I've installed ESXi 5.1 on my Mac Pro (model 5,1 - aka mid-2010). It's supported by VMware.
The passthru works OK for the graphics card, but I'm not able to make it work for the USB keyboard and mouse. I've checked every single USB devices in the DirectPath i/o configuration, rebooted the ESXi, but keyboard/mouse were still anavailable when trying to add a USB device on a VM.
Am I missing something?
I found a KB article Supported USB device models for passthrough from an ESX or ESXi host to a virtual machine which says:
"These USB devices are not available for passthrough: [...] USB devices such as mice and keyboards that have a bootable HID interface."
I know it's possible to forcibly overcome that limitation on our hosted products (Workstation, Fusion; search for "allowHID" in our Knowledgebase for more information), but I could not find any information on bypassing it on ESXi. On those hosted products, the limitation is in place to prevent the loss of host console control in the event all the HIDs end up passed through to a VM, in which case there may be no way to "escape" from the VM and return the devices to the host. I would expect that the reasoning is the same for ESXi. The only workaround I know of for ESXi is to use a client-connected USB device, but, if I remember correctly, you want to run everything on the ESXi host, that probably won't help you.
Very interesting answer, and link. But I'm sure there is a grey zone between black&white. According to http://networkingbunny.co.uk/documents/vmdirectpath it's possible to use USB passthru for desktop use but this guy won't answer my email, and does not give any technical details.
Now, the KB you're quoting has an intersting bit: "Cables To Go USB 2.0 7-Port Hub Model# 29560"
Let's say, I buy this USB hub, plug it in the Mac Pro, and add it to my VM in passthrough. What would happen to USB devices plugged in to the hub? Would they become available to the VM "as-is"?
(well, this particular hub is badly rated online, not sure how it made its way into the supported device list...)
I doubt that it is actually possible to pass-through a USB hub and automatically get all the devices attached to it. More than likely, that hub was simply the hub that was used by someone during testing, and they figured that it could be documented as "a hub which did not interfere with the passed-through USB devices attached thereto", if you get my drift.
Unless I am missing something, the networkingbunny article is unclear about whether keyboard and mouse ended up connected via USB passthrough or connected via a VMDirectPath passed-through USB controller. The former option would face the problem I describe above (the need to work-around the blocking of HIDs); The latter option would not, since you're passing through the raw USB controller and the ESXi host wouldn't know or care that there are HIDs attached. Depending on the number of USB controllers visible to ESXi, your best option might be to try the VMDirectPath option there too.