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Home Build for VM

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 
So I am wanting to build a home server that I can run 4-5 VM's on at any one time. Mostly to check things out, but also to run some other things such as web server consistently. I see software/os setups I would like to try and hence why I am looking at he VM's. That said, I am trying to find what I could go with in a processor that would handle this and be pretty quick? I mean, what does it take to run VM's? I will be having at least 8gb's of RAM, but I know that the cpu needs to deal with threading, virutalization, etc..., correct?

On my other server which runs home domain and some media stuff, it is a p4 w/ 2gb's of ram (mobo max) and some minor other programs (Spiceworks, backup software, etc..) and sometimes really bogs down. So am thinking I cannot go with any used parts as that p4 is the newest I have that isn't being used (or at least, used to not to).

So yeah, budget is key, but I want to run VM's and not bog down too much. Thoughts please?

Thanks much.
post #2 of 7
i currently have a amd phenom II x4 955 and 4GB total memory and am looking at refreshing to a true blue server mobo (Supermicro X9SCM-F) with an intel E3-1230v2 processor and at least 16GB of memory, maybe all the way up to the max of 32GB that the cpu/board will take.

I'd strongly suggest you get a server motherboard (one that will have IPMI support so you can bounce the server remotely, do IP-KVM to it and hopefully also remote media so you can install OSes and VMs remotely).

Things to look for are:

1. virtualization support in the CPU (most new processors have this)
2. Motherboard support for VT-d or AMD equivalent so you can pass devices directly down to a VM for use (like a raid card for a storage VM or tv tuner for a media center VM)
3. Motherboard with expansion PCIe slots (if you have 5 VMs and want each one to have access to one hardware card, well, you get the idea)
4. Low IDLE power, in the case(s) when you're NOT running a lot of VMs; no sense in burning 500W all the time to just tinker around every once in a while with some VMs.
5. Capacity for LOTS of memory; intel's limit of 32GB for the E3-1230V2 is kind of a shame, considering the AMD boards seem to support 128 or 256.....but i'd at least allocate 2-4GB FOR EACH VM you might want to run, and then another 2-4GB for the hypervisor itself. Memory is cheap now, but server memory is not.

You CAN go with a desktop processor, most of the ones that have support for virtualization also have the VT-d or virtual I/O support, but the motherboard chipset is the thing that needs to support the VT-d/Virt-I/O; I think the gigabyte 990FX boards do and maybe the higher-end Z77 boards for intel. You'd be hard pressed to find a server motherboard that didn't have it though, so again, another reason to go for a real server board if you're going to be doing VMs.

Hope this helps.....Let me know what you end up with and i'll do the same (stuff is set to arrive perhaps today through possibly thursday for my setup, but i need to get more/different RAM and i mistakenly ordered the E3-1220v2 (which is quad-core WITHOUT hyper-threading) instead of the 1230v2 (which has HT for 8 threads).....
post #3 of 7
It really depends on the platform you want to run.

Going bare metal is always better meaning that the hyper visor is the host OS, not something running under an OS like VMware workstation.

If you go with VMware ESXI then you have to be more picky especially on the raid controller. You have google for the VMware HCL to find things that work.

Hyper-V will run on pretty much anything that runs windows but the management interface for a single instance sucks. However you get features that you do not get in the free version of esxi.

You can find killer deals on Lenovo ts130 servers which will handle 4 drives and are esxi certified with the right raid controller.

Depends on your budget too and what your goals at. VMware's biggest advantage is to attach Nfs storage as local physical disks to an OS. That make is super cheap to throw storage at it that windows sees as a local disk compared to having to deal with nfs directly.

Personally that feature makes VMware the winner regardless of th pluses of hyperv. I deal with both on a daily basis and VMware is easier to manage but lot pickier on hardware.
post #4 of 7
I'm running an HP Microserver N40L with 8 GBs of RAM (although I've read that it can support 16) with VMware ESXi 5.1 installed and it's been rock solid. I run about 4-6 VMs at any given time, primarily I'm running WHS 2011 for my client backups and media shares and it works very well. The only thing that I've found as an issue with ESXi is that I can't get it to recognize the USB 3 card that I installed along with a 3TB external USB 3 drive, so I have had to settle for USB 2 speeds. I was able to pick up the server hardware for $200 earlier this year as a slickdeal, but apparently some people got them for $99 once upon a time. If I see the price drop below $200 again, I will probably buy a second one.
post #5 of 7
If your running ESXI then pick up a cheap Synology NAS or build a FreeNAS/Openfiler box.

Then you can connect via ethernet to the NAS and make the NFS share a native disk to Windows. After you attach the NAS, add another hard drive to the VM and just tell it to use the NAS storage instead of the local disk. In Windows it will see it as a native local disk.

That way if speed is what your looking for then you can use multiple NIC's to get there.

Even 10G is starting to get cheaper.

I've got a spare 2.13ghz Xeon w/ a server MB I plan on putting in a cheap Rosewill chassis with 16 drive bays running either Open Filer or FreeNAS.

You can build a lot of storage pretty cheap these days. I'm using the Xeon/MB because I have it and compatibility but you can do the same with a cheap i3.
post #6 of 7
Here you go....depending on your budget, get a Mac Mini (the $799 version will do, it has a quad-core i7 with hyperthreading), upgrade the HDD to an SSD($100 to $150 depending on size you'd like), upgrade RAM to 16GB ($100), get the Thunderbolt to Ethernet adapter ($30). Purchase or build a NAS, one that supports iSCSI. From there install VMware ESXi on the Mac Mini and configure the NAS with a couple iSCSI Storage Pools so that the ESXi Host (the Mac Mini) can utilize that iSCSI storage. Create your VMs and they'll reside on the NAS, in the iSCSI Pools. Make sure you have a good GbE (Gigabit) switch. You can run anywhere from 2 to 10 VMs depending on their config. I currently run this type of setup with 2 Mac Mini's and a Synology DS1812+ NAS, running 15 VMs (2 Plex Servers and a bunch of other lab related VMs for Windows/Linux/VM Certification and stuff like that) and I haven't run into an issue.

Good Luck!
post #7 of 7
Quote:
Originally Posted by Eric_Connelly View Post

If your running ESXI then pick up a cheap Synology NAS or build a FreeNAS/Openfiler box.

Then you can connect via ethernet to the NAS and make the NFS share a native disk to Windows. After you attach the NAS, add another hard drive to the VM and just tell it to use the NAS storage instead of the local disk. In Windows it will see it as a native local disk.

That way if speed is what your looking for then you can use multiple NIC's to get there.

Even 10G is starting to get cheaper.

I've got a spare 2.13ghz Xeon w/ a server MB I plan on putting in a cheap Rosewill chassis with 16 drive bays running either Open Filer or FreeNAS.

You can build a lot of storage pretty cheap these days. I'm using the Xeon/MB because I have it and compatibility but you can do the same with a cheap i3.

Better yet put it all in one box and and bypass the ethernet. There's a huge thread here that shows how to do it.

In a nutshell you run your NAS on the same physical box and use ESXi virtual switches for your VMs instead of physical ethernet.
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