I managed to go around this issue by adding:
to the "vmx_data" map in the packer json config file for the "vmware-iso" builder.
"ethernet0.networkName": "VM Network 1",
"ethernet1.networkName": "VM Network 2",
I still don't have a procedure for making packer behave the way I need, but I do have a report from my customer that a hand-crafted OVA that includes the OVF file edited to remove vmw:BootOrderSection tag worked in their environment.
It's important to note that the order of the files matters when using tar to create the OVA. The OVF file must be first, then the manifest, then the disk image.
Note that this is referring to the "vmware-iso" builder, which uses a local vmware to generate an OVA. I'm using "vsphere-iso" GitHub - jetbrains-infra/packer-builder-vsphere: Packer plugin for remote builds on VMware vSphere , which connects to a remove vsphere instance to generate an OVA. vsphere-iso doesn't seem to have a boot order property that I can customize.
By the way, I've found this doesn't seem to affect ESXi 6.7. Only breaks with 6.5.
What version of packer are you guys using? I noticed this section wasn't in my build last month. I think it may be a recent change to packer to add this section? Not sure if it's an ovftool or packer issue or what. Also, what hypervisor are you using for your builds? What Guest OS?