Jun 10

The 2014 New VMware Home Lab

A new year and a new set of criteria for my homelab. I’ve been dealing a lot with deploying the entire vCloud Suite and SDDC. In one month I had deployed over 800 VM’s in my homelab. that’s about 26/day 7 days per week. Doing this required a bit more hardware than my original home lab and so I thought I’d share a few things with you all.

As you can tell from the picture, I’m not done with my home-made rack yet either, but it works for now. Below is a list of what I’m using. I will then jump into where I got it from and the costs.

Home Lab 2014:

  • 3x (HP Proliant DL160 G6 Servers; 72GB Ram each, 2xQC Xeon L5520 @ 2.27GHz, 2xGB NIC 1xMGMT NIC, 4HDD bays)
  • 1x Cisco SG200-26 Switch
  • 1x Synology DS412+ (carryover from last year’s lab, really want an 1813+)
  • 7x WD Red 2TB Hard Drives (4 in the Synology NAS and one in each of the Hosts)

Ok, So what do I have here? and How much did it cost. Let’s start with the Hosts.

HP Proliant DL160 G6 – 

2014-02-27 11.35.43The DL160 G6 as of vSphere 5.5 is no longer on VMware’s HCL. However, all the functionality is still there and working out of the box (no need to inject any VIBs).

If it’s not on the HCL why did you buy it?

For several reasons actually:

  • Price
  • RAM
  • Power Consumption

How much was it?

Well, I found an ebay seller who pretty much just sells used datacenter servers.


I messaged him and told him I wanted 3 and asked if he could give me any discount, which he provided (small but helpful). These also include free shipping. I ended up getting mine for $540/each

What about the RAM?

Like I mentioned earlier. Each of these packs 72GB of RAM, which really was the biggest catch for me. This gives me roughly 220GB of RAM in my homelab *drools*.. ‘Nuff said here.

How much power does this consume?

Each of these servers has a 500watt PSU. Running with no workload, each server idles at about 175 Watts of usage and under a normal workload sits around 225 watts. This was ideal because I didn’t want a big increase in my electricity bills

Total Cost: $ 1920 (including Hard Drives)


DS412 Same as last year, but it now has DSM 5 running on it. This has allowed for a somewhat faster iSCSI performance (not as much as I was hoping for, but still reasonable). I chose Synology for many reasons. They make quality gear, it can function as many other servers at the same time (iTunes, Directory, PLEX, Cloud, etc etc), it supports NFS and iSCSI, Easy to use, familiarity.

I placed 4 WD Red 2TB drives in this and threw it into a RAID 5 configuration. could I have split it up differently?? sure… I’m not going to worry about that right now though.

 Cost:$996 (including Hard Drives)



Cisco SG200-26

SG200 The Cisco SG200-26 is the perfect size for me in terms of growth/expansion as well as the capabilities of supporting LACP and VLANs. I have everything hooked up and configured via the management webpage and it took about 10 minutes. I also backed up my configuration just in case I need to reload it in the future.

Cost: $247



Grand Total: $3,163

Seems like a decent chunk of change, and it is. Let me walk you through some reasoning here though.

1st, The loaded NAS I had from last year, so technically my cost this year was about $2,100. But let’s be honest with ourselves. I feel this was a good investment (I spent my tax refund on this, didn’t feel the bite out of my wallet). All of the knowledge and learning I can get from working in my lab, working towards certifications, and honing in on my skills will all be reflected in my pay. What’s my ROI? I’m hoping that it will be many times what I spent. What it will come down to once you purchase your gear and set it up is how much you will use it? How much of your investment are you going to leverage for your future? That’s where the ROI kicks in. I would suggest to anyone looking at building a lab that they do it right the first time and milk every penny out of it that you can. It’s well worth it.


Skip to comment form

  1. Vince

    Curious why you chose older, rack mount servers with older CPU’s from 2009, as opposed to your http://www.vtagion.com/updated-home-lab-2-0/ design from last year? Aren’t these much louder, and slower?

    1. Brian Graf

      great question Vince. It came down to needing more RAM honestly. I needed quite a bit more than what I already had. By going with three of these rackmounts I was able to get about 200GB of RAM which accomodated for plenty of SDDC deployments (rather than single product deployments). Yes it performs somewhat slower, but as far as functionality goes, I needed the guts over the performance.

  2. Vince

    Thanks for the reply and clarification, I’m really liking the price point and specs of that eBay guy you linked. How’s the noise of these boxes, heat, and power consumption? I have plenty X5650 boxes in my production environment at work, and they run quite well. Was looking at Chris Wahl’s http://wahlnetwork.com/2013/12/02/new-haswell-fueled-esxi-5-5-home-lab-build/ build but it’s well over 1,100$ with only 32GB memory.

  3. Brian Graf

    so heat is pretty warm. my home office is a 10×12 room. I run 2 Synology NAS’s, Desktop, MBP, 2 24″ monitors, Router, Switch, and my DL160’s in it. AC is set to 75 but in the summer my office can get to about 85` with all this running and a fan to help circulate the air. If I had a basement or something it would be perfect.

    Noise – Power-on blasts at full RPM for about 20 seconds and is quite loud, idle is fine, cranking through a big SDDC deployment can run the fans louder. quite honestly I can forget they are there. You get used to it.

    Consumption – Each DL160 has a 500watt PSU, they idle about 180watts and have maxed at around 260watts in my testing.

    Hope this helps

  4. SUBnet192

    Thanks for the write-up… Looking at upgrading my lab from 2 whiteboxes with 16GB RAM to something with more juice and those servers seem like they would work just great for my home lab… Wondering what your thoughts are after a few weeks/months of using them?

    What about network interfaces? Did you add dual port NICs? Did you experiment with VSAN with those servers? Wondering if that would be a good alternative over an external box (I already have a Synology as well, great devices).

  5. /R0d

    Cool setup. Digging the wooded server rack.. hehehe.

  6. /R0d

    This server is also a viable option (not as costly) for someone looking for a smaller scale home lab.

    Dell PowerEdge 1950 III Server 2×3.0GHz E5450 Quad Core 16GB 2x146GB 2.5 PERC 5i

    This one looks pretty good too (no HDDs)

  7. dot45

    PowerEdge 1950’s are horrible. 1U servers have high-rpm fans and will drive you insane.

    If your looking for a lot of power in a compact chassis, look at the Dell C6100 units. You want the “XS23-TY3” flavor, as it has newer cpu’s and runs DDR3 instead of DDR2. Its a 2U chassis with x4 compute nodes. Each node has x2 Quad Core Xeon CPU’s and can handle >96GB of ram per node. (Depending on the ram you purchase, packing more than 48gb per node gets pricey)

    For a good thread on the C6100 series, check out the following link.

  8. JHarris

    Nice setup. I too bought (3) of the HP DL160 G6 servers from the same guy you bought from. One for a colo, one for home and one for a tremendous friend who really has helped me and really needed one but couldn’t afford one. I got a lower price on them also just by asking. I just found out that ESXi 5.5 is not supported on them. Bummer as I already have one deployed in a colo out east. I also got a P410 Controller card. I had my first drive die Thanksgiving day. A replacement drive will be here Monday. How in the world do you detect a drive failure in this setup? I’ve been racking all the websites and firmware updates and cant seem to get info on how to do that. Would be nice for the colo setup. My home system would like it too. Any thoughts on the disk in array failure detection and notification?
    Minneapolis MN.

  9. JHarris

    Did you install a generic version of VMware 5.5?
    How did you get all the drivers installed?

    1. Brian Graf

      I’m using the regular ESXi 5.5 build and the drivers are all there. I didn’t need to inject any into the build. One of the things I like about these Proliants 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code class="" title="" data-url=""> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong> <pre class="" title="" data-url=""> <span class="" title="" data-url="">

4 × 4 =