Home Lab 2013 – The Next Generation

1st March 2013 0 By Simon

For the last couple of years I have been happy using the Lenovo TS200 servers as my basis for my home lab environment, unfortunately with the restriction of 16GB ram per server (32GB if I purchased completely new ram at far too expensive costs) and my ever increasing pool of VMs running on my hosts I decided to upgrade my home servers to something a little more powerful, a lesson I learned from my experience with using the Lenovo’s was that I wanted something with a smaller footprint but capable of running more workloads. The current max ram capacity of my 3 Lenovo hosts was 48GB of ram but with three hosts running I started to find myself not needing radiators in my house Winking smile

The new 2013 ESXi 5.1 Lab Host:

Because I already had 3 hosts in my old lab I didn’t want to reduce that number down too much so I decided to go for 2 hosts currently with the option of getting another host in the future should resource start being an issue. Without a second host I wouldn’t be able to play with goodies such as HA/DRS and vMotion?!

ShuttleShuttle XPC SH67H3 – I have had some really good experiences with Shuttle PC’s in the past and having read a few peoples experiences with the XPC SH67 range I decided to look at the offerings. Like all Shuttle systems its a small compact system that is capable of supporting the newer Ivy Bridge processors and up to 32GB memory **Only newer version 2.0 SH67H3’s support Ivy Bridge cpus so check to see whether your motherboard supports it. You may also be required to update to the newest BIOS to support the newer cpu (of my two shuttles, one supported the new cpu from the outset whilst the the 2nd didn’t and needed the firmware updating, an issue if you don’t have a Sandy Bridge cpu to put into the Shuttle to update it with).

Intel VTIntel PRO 1000 VT Quad Port NIC – Having the single on-board NIC is all well and good but I wanted to expand on the capabilities of the server so an additional NIC was required. This card works in the spare 4x slot that the Shuttle has and works without any issues and is identified out of the box. I have heard that if you haven’t update the BIOS you may find that the PCI-E slot doesn’t recognise the NIC, if that’s the case download and install the latest BIOS from the Shuttle website.

ivy bridgeIntel Core i7 3770 Ivy Bridge CPU – I had a choice here of going for a Sandy or Ivy Bridge CPU and to be honest went with the Ivy Bridge CPU because it was the latest as well as there not being much difference in price. You can of course go for a lower spec CPU and I would suggest looking at an I5 CPU if money is tight.

One important thing to note is that I went for the straight CPU rather than a K variant because the K CPU variant doesn’t support Intel VT-d or vPro technologies, if you go for an S variant CPU you will get a lower clock speed.

Corsair Ram32GB Corsair XMS 1600MHz (4x8GB) – Having been burnt using non branded memory before I will now only use branded ram and I have had a lot of overclocking success with Corsair memory, obviously no overclocking in my lab servers but I am comfortable using Corsair so decided to stick with it for this lab kit. You aren’t forced to stick 32GB in from the start but I would stress that put as much ram in as you can afford.

USBSanDisk Cruzer Fit 4GB USB Key – I’ve used SanDisk Cruzer Blades with the Lenovo servers and been impressed with them, when I saw the Cruzer Fit I knew that I had found my updated hardware for the new sleeker looking servers. The reason for this newer key was the flush fit in the USB slot rather than it extending out and having the potential to get knocked about.

Final Advice

Whilst I have linked to Amazon for the most part it was actually eBay that I went to and purchased about 80% of my new hardware, why eBay you ask? Well for the most part I could save up to £50 per CPU purchased on eBay over the same CPU on Amazon, things like the Shuttle case were pretty much equally priced on a number of sites so obviously choose your preferred supplier. One thing I can say is that I didn’t spend more than £550 per server and fully expect these to last me the next couple of years and if I can recoup some money on these like I have done through selling my old Lenovo servers then these aren’t a bad investment.