Build a new home lab
In February 2014 I’ve build myself a new whitebox ESXi server to replace the server which died on me when testing a Nvidia Quadro K5000 graphics card. One year later, I started my new job at VMware and I need to dive into some new products like vCenter Orchestrator, vRealize Automation and the new Operations. And besides that VMware released so much new technology with the associated requirements that I needed a new home lab.
What do I need and what do I have?
Storage is already in place. My current setup uses two Synology NAS boxes
- a DS1512+ with five 3TB, 7.200 rpm SATA disks, 2 x 1Gbps LACP. Net capacity 11TB.
- a DS411j with four 2TB, 7.200 rpm SATA disks, 1 x 1Gbps. Net capacity 5,5TB.
Both Synology boxes are running NFS.
The networking part is also ready. I have an HP ProCurve 2824 (J4903A), this is a 24-port HP ProCurve Switch with 20 ports with a speed of 10/100/1000Gbps and 4 dual-personality ports for 10/100/1000Gbps or mini-GBIC connectivity. This switch has a 48 Gbps backplane capable of up to 35.7 mpps and supporting Link Aggregation, VLANs, basic IP routing, QoS.
So everything is in place, now I need servers. First of all, having just one server is a problem. If you want to patch, upgrade, etc. you have to shutdown the whole lab environment. So, I want more than one server to be able to vMotion. That will come in handy because I also want to test Virtual SAN which requires at least three servers. Besides that the servers need to have at least two network interfaces to support regular network traffic, vMotion traffic and Virtual SAN traffic. But I don’t want to end up with a huge energy bill at the end of the year, so they must be ‘green’.
I looked at the HP NUC and Dell mini servers but after a tip from a colleague (thx Geordy) I decided to build my new home lab on some Shuttle Slim-PC’s.
I went with the Shuttle DS81 and added the following components:
|Intel Core i3-4160, 3.6GHz, LGA1150||€120,-||$136,-|
|HGST Travelstar 7K1000 1TB, 2.5inch, SATA600, 7.200rpm||€70,-||$80,-|
|SanDisk X110 128GB SSD mSATA||€75,-||$85,-|
|Kingston ValueRAM, 16GB DDR3 (2 x 8GB) SODIMM, 1.600MHz||€135,-||$153,-|
|SanDisk Standard 8GB SD-card, class 2, SDHC||€6,-||$7,-|
|Subtotal per server||€596,-||$676,-|
I picked the cheapest Intel Core i3 processor that I could find because my experience with previous home labs is that CPU is never an issue. Memory is he main problem and with the DS81 only supporting 16GB you may need an extra server to handle the memory load. Because the Intel Core i3 processor supports hyper-threading, you get 4 logical processors at 3.6GHz.
For Virtual SAN I chose a 1TB disk for capacity and a 128GB SanDisk SSD for caching. I will use the 8GB SD-card to install ESXi on.
After assembling all three servers I started the installation to find that the Realtek 8111G network interface is not recognized by the ESXi 6.0 (RC) installer. After some research I found some different drivers and the VMware Front Experience ESXi-Customizer. After some trial-and-mostly-error, I found the correct driver. I injected the net51-drivers-1.0.0-1vft.510.0.0.799733.x86_64.vib into the VMware-VMvisor-Installer-6.0.0-2159203.x86_64.iso with the ESXi-Customizer and it works like a charm including Virtual SAN! All three servers up and running, I modified the VESA brackets which came with the Shuttles to stack them and mounted in my utility closet.
After installing the vCenter Server Appliance, my new home lab looks like this!
Note: I measured the power usage, the entire lab (servers, storage, network) uses 240W during normale operations.
Hey Eric i decided to snag all the stuff you have in this post! just curious on what you used for your “rack” of the shuttles
I used/modified the monitor mounting brackets. :-)
On your switch do you throw everything into 1 vlan? I’m having problems getting the ProCurve to do multiple vlans. I trunked all the ESXi ports and tagged them in management and Default yet all i can ping on the esxi vlan is the vlan itself none of the hosts communicate even though the switch is seeing connectivity. IP Routing is enabled
Yes, I have a very simple network. Just one VLAN, no trunking, no tagging
Pshh… too ez. ;)
Erik, you happen to have the ESXi ISO you put together to load up the DS81? one of my 3 shuttles is erroring out saying the image is corrupt every time I try to rufus an image…. doesnt matter if its got some VIB’s or vanilla right from vmware. Looking to try an iso i KNOW works
@Michael, Please check your e-mail…
@Michael: You have an e-mail …….
Did you ever try to let DHCP obtain the IP address for these servers? I’m trying to test out auto deploy which requires dhcp and I’m getting a whole ton of failed ip addresses as well as “DHCP lookup failed” in ESXi…. I’ve tried everything and I’m starting to think its a driver issue.