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  1. Senior Member
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    #1

    Default Deciding between a few servers for a home lab, need opinions

    So after looking into the advice given in my other thread, I've come down to two servers I'm deciding between. My budget is around $500 and all I need is something that can handle three ESXi 5.5 or 6.0 hosts. These are the ones I'm looking at.

    First up is the Dell PowerEdge R710

    Dell PowerEdge R710 Server 2X Xeon 2 26GHz 24GB 2 X146GB 10K PERC 6i DRAC 2XPSU | eBay

    Dell PowerEdge R710 2 x Quad Core 2 66GHz X5550 48GB Memory 8 x 146GB 10K Server | eBay

    I really like this one because it's got a ton of room to expand and I've heard good things about it everywhere I look. Unless I'm missing something, the server in the first link looks like a really good deal. I'd consider buying two.

    Second is the HP Proliant DL360 G6

    HP Proliant DL360 G6 w Dual X5570 2 93GHz CPU 48GB RAM 1x 300GB HDD Rail Kit 7427450478495 | eBay

    HP Proliant DL360 G6 Server 2XX5570 Xeon Quad Core 2 93GHz 48GB RAM 2x146GB SFF | eBay

    Aside from almost every listing on Ebay having very low storage, it seems like I'm getting almost the same bang for way less buck than the R710. Obviously there isn't as much room to expand, but at the price I could buy two right now. It's also smaller which is nice.

    Kinda torn right now. This is my first dealing with server hardware so maybe I'm overlooking something important. If some of you more knowledgeable guys could give me your opinions so I at least make a decent purchase, that'd be great.

    Thanks!
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    #2
    I would scratch the 24GB ram one off your list, that ram is expensive to buy and you will want as much as you can get. I would suggest to run the lab off of SSD drive and backup to regular drive since you likely cannot afford a good raid card with large cache and 4 drives for Raid 10.
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    #3
    Here is my lab.




    From bottom up:
    2x 2006 Mac Pro - dual quad core CPUs (ebay $20) - 32GB ram (ebay $45) - running ESXi 6.0
    2 HP ProLiant N54L microservers running ESOS acting as a SAN
    Brocade SilkWorm 200E fiber channel switch (ebay ~$50)
    Mac Mini for vCenter

    The Macs can be had on craigslist for dirt cheap and upgrade the processors and ram from ebay to max them out.

    The latest versions of the microserver are running intel chips now but I have no experience with them.

    This is just to give you an idea of ways to get around from actually buying a server. The Mac Pro uses server grade hardware anyway and is much quieter. You certainly don't have to go this all out, start out with a couple mac and use internal storage until you are ready to start messing with storage technologies. Those microservers have gone through a couple different iterations first acting as a NAS with basic IP networking, second using iSCSI, and finally using fiber channel.

    Hope this helps

    Sam
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    #4
    That's a pretty sweet setup. I already purchased a Proliant DL360 G6 last night. Didn't know that about the Macs, that'll be a good option if I ever decide to expand. Honestly I just need enough to get me through the VCP and MCSA. Hopefully this will be enough.

    Thanks for the advice!
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  6. Virtually Certifiable tbgree00's Avatar
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    #5
    Quote Originally Posted by nodal View Post
    Here is my lab.




    From bottom up:
    2x 2006 Mac Pro - dual quad core CPUs (ebay $20) - 32GB ram (ebay $45) - running ESXi 6.0
    2 HP ProLiant N54L microservers running ESOS acting as a SAN
    Brocade SilkWorm 200E fiber channel switch (ebay ~$50)
    Mac Mini for vCenter

    The Macs can be had on craigslist for dirt cheap and upgrade the processors and ram from ebay to max them out.

    The latest versions of the microserver are running intel chips now but I have no experience with them.

    This is just to give you an idea of ways to get around from actually buying a server. The Mac Pro uses server grade hardware anyway and is much quieter. You certainly don't have to go this all out, start out with a couple mac and use internal storage until you are ready to start messing with storage technologies. Those microservers have gone through a couple different iterations first acting as a NAS with basic IP networking, second using iSCSI, and finally using fiber channel.

    Hope this helps

    Sam
    That is amazing, I'm now looking for some mac hardware. I wasn't aware it could run ESXi.

    I currently have a Dell T110 with 16 GB ram running Autolab in a degraded state. Only 2 hosts, the FreeNAS, and the router.

    I want two more T110s to configure a vSAN but power and space limitations may put that off. I've heard NUCs are good for lab but I really want to be as close to a production scenario as possible.
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    #6
    The DL360 G6 isn't on the ESXi 6 compatibility list. It'll probably work fine, but there might be some hoops to jump through. The Dell R710 is fine for 5.5 and 6, including the 6.0U1 update.

    The Dell is also a bigger box, so is likely more expandable and quieter (bigger fans, moving more slowly). I think they also come with lights out as standard, which is a nice feature.

    If you are setting up a home lab with more than one server, then getting very similar hardware (at least same CPU) is a good idea, since you can do vmotion, HA etc. Of course, if you get different hardware then you can just learn how to get it working across different hardware.
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    #7
    I recently completed a VMware course where the instructor recommended Shuttle boxes. They're cheap, but they're pretty bare, so you have to outfit them with RAM, CPU, and disk system on your own. Here's what I Was looking at as one of the builds:

    Shuttle box: Amazon.com: Shuttle XPC Slim DS81 Intel Haswell H81 chipset LGA 1150 i3/i5/i7/Pentium, Support 4K Ultra HD Video, Heatpipe Cooling Module: Computers & Accessories

    RAM: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B007B5S52C/...Z8Y8DHWA&psc=1

    CPU: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00CO8T9VC/...W0DW9SVX&psc=1

    That totals around $435, but there's no disk in that so you'd need either an external HD or a NAS at home to get disk from. My plan was to buy a NAS, or get a server with a bunch of disk in it and run FreeNAS, not sure which I would do at this point honestly. Probably the NAS though, they should be cheaper and run cheaper than a disk server.
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  9. IT Professional dancreaney's Avatar
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    #8
    Thanks for sharing.

    I just put together an ESXi server for a little under $550 from Newegg.com. It's a core i5 system, with 32gb RAM, and a 240gb SSD. It took a day of tweaking and experimentation but it's running nested 64-bit ESXi hosts like a champ so far, just needs a little more testing of the finer details. I've also invested in a Synology NAS that does iSCSI for playing with shared storage.

    Here is a kit list:

    Intel 535 Series 2.5" 240GB SATA III MLC Internal Solid State Drive (SSD) SSDSC2BW240H6R5 - Internal SSDs - Newegg.com

    Rosewill R379-M Black/ Silver 0.8mm SGCC Steel Slim MicroATX Computer Case with ATX12V Flex 300W Power Supply - Newegg.com

    ASRock B150M Pro4S LGA 1151 Intel B150 HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 Micro ATX Intel Motherboard - Newegg.com

    Intel Core i5-6400 6 MB Skylake Quad-Core 2.7 GHz LGA 1151 65W BX80662I56400 Desktop Processor Intel HD Graphics 530 - Newegg.com

    Sabrent BK-HDDF 2.5 Inch to 3.5 Inch Internal Hard Disk Drive Mounting Bracket Kit - Newegg.com

    G.SKILL Ripjaws 4 Series 32GB (4 x 8GB) 288-Pin DDR4 SDRAM DDR4 2133 (PC4 17000) Desktop Memory Model F4-2133C15Q-32GRK - Newegg.com

    It's seems like there are many way's to attack the home lab puzzle. I like designing and building new systems and needed a quiet solution with a small footprint, not too expensive, but still with plenty of beef so this worked for me.

    DC

    P.S. the PSU that comes with the case has a 4pin CPU power connector, the motherboard requires 8pin so it was an extra few bucks for a molex to 8pin EPS adapter.
    Last edited by dancreaney; 03-14-2016 at 03:44 PM.
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  10. Senior Member diggitle's Avatar
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    #9
    This is an awesome setup! I just watch teksyndicate wendell upgrade a mac book pro from 4.1, to 5.1 firmware. Now that i know esxi will work on it that will be an awesome cheap server idea. Thanks for this!
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    #10
    Quote Originally Posted by diggitle View Post
    This is an awesome setup! I just watch teksyndicate wendell upgrade a mac book pro from 4.1, to 5.1 firmware. Now that i know esxi will work on it that will be an awesome cheap server idea. Thanks for this!
    Yeah, the Mac Pro 5,1 (not the MacBook Pro) is on the ESXi 5.1, 5.5 and 6.0 compatibility list. The 4,1 and 5,1 are pretty much just a refresh on the CPU, so it's no problem to flash the firmware.

    The last generation Xserve is on the supported list up to 5.0 U3.

    One word of warning is that the Xserve and MacPro RAID card are not supported under ESXi. If you are running in production, you're best to use NAS/SAN. There are some USB/Thunderbolt DAS boxes which might work, but they'd likely be unsupported.

    The newer trashcan MacPro 6,1 is on the list for 5.5 and 6.0 but are rather more expensive and rather less server like. I think that 5.1 and earlier still do not work. You can get a rack mountable expansion chassis for the Mac Pro 6,1 with (or without) a PCIe bus (attaching via Thunderbolt). This is handy if you want 10GBe converged NIC for SAN.

    Macs are also the only boxes which can officially run virtualised instances of Mac OS X/OS X under ESXi. There is a licensing limitation from Apple which ESXi enforces in software.
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    #11
    I wonder if we need a sticky for server suggestions. We seem to repeat ourselves quite often in this regard ...
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  13. Senior Member gncsmith's Avatar
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    #12
    Or even a "Hardware" Section with separate subsection for each. Example Server, Desktop, Routers, etc. You can also move the "Sales" area there for Hardware too in order to keep it separate from the Certification items for sale.
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    #13
    That would be nice. I've had hardware questions in the past but I usually take them to another forum as there's no real section for that here. I know a lot of people ask for hardware suggestions with the CCNA and such as well.
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    #14
    can the HP ProLiant N54L microserver take 32gb ? or any of the microservers for that matter.
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    #15
    Quote Originally Posted by eddo1 View Post
    can the HP ProLiant N54L microserver take 32gb ? or any of the microservers for that matter.
    The specs for the current HP Microserver Gen8 say 16GB. They've all had only 2 slots, and use low power CPUs with cut down features, so RAM has always been an option. I think the N54L officially supported 8GB, but some people have had 16GB running, so it might be possible to up the RAM in the current model.

    The Mac Mini has a maximum of 16GB also
    . But be warned, the newer models do not have upgradeable RAM - it is soldered to the motherboard. Earlier models have lower maximums, so check before you buy.

    Looking around, it seems that the Shuttle might be the best option if you want lots of RAM in a home small form factor. One thing to consider is that more RAM means more chance of unrecoverable memory error, which is why ECC is a good idea for anything important.
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    #16
    Surprised to see no mention of Intel NUC. The 6th generation NUC has Intel NIC so no need for customizing ESXi ISO. Yes, limiting factor is the single NIC. The 6th gen NUC can go up to 32GB RAM. One can assemble a setup for less than $500 with 32GB of RAM, if Core i3 is OK for his/her needs.

    Another alternative is Shuttle DH170 since it has dual NICs. But, a quick search didn't yield any results of people successfully loading ESXi 6.0 on it. May have to follow some other online guides for Shuttle DS81 or other models of Shuttle.
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  18. Senior Member stryder144's Avatar
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    #17
    I checked out the CPU specs for the HP Microserver Gen8 and all of them support 32GB, per Intel. This means that since the memory controller is built in to the CPU, you theoretically can go to 32GB. Naturally, since these servers have only two memory slots, you will likely be stuck at 16GB of RAM, unless/until they come out with 16GB sticks. I would imagine, and I didn't conduct any further research into it, that 16GB sticks of RAM would be pretty expensive.
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    #18
    thinking of geting this one. Can take 32gb too.

    Shuttle Global - SH67H3

    http://www.ryanbirk.com/the-perfect-...ere-5-homelab/
    Last edited by eddo1; 03-22-2016 at 08:35 PM.
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    #19
    Quote Originally Posted by stryder144 View Post
    I checked out the CPU specs for the HP Microserver Gen8 and all of them support 32GB, per Intel. This means that since the memory controller is built in to the CPU, you theoretically can go to 32GB. Naturally, since these servers have only two memory slots, you will likely be stuck at 16GB of RAM, unless/until they come out with 16GB sticks. I would imagine, and I didn't conduct any further research into it, that 16GB sticks of RAM would be pretty expensive.
    There are three models with different CPUs. The max RAM is 32GB for the Celeron, i3 and Xeon, 'depending on memory type'. The Celeron and Xeon both also support ECC.

    Looking at new egg, I found this. And at $399 per stick, you would save money getting something else with 4 slots and using 8GB UDIMMs (about $100 for 4x8GB non-ECC).
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    #20
    Quote Originally Posted by eddo1 View Post
    Any reason you didn't want to go with a small form factor like the DS81?

    Quote Originally Posted by OctalDump View Post
    There are three models with different CPUs. The max RAM is 32GB for the Celeron, i3 and Xeon, 'depending on memory type'. The Celeron and Xeon both also support ECC.

    Looking at new egg, I found this. And at $399 per stick, you would save money getting something else with 4 slots and using 8GB UDIMMs (about $100 for 4x8GB non-ECC).
    Yea, ECC is expensive. I saw a build that used ECC and I think the cost of the 8GB was around $90-110/stick. Build had four of them. With Intel NUC and Shuttle builds, I think they're perfect for home lab. Though, I personally would pick the NUC if I do not need 2nd NIC.
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  22. Senior Member advanex1's Avatar
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    #21
    So, I know that you can install VMware Hypervisor (ESXI) on the Mac Pro's, but can you also install the client on it? Can it only be on a windows system? I'm trying to get my head wrapped around all of this - wanting to build out a server and virtualize it for cisco/microsoft purposes.
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    #22
    Quote Originally Posted by advanex1 View Post
    So, I know that you can install VMware Hypervisor (ESXI) on the Mac Pro's, but can you also install the client on it? Can it only be on a windows system? I'm trying to get my head wrapped around all of this - wanting to build out a server and virtualize it for cisco/microsoft purposes.
    That's why you use the web client...
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    #23
    Quote Originally Posted by advanex1 View Post
    So, I know that you can install VMware Hypervisor (ESXI) on the Mac Pro's, but can you also install the client on it? Can it only be on a windows system? I'm trying to get my head wrapped around all of this - wanting to build out a server and virtualize it for cisco/microsoft purposes.
    Use the web client - there's quite a strong push by VMware to the web client. Also VMware Fusion Pro can connect directly to ESXi VM instances. And you can run the management software inside a Windows VM if you really need to, even one hosted on ESXi.
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    #24
    Thanks Octal - I'll look into the VMRC/Web client.
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