NOTE IDE RAID and SATA RAID are not supported for the VMFS file system.
says that certificated SANs with SATA disks have no probs.
Furthermore you can see SATA FAQS here :
I've seen that info but I'm not interested in what is "supported" - this machine will serve several purposes, only one being ESX.
So... if anyone has tried/tested/used these NIC and SATA chipsets in an ESX machine and knows if they do or do not work please let me know
Most of the time with ESX supported with respect to hardware means function, especially when it comes to disk controllers.
There are a couple LSI controllers that use SATA disks that function under the LSI scsi driver. Otherwise you need a scsi controller off of the hcl: http://www.vmware.com/pdf/vi3_io_guide.pdf.
This is usually the biggest drawback for someone who's just trying to kick the tires.
There are also some guides to creating a whitebox ESX server and several threads regarding this.