Choose Hardware for U’r Next Bare Metal ESXi Host

It’s been quite some time I wrote my last post, have been busy with work and so many other stuffs. One thing which I wanted to really mention in my new blog post is that I wanted to let my readers know that I have finally got time to upgrade my Home Lab with another powerful yet cheap White Box (Physical Machine) 2 months ago. So, currently my Home Lab consists of 2 dedicated White boxes. Let’s talk about the new box. I bought all the parts from a popular computer shop called Bizgram in Singapore.

Here’s the configuration details:

ASUS P9x79 Pro Motherboard supporting 64GB RAM : This is LGA2011 socket MB and if you want to go with as much as 64GB RAM support in a single desktop board then this is the one! This is super fantastic board but it only supports Intel 2nd Generation Sandy Bridge Processor. But there’s nothing wrong about it. There’s hardly any difference between the 2nd generation and 3rd generation processors. And if you want performance with more L2 cache then you should go for 2nd generation processor. And if you want to go for lower ultra-voltage processors then you should go for 3rd generation based Ivy-Bridge Processors. the details review can be found from AnadTech site: http://www.anandtech.com/show/5089/sandy-bridgee-and-x79-the-asus-p9x79-pro-review

Intel i7 3820 CPU 3.6GHz Quad Core (without overclocking): Intel 2nd generation Sandy-Bridge Processor with as high as 10MB L2 cache compared to just 8MB cache of 3rd generation processors.  To compare the processor features, I suggest you to go to Intel ARK Utility Site at: http://ark.intel.com/ or use the ARK app in iOS/Android. I used it extensively to choose the right processor for me. And with Price/Performance calculation I went with this processor. There is a Hexa-Core Intel i7-3970X Processor Extreme Edition as well which offers 6 Cores and whopping 12 logical CPUs, but that’s pretty expensive! USD 1000$! That’s a quite amount. With some additional amount added to the difference amount, I can actually build another cheap White-Box. With overclocking this CPU can go as high as 4.6 GHz easily, I heard. Since I am using it install VMware vSphere ESXi, I didn’t chose delibarately not overclock it. The current processor details is mentioned here: http://ark.intel.com/products/63698/Intel-Core-i7-3820-Processor-10M-Cache-up-to-3_80-GHz

Corsair Vengeance 32 GB RAM (1600MHz) (with RAM cooler): This was one of the best performance RAM available, or probably the best one! It has some built-on cooling facility. I opted to go with 32GB of 1600MHz RAM for the moment, soon going to be extend my new White-Box with 64GB of RAM. Product details can be found here: http://www.corsair.com/vengeance-8gb-dual-channel-ddr3-memory-kit-cmz8gx3m2a1600c8.html

Corsair H80i Hydro Series Cooler: Since I am going to use my Home Lab remotely through a Public IP and hence it needs to be powered on for most of the part of the day, specially when I leave home for work, a high power CPU cooling facility is very much required, I went with this one. Although slightly expensive, but worth it! Product Details can be found here: http://www.corsair.com/us/hydro-series-h80i-high-performance-liquid-cpu-cooler.html

Cooler Master HAF912 Advanced Cabinet with 3 Fan support: This black color cabinet looks like a monster, but I realized it’s worth when it was assembled and the PC started working. It comes with a 3 Fan support and gives me the feeling of ultra-silent PC feeling. Go for it! Product details here: http://www.coolermaster-usa.com/landing/haf912/home.php

ASUS NVIDIA 210 1GB Display Card: Since the LGA2011 socket motherboards don’t have any inbuilt graphics card, I had to go for a bare minimum graphics card. Anyway, I was going to use ESXi on the bare metal hardware, so a 1GB Display card is good enough for me. With Windows 7 as well, this works fantastic! Recommended. Find the product details here: http://www.asus.com/Graphics_Cards/EN210_SILENTDI1GD3V2LP/#overview

TP-Link Gigabit External Ethernet Card-TG3269Since VMware ESXi 5.1 on bare metal hardware doesn’t detect the on-board NIC, I had to go with an cheap-supported external NIC. Having checked the VMTN, I found other people have used it and it works great without any issues on ESXi. So far no issues for me. And yes, the on-board NIC indeed didn’t work for me too! Product details can be found here: http://www.tp-link.sg/products/details/?model=TG-3269

550 watt Power SupplyThis is bare minimum to run the desktop.

I didn’t opt for any monitor, keyboard, mouse, HDD or DVD drive since it was extremely purpose built for ESXi.

I took a just bare metal machine since I run ESXi on a USB key and use shared storage like virtual NAS/NFS. Also I had couple of TB HDDS already with me. This entire bare metal machine costs me 1600 Singapore Dollars.

With this configuration (of course adding a SATA HDD of around 1 to 2TB or a SSD of 250GB) you can use this machine as a single host to build a nested ESXi lab using Autolab: http://www.labguides.com/autolab/

Hope this helps… Feel free to reach out to me if you have further question through Twitter: @AmitabhPancham or GTalk: Amitabh.Dey@Gmail.Com or a just comment on this blog post.

Wish you a Happy Labbing Time! :-)

4 thoughts on “Choose Hardware for U’r Next Bare Metal ESXi Host

  1. As for the power usage issue I would strongly recommend setting up a WOL infrastructure. Using a small embedded box, such as the Raspberry Pi that will not use much power you could write a script that allows you to send your magic packets along your home network from the Pi, when logged into via VPN (or via web GUI, if you wanna go that way). That way you can power up your box whenever you need it without leaving it running all day and paying boatloads to PUB.
    As for the graphics adapter a 1GB card is not exactly what I would call “bare minimum”. Unless you want to do hardware accelerated VDI this seems like overkill to me.

    Just my 2 cents…

  2. I built this hard

    I7 4770S @ 3.1Ghz (65w)
    Asus H87M Plus (Lan Realtek 8168)
    2x 8GB DDR3 1600 Kingston HyperX (max 32GB 4x8GB)
    2x Samsung SSD Evo 120GB (RAID1)
    3x Seagate 1TB 64mb 7200rpm
    Corsair CX600M 600W Modular
    Nox Coolbay VX

    Price: 960€ (~800€ without taxes)

    Problem? NIC R8168 is not supported in VMWARE ESXI. So thanks to your post I know what NIC I will buy. TPLink

    1 Question: Is fully supported in installation? Or I have to Customize the VMWARE ESXI ISO?

Share Your Opinion (Reply)