In a previous post, I created some very cheap ESX servers. Well, with ESXi 5 coming out, my own dual xeon wasn’t cutting it anymore. It was stuck at 2x500gig drives, and 6gigs of ram. The dual xeon had no virtualization on chip, and a total of 4 cores. It also couldn’t make 64bit VMs. Also, a 1u server is loud. My server was kept in the water heater room in the basement with the door shut. The server fans could be heard in our bedroom 2 floors up and the bedroom doors closed. YIKES! I need something that can be left on all the time and only be minimal loudness.
In comes ESX Whiteboxing, as referenced here: http://www.vm-help.com//esx40i/esx40_whitebox_HCL.php
I liked Shuttle, as they make small quiet boxes, and they seem to have great compatibility. According to this post http://www.vm-help.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=13&t=3038, I think the SH67H3 is the winner. It can use an i7 (8 core w/ virtualization), and 32gigs of ram. This will be quite a difference!
So, this is QUITE the server for only $1,279.93 and should last for quite a while. One key thing is that this setup does NOT include another 6gig/sec SATA cable to connect hard drive #2.
I had some issues putting this all together, the Shuttle does not have a way to diagnose boot issues pre-bios (POST). So if the CPU/RAM is not correct, or bad, it is a PAIN IN THE BUTT to diagnose. My first server wouldn’t boot, not exactly sure why. I got a replacement, then with the help of Shuttle’s tech support, determined 2 of the 4 ram sticks were bad.
Once I finally got good hardware, it was off to the races. There were a few more ‘gotchas’ here. First, I wanted to update the BIOS, so I tried to install Windows XP. The USB 3.0 (non USB/Sata combined port) are not compatible, so if you plug your mouse/keyboard in there, it won’t work.
I installed the BIOS update via Flashrom, as guided with this post: http://us.shuttle.com/scgforum/tm.aspx?m=5171. It worked great, and I didn’t have to install any OS.
On to ESXi 5.0. There was some good news, the onboard NIC worked right out of the box, so if you only need a single NIC, you can save a bunch of money and skip that Intel card. I was NOT able to get the RAID to work correctly, It seemed OK in the BIOS, but then ESXi only wanted to deal with the raw drives. Oh well, at least I have a working work horse.