I have needed to get some more capacity added to the home lab for a while now, but have taken my time. I have been gathering up enterprise servers that are a couple of generations old in the past. These have always done me well but have limited amount of memory in them and upgrading them was pretty expensive, not to mention they are very loud. So I decided to go another direction and build a couple of whitebox servers based on common desktop parts. I’ve been watching for sales and collecting the parts to build them. After finding a couple of good deals lately I finally had all the parts need to build two hosts.
Another thing that I had to make a decision on was if I needed a server class motherboard or would a desktop one work. After thinking about it I came to the decision that a desktop motherboard would work just fine and probably save me a few dollars in the build cost. I almost never use the out of band management access to the enterprise servers that I had at this point and since they are just down in the basement, I can easily run down and access them if needed.
I also did not need the ability to use VT-d so a server board was even less important. I simple needed hosts with good power and more RAM. It really comes down to memory for me, I needed the ability to run more VMs so that I don’t have to turn things on and off.
This type of lab is important to me for personal learning and testing out configurations for the customer designs that I work on during the days. I have access to a sweet lab at work but it’s just better to have your own lab that you are free to do what you want, and my poor bandwidth at the house makes remote access kind of poor.
I want the ability to run a View environment, vCloud suite and my various other tools all at once. With these new hosts I will be able to dedicate one of my older servers as the management host and a pair of the older servers as hosts for VMware View. This will leave the two new hosts to run vCloud suite and other tools on.
I have set the hosts up to boot from the USB sticks and plan to use part of the 60GB SSD drives for host cache. The remaining disk space will be used for VMs. Each host will have 32GB of RAM, this is the max that the motherboard will support with its 4 slots. There is an onboard 1GB network connection that is a Realtek 8111E according to the specs. I can report that after loading vSphere 5.1 the network card was recognized and worked without issue. I had a couple of gigabit network cards laying around that I installed for a second connection in each of the hosts.
The case came with a fan included, but I added another for better cooling and air flow. Even with multiple fans running the hosts are very quiet since there are no spinning disks in them and put out very little heat. I could have probably reduced the noise and heat a bit more by choosing a fan less power supply but they are over $100 and was not a priority for me.
About Brian Suhr
Brian is a VCDX5-DCV and a Sr. Tech Marketing Engineer at Nutanix and owner of this website. He is active in the VMware community and helps lead the Chicago VMUG group. Specializing in VDI and Cloud project designs. Awarded VMware vExpert status 6 years for 2016 - 2011. VCP3, VCP5, VCP5-Iaas, VCP-Cloud, VCAP-DTD, VCAP5-DCD, VCAP5-DCA, VCA-DT, VCP5-DT, Cisco UCS Design