VMware vSphere 4 Lab: The building begins

All of my equipment for my VMware vSphere 4 lab has arrived!  I popped the 5 drives into the Synology DS1010, and one of them is DoA.  So I have already submitted the RMA to Newegg and hopefully in the next week or so I get that fixed.  I didn’t get to work on it that much yet.  What I have done is disassembled the Lian Li case, which is a very well built case, I am impressed.  The motherboard comes out like a platter and makes maintenance very easy.  I popped the X3450 into the motherboard, it was a bit scary locking down the lever on the CPU as it required more pressure than I anticipated.  I snapped the memory in and also put in the 80mm GELID silent fan.  The Seasonic X Series 400W came in all this fancy packaging with velvet like pouches, it looks like a nice power supply it sure was pricey enough.

The fun begins!

Unfortunately I am pretty busy and can’t get this all put together at least until the weekend of January 1.  I am looking forward to it.  I am going to run the Synology DS1010 in RAID6.  I could run RAID5 with no hot spare and that would give me an extra 2TB, but honestly I just don’t trust the workmanship of todays hard drives that much, so I am going with RAID6.

So the plan is to assemble all this stuff, build a volume on the Synology (probably will take 5+ hours to build the RAID group), upgrade all of the firmware of the BIOS, BMC, etc.  I plan to load ESXi 4.1 on some fast 4GB USB thumb drives, which will install nicely on the internal USB slot on the Supermicro X8SIL-F motherboard.  So far I feel really good about my equipment selection.  I am glad I spent the time doing a lot of the research.  This lab is definitely not cheap, but I plan to get a lot of use out of it.  In addition to just about every VMware application, Nexus 1000, etc, I plan to run Dynamips, a full voice lab, dual Celerra VSA’s, Dual NetApp VSA’s, and a ton of other stuff………I will definitely get my money out of this.

There is some re-tooling required on my current lab switch to move some things around to make room for the 1GB interfaces needed for these ESXi boxes (iSCSI, vMotion, etc).

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5 Responses to VMware vSphere 4 Lab: The building begins

  1. shahid says:

    Good luck, Can you please list the equipment needed to build vmware vsphere lab at home and the total cost.

    Many Thanks

    • brian says:

      I listed all the equipment I used to build my lab with. There are many ways to build a lab, but I am comfortable with the one I did. I bought everything at newegg.com so you can check my parts list against their prices. The reality is you can spend $500, $1000, $5000, it just depends on how elaborate you want to go.

  2. Hi Brian,

    Looks like you are on your way to building a lab similar to mine (link below) as far as CPU choice is concerned:


    I would advise against using the X3450 CPU. You can’t really vMotion and use advance VMware technologies like HA and FT… at least, I haven’t been able to do it in my lab with the 3060 CPU.

    Instead of building your own lab with parts from newegg, I would advise on getting pre built server like Dell R or T 410s or even better would be R710 (excellent servers) or HP ProLiants (if you are HP fan). These servers support latest Intel QUAD and HEX core CPUs which would make VMware ESXi VERY happy.

    If you do end up getting the PowerEdges (R710s) and plan on having more than 24GB memory, then make sure you order RDIMMS, as Dell has 24GB limit if its a UDIMM RAM. Its a bad design on Dells part but as long as one knows about it, its easy to avoid the gotcha later!

    As far as your storage, Synology looks okay, may I ask how much was it? Have you looked at other NAS products from Thecus and Qnap?

    Which hard drives did you pick?

    Unless you are on old storage adapter cards or those older Dell PERCs, I would never use RAID5, even if it means losing few GBs. If you are going with 1TB or 2TB hard drives then RAID 6 and backup of that data is a MUST.



  3. brian says:


    I think you are confused. The X3460 is a state of the art quad core CPU with all of the VM capabilities and was designed specifically for VM environments. You can absolutely do FT and HA and it has nothing to do with the 3060 CPU.

    The server I built is not something I came up with on my own. As I reference in my articles its a heavily copied proven design that fully supports all features. Its not on the HCL I agree but works great.

    Synology rocks the Casba. It’s in the same league as a Thecus or QNAP, the performance is insane on this box.

    Why is RAID6 a must for lab? RAID6 is slower than RAID5. There is no problem with RAID5, its cheaper, reliable, and if a drive fails I simply warranty replace it and I am back in business. The drives have 5 year warranty. This is a lab, not production, so I don’t have my photos and stuff being archived, and even if I did, RAID5 allows for a drive failure.

    Now if I were doing RAID5 + Hot spare than I agree RAID6 would be better, although still marginally slower. But I am not using a Hot Spare, as I only have 5 slots, and 40% overhead is a bit high for a lab array, so I am ok with 20% (RAID5).

    I am going to check out your link, thanks for posting please share any good info!


  4. Brian,

    I did mix up the model numbers, sorry.

    HCL is exactly where I was getting at with pre-built servers, at least you can avoid issues such as vmware not vmotioning properly or any other incompatibilities.

    RAID6 is slower than 5 but it can sustain 2 hard drive failures. RAID5 is fine, don’t have any other issues with it, organizations have used it for years. Even if you have RAID5 with a hot spare, it could crash the rest while rebuilding, especially with larger hard drives in 1TB/2TB size vicinity. That is why I believe RAID 6 is a no brainer. However, as you mentioned, for a home lab, RAID-5 would do the job.

    If your NAS/SAN supports multiple RAIDs then I would also look at RAID-10, if performance+reliability is the goal but with home lab, even slower RAID-6 with higher sense of reliability would be enough.

    I can’t get my hands on Nexus 1000 but if you do install that in your lab, be sure to blog about it. 🙂

    Thanks for visiting. I do update the website regularly and also post blog/tutorials every now and then. Your website is full of information as well so I think I am going to enjoy reading through the posts!


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