So I have had my lab hosts for about a year. I have to say that they have done pretty well. Because of the cost I configured these hosts with 16GB of RAM each. At the time I built them, 8GB sticks of RAM were about $250 a piece, which was a little bit out of my price range. I recently found some 8GB Kingston memory that wasn’t going to break the bank, and give me the ability to do more than I have been able to.
The initial configuration included the following components, and cost around $1,650 ($825/host) not counting shipping/etc.
A year later some prices have changed, some additional processors are support on my boards, larger memory is a little cheaper, and SSD prices have declined.
It is not uncommon for small environments to leverage the included SQL Server Express database that is included with VMware vCenter Server.
When a vCenter Server is installed in this manner, many administrators have noticed that when the vCenter Server is rebooted, from time to time, the service isn’t available upon restart. This is because the vCenter Service requires the SQL Server to be online before it can start. This issue can be resolved by making the vCenter Service dependent on the SQL Server Express service.
There are many blog posts on how to make this change for vCenter 2.x and vCenter 4.x:
With vCenter Server 5.0, VMware has corrected the issue.
I’ve had the lab running for a couple of weeks and I have made a few observations in relation to the configuration of each host.
As mentioned in my previous post Home Lab Hosts – Just in time for vSphere 5, I used server class motherboards, requiring ECC RAM, with iKVM, etc. Here are a couple things I noticed that stood out:
I chose the Intel Xeon E3-1230 processors because I wanted to be able to have quad cores with Hyperthreading, as well as support for VMDirectPath. In running 20 or so VMs my CPU utilization has been less than high. I haven’t had the opportunity to leverage VMDirectPath as of yet, but I am still happy I have the ability to.
If VMDirectPath support isn’t a big deal for you, an Intel i3-2100T (i3-2100 isn’t on the board HCL) should suffice to run most workloads. The i3-2100 series processors have dual cores and Hyperthreading. These processors retailed about $100 less each on NewEgg than the E3-1230 processors did. Alternatively if you aren’t nesting as many ESXi hosts (I have 8 right now), you could also look at the Intel Pentium G620 which is similar to the i3-2100 series, but without Hyperthreading. Those retail for about $77 each.
I’ve been looking at what type of hardware for a home lab for quite a while.
Several people have setup some pretty decent/usable home labs… Here are a few to point out:
As I mentioned in a previous post, picking hosts can be a daunting task. The process of picking hosts includes taking a few things into account. I looked at desktop configurations that would support vSphere and server configurations that vSphere supports.