Home Lab Host Upgrades

chassisFunny what can change in a year, last year about this time I purchased a third host for my lab environment (blog post here) based on the popular “Baby Dragon” build leveraging micro-ATX motherboards and cases to lower the overall foot print. During the time from when that post was released there has been a higher demand on host side resources  with host based caching solutions (PernixData, Infinio, VMware’s vFlash) and server based storage solutions (specifically VSAN) that I found my current hosts somewhat limiting to these technologies.

After doing some research I stumbled across a blog post by Erik Bussink  (blog / twitter) who earlier this year was looking for a new hosts as well and documented his new build around the SuperMicro X9SRH-7TF motherboard. The motherboard provides some great features including dual onboard Intel X540 10GbE Ethernet adapters, integrated LSI 2308 adapter, and can scale to 64GB of RAM with non-ECC memory ( 8 DIMM slots), and last but not least IPMI capabilities for remote management. For my new lab requirements this motherboard brings all the needed toys onboard in a simple package. My plan will be to leverage the dual 10GbE interfaces to carry vMotion and VSAN vmkernel traffic between the two new hosts, and who doesn’t want 10GbE in their lab? 🙂

With the motherboard decision out of way, I looked into CPU’s and CPU coolers. While in my lab environment, one resource I have never been shy on  is CPU processing. With this in mind I went looking for the most economical (read that as cheapest) LGA2011 compatible CPU. I landed on a Intel Xeon E5-2603 v2 Ivy Bridge 1.8GHz QC processor that fit the bill. With the CPU selection made I needed to find a compatible CPU cooler. As mentioned in Erik’s post, the SuperMicro motherboards utilize the Narrow ILM standard for coolers. With an idea about what I was going to do for a chassis (more below) I went with a Dynatron R13 70MM unit.

Now, with the motherboard and CPU components chosen this is where the build takes a slight change over what I have used in my lab in the past. Again, with keeping my options open for host side resources (IE SSD and HDD drives) I chose a 2U SuperMicro rack mount chassis to house everything. Sticking with the SuperMicro theme I purchased a 2U chassis equipped with a single 400 watt power supply, the SuperMicro CSE-822T-400LPB. Added bonus is the unit provides 6 hot swappable drives bays, perfect to load up on SSD or HDD drives for various configurations and testing.

To round out the remainder of the build I purchased four SuperMicro MCP-220-0080-0B 3.5 inch to 2.5 inch drive trays. Two units will be used per server chassis, for now one will be used to hold the SSD for host caching solutions and the other tray will be used for the  SSD needs for VMware VSAN. Last but not least, memory and a single dual port 1GB Ethernet adapter were recycled from the two legacy hosts to finish up the server builds.

With the departure from ATX and micro-ATX systems, this build brings some noise challenges that I should mention. While I wouldn’t classify the units as loud, the additional fans in the chassis ( 4 x 80mm fans) and the server class CPU cooler, they can create a decent “hum” sound and I can say that I wouldn’t want them running inside the home. So like my previous lab hosts, they fine their home in the garage.

If you have questions or comments on the build, let me know below!


Full Parts List

Motherboard – SuperMicro X9SRH-7TF – http://www.amazon.com/Supermicro-LGA2011-Server-Motherboard-X9SRH-7TF-O/dp/B00BV2XXKK/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1411446325&sr=8-1&keywords=supermicro+x9srh-7tf

Case – SuperMicro CSE-822T-400LPB – http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811152109

CPU – Intel Xeon E5-2603 v2 Ivy Bridge 1.8Ghz QC – http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16819116936

CPU Cooler – Dynatron R13 70MM Ball Bearing CPU Cooler – http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16835114122

Drive Trays – SuperMicro 3.5 to 2.5 Drive Trays – http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=0VE-006S-00006