ESXi Server with virtual -- WHS2011, flexraid, Win7 WMC ? - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 70 Old 12-05-2012, 07:32 AM - Thread Starter
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Thinking out loud about a single Server Box on a UPS that will perform most functions for a distributed media environment.

ESXi 5.1 Server current build (currently running a Win7 virtual machine)
MB = ASRock H77 Pro4-M
RAM = 16GB (DDR3-1600)
CPU = i5-3550 Ivy Bridge Quadcore HD2500 graphics
HBA = IBM M1015
SSD = M4-64GB, Samsung 830-128GB
HDD = 4 * 2TB on the M1015

- Want to use an HD Homerun Prime for Comcast cable on my Gigabit wired network.
- Plan to have 3-5 viewing locations with HD TVs and extenders.
- Want to play music in multiple locations.
- Plan is to do passthru on the M1015 HBA for HDDs on the virtual WHS2011 to store various movies I already own on DVD and music from CDs.
- Guessing I will need a separate set of HDDs on the MB internal SATA ports dedicated to virtual Win7 to record and play recorded TV content from WMC to the extenders (i.e. can't use the WHS volumes)

Questions:
1) Can Win7-WMC function correctly in this configuration ?
2) Is the i5 HD2500 graphics a limiting factor for WMC or is it just the extender graphics capability that matters ?
3) Will I also need XBMC on the Win7 machine to access WHS2011 video & music content from an extender ?


I'm starting small on the number of HDDs till I get things working to my satisfaction.

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post #2 of 70 Old 12-05-2012, 07:53 AM
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1) It'll work fine as long as you are only using extenders (can't view protected Live TV content from within the VM)
2) The extenders handle the video - an i5 is plenty.
3) XBMC won't work with extenders, but is not necessary to view network-shared content.
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post #3 of 70 Old 12-05-2012, 02:51 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BruceD View Post


1) Can Win7-WMC function correctly in this configuration ?
2) Is the i5 HD2500 graphics a limiting factor for WMC or is it just the extender graphics capability that matters ?
3) Will I also need XBMC on the Win7 machine to access WHS2011 video & music content from an extender ?
I'm starting small on the number of HDDs till I get things working to my satisfaction.

I am not up to speed with virtualization. I look to you and others to teach me that as I would like to learn more and get my feet wet soon.

I can help you with questions 2- as HD2500 is plenty for video playback with WMC. If your using an extender than that matters I believe.

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post #4 of 70 Old 12-05-2012, 02:52 PM
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Usually WMC and mediabrowser are more compatible with recorded tv and extenders.

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post #5 of 70 Old 12-05-2012, 03:06 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BruceD View Post

3) Will I also need XBMC on the Win7 machine to access WHS2011 video & music content from an extender ?

Extenders don't have any content storage


Also for your setup, I think WHS is pointless. Stick with W7, and it's typically recommended to keep a drive out of your array for Live TV buffer / recorder storage
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post #6 of 70 Old 12-05-2012, 03:47 PM
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I'm not really grasping why you would need WHS and A Windows 7 HTPC in the same box. Why not just a windows 7 server?

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post #7 of 70 Old 12-05-2012, 04:11 PM
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Originally Posted by Andy_Steb View Post

I'm not really grasping why you would need WHS and A Windows 7 HTPC in the same box. Why not just a windows 7 server?

One reason would be separation of duties. I have my storage handled by OpenIndiana with ZFS, and the only thing running on that client is CrashPlan, keeping my data backed up. While you could run Flexraid or something similar in Windows 7, if you need to reboot that system for whatever reason, you then have to contend with downtime for both your media files and your TV. By keeping everything separated, it's possible to reboot individual clients without losing all that functionality while waiting for it to come back up. Maybe not as critical for some folks, but for me, it was critical to the WAF to have an absolute bare minimum of downtime in any of our computers and electronics here.
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post #8 of 70 Old 12-05-2012, 06:13 PM
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Also, Windows Media Center doesn't run on WHS or Windows Server, so you would need Windows 7 at least for WMC.
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post #9 of 70 Old 12-05-2012, 06:16 PM - Thread Starter
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I'm with you mc.

I think a good architecture provides distributed functionality, like having WMC on win7 (with separate non WHS drives on the MB's on-board SATA for live-tv recording), adding Plex for mine and guests mobile Apple devices, and using WHS2011 for file management of movies and music, with flexraid for pooling and parity of WHS.

Doing it all on one piece of hardware is just an elegant solution. This means I don't need multiple htpcs and hope to get some extenders that will work either from ceton and/or maybe silicondust's new DLNA firmware offering for the HD Prime.

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post #10 of 70 Old 12-05-2012, 06:44 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BruceD View Post

I'm with you mc.
I think a good architecture provides distributed functionality, like having WMC on win7 (with separate non WHS drives on the MB's on-board SATA for live-tv recording), adding Plex for mine and guests mobile Apple devices, and using WHS2011 for file management of movies and music, with flexraid for pooling and parity of WHS.
Doing it all on one piece of hardware is just an elegant solution. This means I don't need multiple htpcs and hope to get some extenders that will work either from ceton and/or maybe silicondust's new DLNA firmware offering for the HD Prime.

I've got a similar setup and I'm really happy with it. I've got unRAID running off a M1015 in passthrough and everything else on a 256 SSD connected to the motherboard. I run a Windows 7 setup for plex and a few other things, pfsense as a firewall, and various other installs for experimentation (linuxmce, linux mint, ect.) If you like to try out various software/operating systems it's really convenient.
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post #11 of 70 Old 12-07-2012, 01:08 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by joemoma View Post

I've got a similar setup and I'm really happy with it. I've got unRAID running off a M1015 in passthrough and everything else on a 256 SSD connected to the motherboard. I run a Windows 7 setup for plex and a few other things, pfsense as a firewall, and various other installs for experimentation (linuxmce, linux mint, ect.) If you like to try out various software/operating systems it's really convenient.

Can you describe what hardware you are currently using ? CPU, MB, RAM how many drives, what size ?

I'll have to look at pfsense, I'm running m0n0wall now on an old Tyan P3 server board with a small flashcard/IDE converter storing the sw boot image.

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post #12 of 70 Old 12-07-2012, 01:27 PM
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Originally Posted by joemoma View Post

I've got a similar setup and I'm really happy with it. I've got unRAID running off a M1015 in passthrough and everything else on a 256 SSD connected to the motherboard. I run a Windows 7 setup for plex and a few other things, pfsense as a firewall, and various other installs for experimentation (linuxmce, linux mint, ect.) If you like to try out various software/operating systems it's really convenient.

Did you flash your IBM to a non raid card?

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post #13 of 70 Old 12-07-2012, 03:05 PM
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Originally Posted by BruceD View Post

Can you describe what hardware you are currently using ? CPU, MB, RAM how many drives, what size ?
I'll have to look at pfsense, I'm running m0n0wall now on an old Tyan P3 server board with a small flashcard/IDE converter storing the sw boot image.

I've got a SUPERMICRO MBD-X8SIL-F-O motherboard and a Xeon X3440 cpu with 12GB of ram. If I was building it today I would go with a newer 1155 socket motherboard. For pass through I think you need a processor that supports VT-d. I have seven drives ranging in size from 3TB to 1TB on the M1015 passed to unraid for a total array size of 8.5TB and everything else running off a 256GB SDD. Everything seems to run smoothly and much faster than virtualbox. Pfsense is really just for tinkering. The supermicro board has two ethernet ports (plus one for IPMI) so one is the internet and the other lan.

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Did you flash your IBM to a non raid card?

Yes I flashed it to IT mode.
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post #14 of 70 Old 12-07-2012, 04:32 PM - Thread Starter
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Joe,

Yes, I bought the MB (8 onboard SATA) & CPU I'm currently using for ESXi originally for a PC to do ripping, and if I had to buy for ESXi directly I would have bought a SuperMicro X9SCM-IIF-O and a Intel Xeon E3-1200V2 series processor. Since I have vt-d support on the Asrock MB and CPU it's not a big issue.

Trying to figure out what I want to use for my firewall as I said and have a Linksys Wi-Fi router with DD-WRT installed on it and may give it a try to see how well it works vs. the m0n0wall on a standalone PC I'm currently using.

ESXi 5.1 works really nice and using vSphere Client from a win7 laptop (either wired or wireless) to run a virtual win7 machine runs as fast or faster than win7 on the laptop itself (core2Duo based).

Looking forward to getting my WHS2011+flexraid running and loaded with some content. I like the M1015 flashed to IT mode and will use that with WHS, already tested it in win7 and works great.

I agree that the ESXi host lets you test a whole bunch of virtual machines and apps easily without more hardware, plus I'm trying to get familiar with ESXi 5.1 as I'm currently running ESX 4.1 at work and will be updating sometime next year.

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post #15 of 70 Old 12-10-2012, 04:16 PM - Thread Starter
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I'm now getting ready to install an HD Homerun Prime on my Comcast cable next week and I'm wondering if anybody has already tried the following:

  1. run a virtual win7 with WMC under ESXi
  2. use virtual WMC to communicate with the HD Homerun's 3 tuners for recording
  3. see how much of my recordings are copy-once protected
  4. try to play unprotected recordings on my win7 laptop with WMC
  5. use extenders if most of my content is copy protected

Then the question becomes what else is needed to play the movies and music files on my whs2011 server if the extender won't be able to. Sounds like I still need a small htpc at each TV in addition to an extender

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post #16 of 70 Old 01-17-2013, 08:17 AM
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Originally Posted by joemoma View Post

I've got a SUPERMICRO MBD-X8SIL-F-O motherboard and a Xeon X3440 cpu with 12GB of ram. If I was building it today I would go with a newer 1155 socket motherboard. For pass through I think you need a processor that supports VT-d. I have seven drives ranging in size from 3TB to 1TB on the M1015 passed to unraid for a total array size of 8.5TB and everything else running off a 256GB SDD. Everything seems to run smoothly and much faster than virtualbox. Pfsense is really just for tinkering. The supermicro board has two ethernet ports (plus one for IPMI) so one is the internet and the other lan.
Yes I flashed it to IT mode.

Are you using ESXi as the 'base' OS?
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post #17 of 70 Old 01-17-2013, 08:28 AM
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Originally Posted by BruceD View Post

I'm now getting ready to install an HD Homerun Prime on my Comcast cable next week and I'm wondering if anybody has already tried the following:

  1. run a virtual win7 with WMC under ESXi
  2. use virtual WMC to communicate with the HD Homerun's 3 tuners for recording
  3. see how much of my recordings are copy-once protected
  4. try to play unprotected recordings on my win7 laptop with WMC
  5. use extenders if most of my content is copy protected

Then the question becomes what else is needed to play the movies and music files on my whs2011 server if the extender won't be able to. Sounds like I still need a small htpc at each TV in addition to an extender

Have you tried this? Also, how has the Flex-raid/WHS2011 set up worked with ESXi? Thinking of doing bascially the same thing myself.
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post #18 of 70 Old 01-17-2013, 08:47 AM
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I did try something very similar and it works...for the most part.

- Using ESXi as your bare metal hypervisor, works just fine. The hardware support keeps becoming better.
- Running WHS 2011 as a VM under ESXi works just fine. Make sure you either passthrough your RAID card or native disks to it, for best performance.
- Running Windows 7 as a VM under ESXi works fine, but with some caveats. If you will also be using this VM to "watch" your content, you need to VGA passthrough a card to it. That sometimes works, sometimes doesn't. Depends on your hardware and the motherboard's slots, VT-d support in the CPU, and motherboard. You'll also need to passthrough a USB controller if you want to connect your IR receiver/keyboard/mouse to the VM. This usually works fine. (Tip: Physically identify and mark the USB ports on the backpanel that are passed through.... smile.gif )
- Connecting a Windows 7 VM to a HDHR on the network works just fine.
- You do need to do the Digital Cable Adviser override hack for a virtualized Media Center to pass the Digital Cable Adviser.
- Using extenders with this HTPC VM works fine, but you may need to tweak you network configuration.

Edit: Oh, and a few other things.

- The M1015 passes through just fine to WHS 2011 in a VM under ESXi.
- Since you'll be doing a lot of passthroughs, do not use ESXi 5.1, it is buggy. Use a fully patched 5.0 Update 1.
- You don't necessarily have to use local disks in your W7 VM to record TV, since your W7 VM and the WHS 2011 are on the same ESXi server. W7 can be hacked/told to record to a network location, but this usually is buggy when you're using physical networking/gigabit due to a number of reasons. But if you are running WHS and W7 as VMs under ESXi, the virtual network switch in ESXi operates at 10gbps, and recording to the WHS directly works fine. Very low latency with the ESXi switch and in fact may be better than passing disks to the W7 VM and recording locally and then moving them to the server.
- I don't know why you'd need XBMC for anything, unless you "want" to use XBMC for something.
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post #19 of 70 Old 01-17-2013, 08:59 AM
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I'm interested . Looks so cool

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post #20 of 70 Old 01-17-2013, 09:06 AM
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Originally Posted by kapone View Post

I did try something very similar and it works...for the most part.

- Using ESXi as your bare metal hypervisor, works just fine. The hardware support keeps becoming better.
- Running WHS 2011 as a VM under ESXi works just fine. Make sure you either passthrough your RAID card or native disks to it, for best performance.
- Running Windows 7 as a VM under ESXi works fine, but with some caveats. If you will also be using this VM to "watch" your content, you need to VGA passthrough a card to it. That sometimes works, sometimes doesn't. Depends on your hardware and the motherboard's slots, VT-d support in the CPU, and motherboard. You'll also need to passthrough a USB controller if you want to connect your IR receiver/keyboard/mouse to the VM. This usually works fine. (Tip: Physically identify and mark the USB ports on the backpanel that are passed through.... smile.gif )
- Connecting a Windows 7 VM to a HDHR on the network works just fine.
- You do need to do the Digital Cable Adviser override hack for a virtualized Media Center to pass the Digital Cable Adviser.
- Using extenders with this HTPC VM works fine, but you may need to tweak you network configuration.

What is that hack? Hadn't heard of it before.
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post #21 of 70 Old 01-17-2013, 09:07 AM
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Originally Posted by ncarty97 View Post

What is that hack? Hadn't heard of it before.

http://www.missingremote.com/guide/override-digital-cable-advisor-windows-media-center-7

Edit: you not may not need to do this, if you're actually passing through an HDCP compliant card to the Windows 7 VM.
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post #22 of 70 Old 01-20-2013, 09:28 PM
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I did try something very similar and it works...for the most part.

1. Running WHS 2011 as a VM under ESXi works just fine. Make sure you either passthrough your RAID card or native disks to it, for best performance.

2. You don't necessarily have to use local disks in your W7 VM to record TV, since your W7 VM and the WHS 2011 are on the same ESXi server. W7 can be hacked/told to record to a network location, but this usually is buggy when you're using physical networking/gigabit due to a number of reasons. But if you are running WHS and W7 as VMs under ESXi, the virtual network switch in ESXi operates at 10gbps, and recording to the WHS directly works fine. Very low latency with the ESXi switch and in fact may be better than passing disks to the W7 VM and recording locally and then moving them to the server.

1. so can I do this without passthough? Do I just need to dedicate all the drives that I want on WHS only in Esxi? I plan on getting a (Dell H200) or the M1015, but I was going to wait until Haswell to build an Esxi server.

2. How do I set the recording drive to the virtual network switch in WMC? I want all my recorded TV to go to the WHS as well, but I guess I don't understand exactly what you are saying. I have no Esxi experience btw, some virtual machine experience though.

I plan on getting one running with WHS 2011 + Windows 7 WMC with HDHR Prime + pfsense (running separate machine for this now). I may have to try Flexraid as well, but I am currently using Stabilbit Drivepool.
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post #23 of 70 Old 01-20-2013, 10:25 PM
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Isn't vSphere client super expensive? Are there other free clients to control ESXi? How are you guys affording it?
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post #24 of 70 Old 01-21-2013, 03:18 AM
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Isn't vSphere client super expensive? Are there other free clients to control ESXi? How are you guys affording it?

vSphere client is free...you are thinking of vCenter.

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post #25 of 70 Old 01-21-2013, 06:21 AM
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Originally Posted by rekd0514 View Post

1. so can I do this without passthough? Do I just need to dedicate all the drives that I want on WHS only in Esxi? I plan on getting a (Dell H200) or the M1015, but I was going to wait until Haswell to build an Esxi server.

2. How do I set the recording drive to the virtual network switch in WMC? I want all my recorded TV to go to the WHS as well, but I guess I don't understand exactly what you are saying. I have no Esxi experience btw, some virtual machine experience though.

I plan on getting one running with WHS 2011 + Windows 7 WMC with HDHR Prime + pfsense (running separate machine for this now). I may have to try Flexraid as well, but I am currently using Stabilbit Drivepool.

If you don't know ESXi quite well, I suggest you do not go down this road, until you have acquired that experience. Setting up storage servers itself is complex, setting them up as VMs is exponentially more difficult. Oh, and while you are there, you're gonna need a crash course in networking as well.
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post #26 of 70 Old 01-21-2013, 06:48 AM
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Where's a good place learn this stuff ?

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post #27 of 70 Old 01-21-2013, 06:55 AM
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I considered running ESXi on my server and having WHS2011 or WS2012Essentials plus Ubuntu running as VMs, but that idea was shot down during setup. My server is running on one of the last Nvidia based motherboard chipsets salvaged from my prior HTPC and I think ESXi didn't like its network card and maybe the graphics. After trying to complete the install two or three times I just went with WS2012 with Ubuntu running in Virtual Box.

One limitation that seemed to be a potential showstopper was the lack of >2TB HDD support. Maybe I was reading thing incorrectly, but I plan on moving my 2TB drives to 4TB drives as the need arises.

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post #28 of 70 Old 01-21-2013, 07:07 AM
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I considered running ESXi on my server and having WHS2011 or WS2012Essentials plus Ubuntu running as VMs, but that idea was shot down during setup. My server is running on one of the last Nvidia based motherboard chipsets salvaged from my prior HTPC and I think ESXi didn't like its network card and maybe the graphics. After trying to complete the install two or three times I just went with WS2012 with Ubuntu running in Virtual Box.

One limitation that seemed to be a potential showstopper was the lack of >2TB HDD support. Maybe I was reading thing incorrectly, but I plan on moving my 2TB drives to 4TB drives as the need arises.

I have 3TB drives....

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post #29 of 70 Old 01-21-2013, 07:17 AM
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Whatever this is trying to say. http://communities.vmware.com/message/2118774

I couldn't get past the software installation due to unsupported hardware.

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post #30 of 70 Old 01-21-2013, 07:37 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kapone View Post

If you don't know ESXi quite well, I suggest you do not go down this road, until you have acquired that experience. Setting up storage servers itself is complex, setting them up as VMs is exponentially more difficult. Oh, and while you are there, you're gonna need a crash course in networking as well.

Meh I think I can handle it. I will just get it set up perfectly how I want it over time. I have pfsense set up so that shows I know networking fairly well. I have cat 6 and procurve 1410-24g switches in the house so I am set there. I just need to buy the proper hardware for the project. I have done quite a bit of reading already on the best practices in esxi and such. It doesn't seem too bad to me, just time consuming to setup. The main thing is just figuring out how I want to set up all the HDDs for proper management and back up.

It seems like in my experience is the only way you really learn it is to start messing around with it.

EDIT: Also I already knew about the hack to record directly to a network drive for WMC recorded TV. I just don't understand how you are saying you would directly record the WHS with ESXI and a vswitch. Are you saying to do the same thing, but because its in ESXI and on the same machine that it will be faster?
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