Install new Broadcom bnx2/bnx2x/bnx2i/cnic drivers on your ESXi 5.0 hosts

To exclude the driver as cause of a seemingly randomly occuring problem, I decided to update the Broadcom NIC drivers on 2 ESXi 5.0 hosts.

Download the latest drivers here and extract the … file. If you read this blogpost months or years after I created it, check for newer updates of the driver here.

Unfortunately I don’t have version 5.0 of the vMA. You can’t use vMA 4.1 to update ESXi 5.0 hosts. This is due to the fact that vihostupdate can’t be used anymore. Instead, new esxcli commands are created that are not available in vMA 4.1. You will recieve the following error if you try anyway:

Error: Unknown namespace software

esxcli can only be used with version 4.0 or newer servers

If you DO have vMA version 5.0, here is an excellent guide on how to update drivers.

So I’m using a SSH connection to the ESXi 5.0 hosts and I use the command line to update the hosts.

First, use WinSCP to transfer the update file, in my case, to the ESXi 5.0 host. I placed the file in /tmp because it will be deleted when the host is rebooted.

Enable the TSM-SSH service on the ESXi 5.0 host,  connect using an SSH client e.g. PuTTY and install the new drivers using the command

esxcli software vib update –depot=/tmp/

The result should be something like this:

~ # esxcli software vib update –depot=/tmp/
Installation Result
Message: The update completed successfully, but the system needs to be rebooted for the changes to be effective.
Reboot Required: true
VIBs Installed: Broadcom_bootbank_misc-cnic-register_1.70.0.v50.9-1OEM.500.0.0.472560, Broadcom_bootbank_net-bnx2_2.1 .12b.v50.3-1OEM.500.0.0.472560, Broadcom_bootbank_net-bnx2x_1.70.34.v50.1-1OEM.500.0.0.472560, Broadcom_bootbank_net-cnic_1.11.18.v50.1-1OEM.500.0.0.472560, Broadcom_bootbank_scsi-bnx2i_2.70.1k.v50.2-1OEM.500.0.0.472560
VIBs Removed: VMware_bootbank_misc-cnic-register_1.1-1vmw.500.0.0.469512, VMware_bootbank_net-bnx2_2.0.15g.v50.11-5vmw.500.0.0.469512, VMware_bootbank_net-bnx2x_1.61.15.v50.1-1vmw.500.0.0.469512, VMware_bootbank_net-cnic_1.10.2j.v50.7-2vmw.500.0.0.469512, VMware_bootbank_scsi-bnx2i_1.9.1d.v50.1-3vmw.500.0.0.469512
VIBs Skipped: Broadcom_bootbank_scsi-bnx2fc_1.0.1v.v50.1-1OEM.500.0.0.406165

You can see a reboot is required. After the reboot, you can verify the driver version using the command

ethtool -i vmnic[your vmnic number]

It should return something like this:

~ # ethtool -i vmnic0
driver: bnx2
version: 2.1.12b.v50.3
firmware-version: bc 1.9.6
bus-info: 0000:03:00.0

or you can look at the Hardware Status tab of your host in your vSphere Client. You might need to update the info first using the link in the upper right of the tab:


About Yuri de Jager
Technology Addict

6 Responses to Install new Broadcom bnx2/bnx2x/bnx2i/cnic drivers on your ESXi 5.0 hosts

  1. J Ruff says:

    Can I ask what your randomly occurring problem was?
    I have an issue where Win7 hosts get network issues (“cannot connect to internet”) although they are usually able to ping other guests the vmware view agent cannot connect. moving the guest to another server in the cluster is a temp fix, but pretty soon it happens again. This is with ESXi 5.0 update 1. Driving me nuts!

    • Yuri de Jager says:

      Hi Jack,

      The problem was/is connection loss to some applications on several VM’s. The problem started to occur at about the same time the cluster with the ESXi 5.0 hosts became operational. The problem hasn’t been solved, so we excluded the NIC’s as a source.

      • Arve says:

        Hi, Yuri,

        We had severe issues using a quad port Broadcom NetXtreme II BCM5709 as a storage adapter – huge latency spikes, etc.
        Our solution was to install a Intel 82571EB NIC, and use this instead.
        We went from 150ms latency spikes to an average for ~10ms for our SAN.

        We’ll never buy another server with a Broadcom adapter, that’s for sure. Still got some issues with the Broadcom since we’re using it for all regular network traffic, so we might just disable the entire card and go all Intel.

      • Hi Arve,

        Thanks for the info! This might help some people who stumble upon this page in their search for answers.

        I’m curious to see if you tested upgrading the firmware and ESXi drivers before you switched to Intel 82571EB NICs. There also seems to be big problems with TOE on these chips on multiple OS. You might want to try to disable the offloading functions of the Broadcom NIC. You can see them with the command ‘ethtool -k [vmnicX]’ on your ESXi command line. I would start by disabling TSO by using the command ‘ethtool -K tso off’ and go from there.

        I know there have also been similar problems with Intel drivers on ESX(i) 3.5, so these kind of problems are not just occuring on Broadcom chips.

        Good luck!

  2. Dave says:

    Thanks for these great instructions, and the reference to the other page. Now if only we could get Dell to improve the LifeCycle Controller so that it doesn’t take 45 minutes to download and update firmware; when it actually works. Seems like it should be much faster on the speed of link that we have (100Mbps). It is a great concept but needs some polishing.

  3. Hi, we had an issue with IBM HS22 blades, 3 chassis were working fine with the BMT 10GB modules but on a 4th chassis it was like only one way communication was occurring at layer 2, could see incoming NBNS requests from other servers on the subnet, but could not ping outward from any blades through the BMT 10GB (no ARP responses). Updating bnx2x from 1.61.15.v50 driver version to 1.72.54.v50.2 using this method fixed the issue. Weird as the other 3 chassis blades are using the default vSphere 5 driver and are working fine.

    Simon B

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