Virtualization Server Build: Xeon E3 – ESXi 6.7

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(see videos below.)

For a while now, I have run all of my virtual machines locally from my main workstation. Now however, they have become too many and too cumbersome to run efficiently.

Enter VM-House–a virtualization server to store all of my virtual machines. This server facilitates quick and efficient access to any and all virtual machines from whatever system I find myself at. Primarily, I will connect to it with VMware Workstation from my main system, but there are plenty of other ways to do so.

The budget was $1500. The parts used are listed below.

Essentially, it is a microATX, rackmount, Xeon-based system with 32 GB of DDR4 RAM (for now). The board is from Supermicro and is designed specifically for this kind of usage (as well as FreeNAS and other systems). This board has three Ethernet ports. One is designed for use with IPMI (Intelligent Platform Management Interface), so the system is considered “headless” and can be remote controlled from a browser. The other two Ethernet ports are for VM data transfer–I linked them together at the switch and teamed them together in the operating system. This allows for aggregation of bandwidth as well as fault tolerance. Speaking of the OS: I installed VMware ESXi 6.7, and started uploading my virtual machines to it. ESXi is a bare metal (type 1) hypervisor, so VM access to hardware is more direct and therefore more efficient. So far, the VMs I have moved and created run very well.

Check out this video to see the entire system build, about 45 minutes.

Because of IPMI, the video card isn’t necessary in a typical server. I wanted the video card for local viewing and recording of video, but it turns out that using a separate video card caused problems with IPMI and iKVM. So I removed that and am using an SVGA to HDMI adapter–which works surprisingly well. I explain this further in the following video. I also put in some shorter SATA cables and did some further cable management (more permanent tie wraps and so on…)

Check out this video to see the BIOS, additional solutions, and the OS:

The system is fantastic and does everything I wanted. So the new virtualization solution is in place.

I build similar systems for customers, but usually with a “bit” more RAM and a better case, but otherwise they are very similar builds. Haven’t had one of these systems fail yet.

Parts List

Motherboard – Supermicro MBD-X11SSM-F-O

CPU – Intel Xeon E3-1240 V6 Kaby Lake 3.7 GHz

RAM: Crucial DDR 4 2666

Case: Rosewill RSV-2600

Power Supply: Corsair VS500

HD (OS): Crucial BX500 120 GB

HD (VM datastore): Samsung 970 PRO 1 TB

M.2 Adapter Card: Maliya M.2 PCIe x4 adapter

Note: As always, shop around for parts. Especially when it comes to CPUs, RAM, and SSDs. These can be quite volatile. Sometimes I use NewEgg, sometimes Amazon, and sometimes other vendors. Do a price check and history check to make sure you aren’t getting ripped off. And clear your browser cache so you don’t get price discriminated against–grammar aside, literally–but you know what I mean. Be patient if necessary and wait for prices to come down. Buy low, and build high!