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ESXi all the things!

I guess I really love ESXi…

As you probably know, I’m quite fond of VMware’s ESXi hypervisor. It’s light on resources, designed to boot from a small USB stick or SD card and is very easy to use. It also performs rather well compared to competitors like Microsoft’s Hyper-V. 
Don’t get me wrong, Hyper-V is a decent hypervisor, but network performance with some NICs is downright terrible. Especially Broadcom NetXtremes seem to suffer (guess what my HP gear dominantly has). The main pro for businesses would be the inclusion with the Windows Server license, and allowing 2 virtualized OSEs in the process in Standard, and unlimited OSEs in Datacenter,  granted you have all your CPU cores licensed….

Enough on that, though. I currently have 3 ESXi machines in operation (one of which is turned off 99% of the time for reasons). These machines are:

  • HP ProLiant DL380 G7 (runs ESXi 6.0 U3, turned off)
  • HPE ProLiant Microserver Gen10 (runs ESXi 6.7)
  • Intel NUC6CAYH (runs ESXi 6.5 U2)

It might seem weird that they’re all running different versions, but that’s mainly due to me forgetting abou the existence of 6.7 when I installed the NUC. The DL380 runs 6.0 because of compatibility with legacy operating systems. Once that’s no longer needed, I’ll move it to 6.7 which will be the end of the line.

The NUC

Let’s start by updating you all on the NUC. See the image below:

It hasn’t been turned off since I set it up, and I’ve had 0 problems with it. It runs my website, and a remote Windows 7 machine I use to access my home network for maintenance and e-mail management through Outlook, which works rather well. It used to host a Ventrilo 3 server that was phased out last week in favor of Discord. The Minecraft server was deleted due to performance problems with the latest 1.13 patch. 1.12 didn’t skip a beat….

The Microserver

The Microserver is a bastard in every sense of the word. It’s run ESXi, Hyper-V, Proxmox VE, XenServer, ClearOS and FreeNAS. Disk configurations are equally mixed. From a single 2TB WD Red to 4 7.2K SAS 2TB disks and 600GB 15K disks, I’ve tried them all. That poor LSI 9211-8i…

It’s now back on ESXi due to the aforementioned network performance issues. Firmware and drivers couldn’t fix it so I just slapped ESXi 6.5 on it and called it a day. Issues gone, happy me. The disk config was simplified.
It boots from a 32GB SanDisk USB3 drive, which also has a FreeNAS 11.2 VM on it. The LSI 9211-8i is passed through with 2 WD Red 2TB attached. These drives are mirrored and a 700GB dataset for VMware was created as NFS share and connected. The rest of the space is for back-ups, snapshots and whatever I feel is necessary. It’s more flexible than attaching both to ESXi as it doesn’t support software RAID and takes up all disk space immediately.
Performance is just as good as when directly accessible by ESXi. Uptime is still building, but stability has been excellent. Noise and temps too.

This server is running the Minecraft server again, as well as two file server machines for specific purposes. There’s still some capacity left and options to upgrade RAM if I ever want to. This machine will take 32GB. Probably won’t happen until DDR4 becomes cheap.

What about the DL380 G7?

Good question. This is an unknown. The machine is off because it doesn’t have a use right now. I might build something custom that’s more quiet and doesn’t vibrate as much (no rack) while retaining the 4 16GB DDR3 ECC modules. Boards are expensive, though. Looking at both 1366 and 2011 boards with the 5520 or C602 chipsets. If you have any pointers of a board that’s ATX and not €300+ which accepts DDR3-R then feel free to contact me.

And that’s it for this iteration. Thanks for reading!

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