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3Oct/119

Building a Cost-Effective vSphere ESXi 5.0 Home Lab

Many folks have blogged about building a home lab--I have an old lab that really draws some power and not really giving me what I'd like.  With that in mind I set out to build a new lab but with the intent of being as cost-effective as possible.  Lots of folks are running T610s and T110s but those draw a lot of power and cost quite a bit more then I'd like.  Others white-box some awesome labs for cheap but they still consume a lot of power.

I came across the HP Micro Servers that seem to be gaining alot of popularity, but opted against them for 2 reasons:

  • They use older generation AMD processors - I can white-box similar functionality with the latest generation processors for less money
  • HP - 'nuff said
So I came across the new AMD E-350 boards and found gold.  These boards are cheap (~$80-$120) and have an integrated dual-core AMD processor (these are the next generation processors from what is in the HP Micro Servers).  The low energy draw is very impressive, it appears you can run one of these with load and they will consume under 40 watts.  I want atleast 2 rigs and was originally set on quad-core or six-core processors but the ultra-low power consumption of these AMD chips changed my mind there.  I can run 3-4 of these for less money and match core counts.  In my experience I typically run out of memory resources way before hitting any CPU contention issues on the system I manage at work.  Remember this is a home lab, you shouldn't need lots of RAM therefore why have a quad-core or six-core processor if your only going to use 8Gb of RAM in your host?
I ordered these bits last night to try out one and if I like it I'll order 1 or 2 more setups:
  • Motherboard: ASUS E35M1-M Pro
  • RAM: G.SKILL Ripjaws Series 8GB (2 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10666) Desktop Memory Model F3-10666CL9D-8GBRL
I have drives, a case and a power supply kicking around already.  I'll post up some performance metrics once the board arrives.
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  1. Hi. Have you had a chance to try this board yet? Is it fully supported in ESXi?
    Thanks

    • Yes, haven’t had time to do a proper write up–
      Installed ESXi 5.0 on an old flash drive, and everything seems to work fine. I’ve had 5 VMs running off a local 1tb drive for testing, it wasn’t bad at all IMO.

      I don’t think it supports VMDirectPath but otherwise it’s good. Also had to flash the BIOS to the latest rev. to get it to boot ESXi 5

      • Hi Michael,
        I have exactly the same board. When I attempt to install ESXi 5.0, it gets stuck on imgpayld.tgz. Was this where your install was getting stuck at prior to BIOS update?

        Thanks.

  2. Issue resolved. A new download and fresh CD burn solved the issue. I first attempted to boot from USB flash drive, which did boot and start the install however it would reboot instead of lock up at imgpayld.tgz.

    I created a VM for WHS 2011 64 bit which also installed with no issues.

    I would call the ASUS E35M1-M PRO ESXI 5 compatible at this point.

    • Ben,

      Good to hear, I was getting locked up at a different point–I didn’t document it on this first go, when I order some additional boards if the issue comes up again I’ll write up the exact issue/resolution.

  3. Hey ..
    I need a details information about list of hardware used .Planning to build new Home lab which will support for coming 2 year down the line ( minimum ) .

    I got Exact mother board and RAM .
    1. What kind of processor i have to use ?
    2. What is local HDD i need to USE ?
    3 . Already i have IOmega SAN storage with me ( 2 TB ) , one Openfiler Storage .

    Thanks in Advance
    K~
    Kartook@gmail.com

  4. Hi Michael,

    Thanks for the info. Here’s my list for a lab system. Let me know what you think. I’m thinking about putting a small, cheap SSD & 1 TB SATA drive in each system along with a NAS (already have).

    COOLER MASTER Elite 360 Plastic ATX Mini Tower Computer Case
    CORSAIR Builder Series CX430 V2 430W ATX12V v2.3 80 PLUS Certified Active PFC Power Supply
    G.SKILL Ripjaws Series 8GB (2 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800)
    ASUS E35M1-M PRO Fusion AMD E-350 APU (1.6GHz, Dual-Core) AMD Hudson M1 Micro ATX Motherboard/CPU Combo

    Thanks!

    • Brian,

      Looks like a great build–Only thing I would do different is buy cases that come with cheap-o Power Supplies to save some coin.
      Let me know how how your rigs work out for you once you get them put together.


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