That's the confusing bit for me - when it boots it says its a 8111C (and that seems to be the LAN boot in the BIOS) but later on in the LMCE boot sequence it says its 8169. Its not clear to me if both chips are involved, or one is a mistake. If a mistake i can only assume that the BIOS has it right and its a 8111C and the Linux PXE boot is mis-identifying it. On the Realtek site it seems to associate 8169 with 8110 in the drivers page, so that just complicates matters by suggesting that 2 chips are involved but not the right two!
The problem, of course, is that I can't get in at that point to do a lspci as the kernel hasn't started and I don't really have anyway of doing so. Does your colleague have any clue as to whether it really is the 8111 or actually the 8169 or both? Either way, is it still sounding like I need to compile a driver for it (v lost at the moment!) Its a shame because the unit is dirt cheap - US$140, add $20 of RAM and you have, surely, the cheapest MD around? (that's like 80 GBP or less!)