Lab Resources

The three “food groups” of a home lab boils down to: servers, storage, and network. Here are some whitebox and retail hardware items that are suggested as components in your home lab. You can also hit up the VMware HCL to look for specific hardware that is supported by VMware.

If you have any to add to the list, leave a comment below.

Servers

Name Creator Class CPU Max Memory Notes
BabyDragonII Phil Jaenke (@rootwyrm) Whitebox Server Intel Xeon 32GB Extremely quiet and low power
Wahl Network Haswell Server Chris Wahl (@ChrisWahl) Whitebox Server Intel Xeon 32GB Modified version of the previous Wahl Network Server
Wahl Network Server Chris Wahl (@ChrisWahl) Whitebox Server Intel Xeon 32GB Modified version of the BabyDragonII
Virtualize Tips Server Brian Suhr (@bsuhr) Whitebox Desktop Intel I5 32GB Great price by leveraging desktop components
vHersey Server Hersey Cartwright (@herseyc) Whitebox Desktop Intel i7 32GB Lots of RAM in a small package
Poor Man's SRM Box Eric Shanks (@eric_shanks) Whitebox Desktop AMD FX-6200 32GB A very straight forward tower with lots of hard drive space
N40L HP Retail Server AMD Turion 16GB A very cheap and small box with lots of possibilities
vHydra Edward Grigson (@egrigson) Whitebox Server Dual Intel Xeon 64GB A beast of a server for a high end lab enthusiast
DefinIT NUC Server SamMcGeown Whitebox Mini Intel Core i3 16GB Very small form factor
Nanolab Servers Alex Galbraith (@alexgalbraith) Whitebox Mini Intel and AMD 16GB Nano means very small! Lots of variety to match your lab requirements
Gigabyte Brix Phil Wiffen (@phil_wiffen) Whitebox Kit Intel Core i5 16GB Smaller than an X-Box game controller and low cost
Jase's Home Lab Server Jase McCarty (@jasemccarty) Whitebox Server Intel E3 32GB Great use of the Tyan motherboard

Storage

Name Vendor Type Protocol Storage
DS413 Synology Retail NAS NFS and iSCSI 4 Disks
DS2413+ Synology Retail NAS NFS and iSCSI 12 Disks expands to 24
Marco Broeken's Nexenta CE Whitebox HP and Nexenta Whitebox NFS iSCSI and FC 8 Disks (mix of HDD and SSD)

Network

Name Vendor Type Speed Ports
V1910 HP Full featured layer 3 1GbE 28 (24 RJ45 + 4 expansion)

27 Responses

  1. Ed Grigson
    Ed Grigson at |

    You could include my vHydra server – more high end but still useful;
    http://www.vexperienced.co.uk/2012/10/22/home-lab-a-scalable-vsphere-whitebox/

    Reply
  2. dawgboy49 (@jweldon49)
    dawgboy49 (@jweldon49) at |

    Need advice from the more experienced. I have an ESXi system running on a whitebox.

    Specs:
    i7 980X
    24 gig RAM
    ASUS X58 Sabertooth
    1- 120 SSD
    3ware 9750-8i (with 6 2 TB drives in RAID 6)

    My question is before ESXi i had this system config’d with Win 7 Pro as host running WKS9 with my VMs on it. I wanted ESXi expereince though and didn’t want to just run a vm in WKS9. So here is my question:

    I also used the box as a media server. What would be the be practice to continue that method? Run a VM of a media server and just create a 3-4 TB VM? Or buy some type of external drives and interface via USB and create a VM and use that USB storage as shared storage?

    Reply
  3. Sam McGeown
    Sam McGeown at |

    You can include my Intel NUC powered Lab – http://www.definit.co.uk/lab

    Very small form factor and low power – and very portable!

    Reply
  4. Chris Conlan
    Chris Conlan at |

    Anyone know of one that runs the new Haswell CPU’s? My current build is a AMD FX-8320, Gigabyte 990FX, 32GB G.Skill, Sapphire 6450 Vid, Intel 4 port and 2 port PCIe NIC, and a Kingston 4GB flash.

    Looking for something low power since the TDP on the FX-8320 is 125W. Also, wish I didn’t buy a ATX board to conserve on space.

    Reply
  5. David Thompson
    David Thompson at |

    With most of the whitebox lab builds I’ve seen most people go with the Intel i7 processor. Due to cost wouldn’t it provide more power to get the 8 core AMD over the 4 core i7?
    What are the pro’s and con’s of looking at it this way?

    I’ve been reviewing your website for awhile and have commented in the past. Appreciate all the work you’ve shared!

    Reply
  6. Chris Conlan
    Chris Conlan at |

    My current build runs the AMD 8 core:

    CPU: AMD FX-8320 8 core
    Memory: 32GB G.Skill DDR3 1600
    Mobo: Gigabyte 990FX
    Video: Sapphire Radeon HD6450
    Storage: 4GB Kingston flash
    Shared Storage: Synology DS1812+ (6x3TB RAID10, 2x1TB RAID0)
    NICs: 2 Port Intel and 4 Port Intel

    Currently running ESXi 5.1 U1 and vCenter 5.1 1b.

    I’m in need of a second host and currently repurposed an older AMD 6 core, but I can’t even use EVC. I’d rather have a low power build with an Intel i7, but then I’d have to buy two builds and then sell my old one.

    Reply
  7. Jase McCarty
    Jase McCarty at |

    I’m kinda feeling left out…

    http://www.jasemccarty.com/blog/?p=2263

    Reply
  8. Simon Eady
    Simon Eady at |

    Hi Chris,

    I use the Gigabyte Brix ultra compact PC kits – very portable etc

    http://www.definit.co.uk/simons-lab/

    Reply
  9. kleegeek
    kleegeek at |

    Greetings! You could add links to my home lab. I’ve got retail HP and SuperMicro servers, plus a Synology DS1812+ NAS with SSD caching. The link is available at http://www.davidklee.net/home-lab/

    Reply
  10. kleegeek
    kleegeek at |

    Rock-on! Thanks!!

    Reply
  11. Mark
    Mark at |

    Hey Chris, your website and lab work has really been a great inspiration and a great help!! Here’s my hardware to share out. Nothing spectacular or extreme: i7-4770 with 32GB RAM and a standard micro-ATX board, but what’s interesting is that I see a lot of people going with fancier builds (i.e. Xeon-E3, Supermicro boards). I’m wondering if there’s any gains I missed out on by going with an i7 build instead (or any hardware in general). I still see people going for them but see more Xeon boxes in labs. I guess it’s something to consider when I expand.

    TWO ESXi HOSTS:
    Chassis: Cooler Master HAF 912
    Motherboard: ASUS Q87M-E/CSM
    Processor: Intel Core i7-4770 3.4 GHz
    Memory: Kingston 32 GB 1600 MHz (31.7 GB usable)
    Local Disk Configuration: one WD Black 1 TB HDD
    Network Adapters: two Intel I350-T2 NICs (four network adapters total)
    OS: 5.5U2 (will upgrade to 6 when it is available via my academic account)

    LAB STORAGE:
    Synology DS415+, RADID 10, 4x WD 2TB Red drives

    NETWORKING:
    Cisco SG300-20 L3 Switch
    Ubiquiti EdgeRouter Lite
    ASUS RT-AC68U (for Wireless for both the lab and guests)

    Reply
    1. Chris Conlan
      Chris Conlan at |

      I don’t think you’ll notice much. I’m running i7-4770’s as well in my lab environment.

      Reply
  12. Stephen Comoletti
    Stephen Comoletti at |

    Chris,

    Love the site. Just stumbled upon it recently.
    I think my current lab setup might be an interesting addition to the list above..

    ESXi 5.5 Hosts:
    1 Dell PowerEdge C6100 – 4 blades each with dual Xeon L5639, 24GB ram, dual gigE nic, 10/100 BMC port, 16GB usb flash boot drive
    2 IBM X3650 – Dual Xeon E5450, 16GB ram, dual GigE nic, 10/100 RSA port, 16GB usb flash boot drive

    Bare metal hosts:
    1 Foxcon based Atom D510, 4GB ram, 250GB sata, single GigE nic. Web server accessible only to wan port (no internal connectivity). CentOS 6.5 OS.
    1 Foxcon based Atom D510, 4GB ram, 250GB sata, single GigE nic. Internal web server, console, and ssh jump box. CentOS 6.5 OS.

    Storage:
    FreeNAS 9.2.1.2 – SuperMicro based Atom D510, 8GB ram, dual GigE nic, 4 Seagate ST4000DM000 4TB in raidZ2, 8gb usb flash boot drive

    Networking:
    Switch – Dell PowerConnect 2748 – 48 port gigE
    Switch – Netgear GS108T 8 port gigE (2 ports in lacp trunk to the dell)
    Router – Asus RT-AC66U

    Everything is in a Dell half rack. LCD, KB, mouse, and a 4 port usb kvm are on top of it when needed. The NAS, console host, and all network gear are on a APC BX1500G ups.

    I have the nas providing iscsi luns to the esx hosts right now. I’ve been pondering upgrading the nas from the atom to one of the new Intel D-1540’s that were just released. I’d probably load esxi on it, run the nas, console/internal web server, and the external web server all on it as guests and get rid of all the atom systems.. they are a bit old. Also FreeNAS lost it’s bite when they split the project between FreeNAS and Nas4Free years ago. All versions after 7.x have had serious performance hits on my existing hardware.. If my drives were stable on 7.x I’d still run it but new drives didnt play nice in the older releases. I’d be curious what peoples thoughts are on homebrew nas distros. While I like the convenience of the web interfaces I’m at the point where I may roll my own with FreeBSD 10.1 and use nfs.

    Reply
  13. Karl
    Karl at |

    Hi Chris. Would love to have my home lab on your awesome list! http://www.vskilled.com/home-lab/

    Reply
  14. Rich Robbins
    Rich Robbins at |

    Hi Chris. I built my first host based on your ESX1 system. It’s time for me to add a host. I expect to base my build on your ESX3 system. Are there any updates you’d recommend that I consider since you posted that build? Also, any thoughts on how you would proceed if you wanted a rack mount variant of your system — perhaps 2U to avoid noise often associated with 1U systems? As always, thanks for everything you do!

    Reply

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