Home Lab Environment

It’s that time of the year to upgrade my environment again, now for the main my management hosts have been great and are still just as relevant today as they were back in 2013, what I have done is add in an SSD for vFlash Read Cache and added two new hosts for a vRealize Automation Suite consume cluster.

The 2015 ESXi 6.0 Lab (VRA) Host:

hpmicroserverHP ProLiant Gen8 MicroServer is a decent little server that originally comes with either the Pentium G2020T or the lower powered Celeron G1610T, however you’re not restricted to using either of them, instead you can put a Xeon class CPU in there, mileage varies because of the passive cooling that’s used in the MicroServer. There has been a lot of testing done on the different CPU’s usable in the Gen 8 MicroServer, you have to be careful of the TDP value of whatever processor you’re going to use, the closer to the 35W that the G1610T has, the less risk you have of the server failing due to over heating. Another limitation on the server is that it’s limited to 16GB of ECC ram, people have tested up to 32GB but not have any success.

xeonIntel Xeon E3-1265Lv2 CPU which has a 45W TDP, I am not concerned about the extra 10W because I won’t be running the any disks in the server and it’s also unlikely that the server will be stressed much as it will only be used for small consumer guests used via vRealize Automation Suite rather than management infrastructure.

ramKingston Technology 16GB DDR3 1333 MHz ECC DIMM – This has been coming down in price, the first purchase was £125, my second purchase a month later was under £100, you have to be careful to purchase ECC Dimms.

1000PTLow Profile INTEL PRO/1000 PT Dual Port Gigabit Adapter Card – Having two on board NICs I decided to stick to a dual port rather than a quad port NIC for the HP MicroServer, this NIC will be used for iSCSI traffic only, leaving the on-board ports for management and vMotion traffic.


SamsungSamsung Memory 16GB Evo MicroSDHC – I’ve used SanDisk Cruzer Fit drives with the Shuttle boxes, with the MicroServer however you can use the on-board MicroSDHC slot to use an SD card instead.


The 2015 Storage Upgrade:

ds1513 +940Samsung 2.5-Inch 500 GB 850 EVO Solid State Drive: I am still using the Synology DS1513+ storage array for my storage, however I have moved up to an all flash based array now with an upgrade to Samsung EVO 850 500GB SSD drives.

The 2015 Networking Upgrade:

GS748TI have been using two NetGear GS724T Switches for my environment for the last couple of years, they have worked flawlessly but the storage switch was running close to contention so I decided to purchase a Netgear GS748T V4H2 switch to replace the existing storage GS724T.


The 2015 ESXi 6.0 Lab (MGMT) Host:

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 three shuttles, two supported the new cpu from the outset whilst the the last one 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).

sandiskSanDisk SDSSDP-128G-G25 SSD – I added SanDisk SSD’s to each of my management hosts for Flash Cache, apart from this new SSD the hosts remain the same.


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 updated 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 8GB USB Key – I’ve used SanDisk Cruzer Fit for a while and they have been really good devices so am sticking with them still.

Final Advice

When I originally published this page back in 2013 I had said that I fully expected the Shuttle based hosts to last me a couple of years and I am pleased to say that is exactly what’s happened, I did consider upgrading the Shuttles to use an Intel D1540 based motherboard but truth be told the £1000 per server cost to increase my ram above 32GB per server just wasn’t worth it. Instead I will add a 4th Shuttle to the estate at some point in the future if needed.

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 cases were pretty much equally priced on a number of sites so obviously choose your preferred supplier.

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