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Looking for somthing to run esxi

Jailer

Not strong, but bad
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Sep 12, 2014
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I want to set up something for an esxi server. This is just going to be a toy for me to play around with, nothing mission critical at all. Being that it's just going to be a toy I'd like to do it as cheap as possible. I know a lot of guys here on the forum recommend used servers off ebay and I've been looking in that direction but the choices can be a bit overwhelming for someone not in the biz. What I definitely want is something with IPMI. I'd like it to be fairly quiet as well since it will be located in living space. My main use case is going to be just playing around and experimenting with different OS and projects and of course learining esxi but primarily I want to be able to spin up an XP VM for some old retro gaming using an old video card I have laying around without having to put together a whole system just for that.

Any suggestions you have as well as links to any suggested hardware would be helpful.
 

Heracles

Neophyte Sage
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Feb 2, 2018
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Hey @Jailer,

Bad news for you : You will have to go for a used server, if not a new one.

The reason is that ESXi 7.0 now requires original ESXi drivers. Drivers from the Linux world no longer work. Here, my R820 does run ESXi 6.7U3 but does not run ESXi 7.0. The reason is the hard drive controller that is using the Megaraid driver from the Linux world. Should you wish to run ESXi 7, you will need an actual and real server, and a pretty recent one, one for which the manufacturer will provide all actual ESXi drivers.

If you go for a used server, be sure to get a still decently recent one that can run ESXI 6.7 and be aware that such a server will not evolved.

As for resources, RAM is always what you end up short of first. I recommend you get at least 8 Gig of RAM per core.

Free version of ESXi limits you to 8 CPU per VM. Should you wish to have some with more horse power, you will have to disable hyper threading so your ESXI allocates actual full CPUs instead of half-CPUs.

Here, my used server is an R-820 with 32 cores and 256G of RAM.

Have fun with your new toy,
 

Jailer

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I'm definitely going to go for used, I can't justify the price of new just for a toy. I looked on vmware's website and they did list some of the older stuff I was looking at on ebay (X9DR3-LN4F+ and E5 2600 v2 series CPU's) as compatible with the latest version.

I should have also put in my first post that I would be OK with just board, CPU and memory and putting it together myself. It doesn't have to be a rack mount unit.
 
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Heracles

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As long as you are extra careful about your hardware and confirm the driver for every component, you should be fine. The storage seems to be the most problematic.

have fun designing and building your toy,
 

Jailer

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Well I still have a license for the free version 6 and I downloaded a 6.7 install image so I should be ok as long as the hardware is. I don't need the latest version just to play around with things.
 
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Elliot Dierksen

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Dec 29, 2014
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An interesting point towards your "quiet" comment is that you may want to consider a 2U server instead of a 1U server. A friend suggested this to me, and I didn't buy it at first. It does make sense on further reflection that smaller diameter fans have to turn faster to push the same amount of air as a larger fan. Just some food for thought. I have switched to all 2U servers, and I think that has helped. I do need to rearrange the rack so the Nexus switch that runs hot isn't right below my main FreeNAS system.
 

Matt_G

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Jan 24, 2016
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Here is what I built a couple of years back:
Intel S2600CP motherboard. Picked it up for around $200.00
It is an SSI-EEB form factor.

2 E5-2680V2 processors. About $100.00 apiece
Could just go with e5-2670's and probably get two of those for less than $100.00
The board will run any E5-26XX version 1 or version 2 processors.

Samsung M393B2G70QH0-CK0 16GB sticks of ECC ram.
I see those on Ebay for around 30 to 40 bucks a stick.
Put it all in a Phanteks Enthoo case. That case supports SSI-EEB boards.

One thing to watch out for with that board.
The power supply you use MUST have 0.5A on the -12V rail.
A lot of supplies only have 0.3A on that rail and this board will not POST unless it sees 0.5 amps.

Throw a 128GB of RAM in it and you have yourself one hell of a VMware playground.
 

Jailer

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So this is what I'm looking at on ebay right now:

Supermicro X9SRi-F - $99
Xeon E5-2680 V2 - $102
16GB Samsung m393b2g70db0-cma x4 - $110.60

Debated a E5-2690V2 which is also a 10 core part but it's $50 more and to me not worth the extra 200mhz in clock speed. Decided to go with a single socket board to save a little money and I really don't see a need for a dual socket board as this is just a toy to play with. So for $311.60 I can have a basic system up and running with IPMI and 64GB of memory. I'll likely throw in a used Intel SSD for around another $15 for the ESXI install and just use a 1TB hard drive I have sitting around for the datastore for now. In the future I may throw in a HBA and the 6 old hard drives that I replaced from my current FreeNAS system and spin up a TruNAS/TrueOS VM and use that for the datastore. Maybe. I have a case and power supply here that will suffice for the build.

Does this look ok to any of you experienced ESXI guys just to get up and running?
 

Jailer

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One thing to watch out for with that board.
The power supply you use MUST have 0.5A on the -12V rail.
A lot of supplies only have 0.3A on that rail and this board will not POST unless it sees 0.5 amps.
Is that just the Intel board you listed or other server boards as well?
 

Mlovelace

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I'm definitely going to go for used, I can't justify the price of new just for a toy. I looked on vmware's website and they did list some of the older stuff I was looking at on ebay (X9DR3-LN4F+ and E5 2600 v2 series CPU's) as compatible with the latest version.

I should have also put in my first post that I would be OK with just board, CPU and memory and putting it together myself. It doesn't have to be a rack mount unit.
For a non-rack mount ESXi toy the HP ML 350 G8 makes a lovely little edition, and they are surprisingly quite.
 

Matt_G

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Jan 24, 2016
Messages
44
Is that just the Intel board you listed or other server boards as well?
Just the Intel board I listed.

As long as everything you listed in your other post is compatible, it should be fine.
 

Jailer

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For a non-rack mount ESXi toy the HP ML 350 G8 makes a lovely little edition, and they are surprisingly quite.
Do they have IPMI?

EDIT: I see they have what HP calls iLO remote management. Have you ever used it? If so how does it compare to Supermicro's IPM?
 
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Mlovelace

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Do they have IPMI?

EDIT: I see they have what HP calls iLO remote management. Have you ever used it? If so how does it compare to Supermicro's IPM?
Yes I have used it, iLO on Gen 8 and above is great, supports HTML so you don't have to worry about the Java BS.

Edit: now that I'm thinking about it, the HPE servers at work have the iLO advanced licenses, which is an added cost. So the IPMI route might be better if you don't want to buy licensing.
 
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Jailer

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now that I'm thinking about it, the HPE servers at work have the iLO advanced licenses, which is an added cost.
I thought I remember some discussion on that here in the forum a while back. Too bad, that's a great price for a lot of capability on that server you linked and I really do want remote management so I can keep it headless and tucked away in a corner.
 

Mlovelace

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I thought I remember some discussion on that here in the forum a while back. Too bad, that's a great price for a lot of capability on that server you linked and I really do want remote management so I can keep it headless and tucked away in a corner.
There is functionality with out the advanced features being licensed, but I'd have to look up what the advanced features are.
 

Jailer

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Newfoundland.Republic

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I have ESXi 7.0 running on an HP DL360 Gen8 server with no issues. The HP iLO works with HTML5 so no Java shenanigans.
 

Newfoundland.Republic

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One other note: I have ESXi 6.7 running on a DL360 G7. You need to use the stock ESXi install image, not the HP customised one (unless you want to "roll your own" image with the old drivers - you can find instructions on how to do so online).
 

joeschmuck

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My little Supermicro A1SAM-F is a great little test bed, that is what I use it for now and it runs ESXi 7 just fine. Did a clean install on it, no problems and boots fast. But it's not super cheap but it does come with the CPU. Not a terribly fast CPU but again, for a test bed, pretty good. I put that into a cheap $15 case (included shipping), had a power supply laying around I popped in, and popped in a few drives. I originally purchased it to be used as a firewall and that worked great but it was overkill, and I had FreeNAS in a VM as my backup server, and I had a few other VMs like Ubuntu running and Windoze. Just a thought of other options out there that are not terribly expensive.
 

Elliot Dierksen

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There is functionality with out the advanced features being licensed, but I'd have to look up what the advanced features are.
I haven't done much with G8's and later, but I am very familiar with G2 - G7. Without the advanced ILO license, you can only do remote control while it is in BIOS/POST. Once the operating system starts, no soup. I have been very happy with my Cisco M4 series servers. The CIMC (their BMC) always allows remote control and IPMI. I think the M4's are at least comparable with G8's. They use LGA2011-3 CPU's (E5-2600 V3 and E5-2600 V4).
 
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