, and require them to provide you documentation on why.

Some additional tangential benefits are present as a result of this change. For example, VM power actions work:

VM Actions

Since we're done, let's check this change into the image library:

VM Check-in

Reference: https://blog.engyak.co/2020/10/using-vm-templates-and-nsx-t-for/