Building a vSphere 5.0 Home Lab – Part 2

In the previous post we discussed about hardware requirements. Based on earlier discussions, from time to time I have been evaluating, the best and cheapest options for building a home lab. In this post we are going to discuss the hardware that will allow us to build a vSphere lab. Here are some of my recommendations:

Motherboard:  Intel Desktop Board DH67CL
We selected this motherboard because:

  • Uses the cheap 1333Mhz DDR3 RAM with support up to 32GB RAM. Additionally it comes with 4 memory DIMM slots.
  • Has out-of-box vSphere5 support for the on-board Intel SATA controller.
  • Comes with 3 PCI slots, allows easy expansion for RAID card and/or NIC card.
  • Comes with Intel NIC based on chipset 82579V. Although this is currently unusable under vSphere5 since unsupported by VMware, but I am sure VMware will support this NIC in upcoming future updates.
  • Comes with a DVI/HMDI interface so saves you some more on graphics card.

Processor: Intel Core i5-2400 Processor (6M Cache, 3.10 GHz)
The said processor supports Intel VT and comes with four cores meets all our requirements. The processor is also compatible with our selected motherboard (DH67CL).

RAM: As already discussed we want to have loads of RAM. Buy a 8GB-1333Mhz-DDR3 DIMMs of Transcend / Kingston or Strontium RAM. If you want 16GB RAM you will need to buy 2 DIMMs of 8GB each else if you can afford buy 4 DIMMs.

Network Card:The on-board NIC that comes with the Intel Motherboard DH67CL is an Intel card with chipset 82579V. However presently vSphere ESXi 5.0 does not support this chipset. Hence to be able to successfully install vSphere ESXi 5.0, you will need to install a supported NIC on the motherboard. The motherboard already comes with 3 PCI slots so install the card in anyone of these and you are good to go. I recommend using a standard Intel PRO/1000 NIC. This NIC should be available anywhere in India and is typically costing ~Rs.700/-.

Hard Disk: Any SATA2/SATA3 disks are OK for us. Pick your own brand. Ensure that you pick a 500GB disk since we will need to buy 3 disks to keep costs low. BTW if you are tight on budget a single disk will also do.

DVD Writer: Buy a SATA DVD writer again any brand would do. We will need this to install ESXi and also sometimes to burn DVDs/CDs from within the VMs.

USB Stick: Buy a 4GB USB stick something which is small. The idea is if its small it won’t protrude too much on the backside of our cabinet. I prefer the use the ” Sandisk Cruzer Fit 4 GB Pen Drive“.

Cabinet & Power Supply: When using a cabinet accessibility is the key. Also it becomes pretty hot in India and unless you have installed an AC, you would want something big, roomy and airy with good cooling, something like a Chieftec. Also I would suggest buying a good power supply, which is also silent. Personally I prefer “Antec 450W Power Supply (VP450P)“. Antec power supplies are super silent.

Gigabit Network Switch: You will need a gigabit Ethernet switch to connect your ESXi host and you laptop or desktop. Though pricey I prefer ASUS RT-N16 gigabit switch. It’s a gigabit wireless router with the ability to install a custom firmware such as “Tomato USB” on it. Installing a custom firmware will allow you to test out tagged VLAN related scenarios within your home lab. Again if you are on a budget you may buy a cheaper unmanaged switch.

All the above is available with Flipkart. However for RAM I would suggest you try your local vendor. Flipkart does not stock 8GB DDR3 DIMMs from Transcend or Kingston :-).

Setting up the Home Lab:

  1. Before we begin, power-on your box and go to the BIOS settings. Ensure you can see all the installed RAM. Also verify that “Intel VT” has been enabled. I believe the “Intel VT” option would be somewhere under the Security options in the BIOS settings.
  2. Once you have assembled the box, download the “vSphere ESXi 5.0” ISO from VMware site. Register for a free hypervisor license.
  3. Plug-in the USB in your brand new server and install ESXi on the USB stick. Configure it with an appropriate IP address.
  4. After install is complete, reboot the box and go back to BIOS, this time configure you box to boot from the USB. Verify the USB boots successfully.
  5. Now download the vSphere Client from VMware website and install in on your desktop or laptop.
  6. Connect to your ESXi using the vSphere Client. Once you have reached this level everything else can be done using the GUI.
  7. You may also need to download are VMware vCenter Server Appliance.

13 thoughts on “Building a vSphere 5.0 Home Lab – Part 2

  1. Pingback: Building a vSphere 5.0 Home Lab – Part 1 | Virtual Drive

  2. HI

    With this config, were you able to run everything , vt-d, vt-x ,FT and connect a hardrive
    to run VM from it


  3. thank
    i am surprise for the vt the i5- 2400 is suppose to support this, but if you said so.
    and the controller is it recognize ?

    thank again

  4. Hi CJ

    Thanks for the config. If one has a wireless adapter installed (from HCL) would that suffice for the Intel PRO/1000 NIC. I reckon NIC would only serve the very imp purpose of administering remotely and nothing more.

  5. How do you get the vCenter Server Appliance? I followed every link from the hypervisors web page and there is no link to that appliance. I just need the trial version since it is only for lab purposes.

    • You can download it here.

      Select the product “VMware vCenter Server 5.1 Update 1 and modules” and you will find the OVF / OVA for vCenter Appliance available for download.

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