At the beginning of April 2020 VMware released vSphere 7. Like any other techie I wanted to try it our right away. Only to find out my homelab is no longer supported. Keeping that into consideration and also the fact that I lost 1 NUC down the line it was time for an homelab upgrade. When I assembled my first lab I was keen on making sure everything was on VMware’s hardware compatibility list. But let’s be honest it’s not like I was going to call VMware and ask for support. This time around I decided to follow the HCL loosely.
I decided to tackle the issues I had with the previous homelab… storage. Not the amount of storage but the performance of it. My main storage is coming from a Synology and at times it had a hard time providing the IO performance I needed. So what is VMware solution when it comes to high performance storage? Yep… vSAN! Okay that puts me up with a minimum of 3 nodes and preferably with 2 NICs.
Another problem I had was with the amount of memory. I was running 3x16GB. That’s no longer enough. And as vSAN will also claim roughly 10% ~ 15% I need at least 3x64GB.
The third requirement is all about price. Even though I will mention the brand used in my homelab, I’m in no way what so ever sponsored by them. So not only the price of the hardware is important I want it to be as low power consuming as possible.
And I also wanted an “industrial” CPU, like Intel XEON or AMD EPYC. So not your regular Intel iX-series.
To sum it up:
- Intel XEON / AMD EPYC
- 64GB MEM
- Dual NIC
- Full flash vSAN storage at least 4TB
- Low power consuming
I looked at three popular brands when it comes to homelabs, Intels NUC, Supermicro and Shuttle. I will quote the price that I found. But without showing the specifications of the additional hardware. So you should not blindly compare them based on the price. You should do you own research based on your requirements and then compare them.
Intel NUC 9vXQNX
I really like the (solid) design of this NUC. It looks awesome! And the specs match perfectly:
- Intel® Xeon® E-2286M Processor
- Intel® UHD Graphics P630
- Dual channel DDR4 SODIMMs max 64GB @ 2400 MHz or 32GB @ 2666 MHz
- 3x M.2 key M slots
- internal front audio panel
- 2x internal USB 3.1 headers
- 2x internal USB 2.0 headers
- Intel® Wi-Fi 6 AX200 2.4 Gbps (i219-LM and i210-AT), Bluetooth v5
- 2x front USB 3.1
- SDXC slot with UHS-II support
- Kensington lock with panel security
- 4x rear USB 3.1
- 2x Intel® 10/100/1000 Mbps (i219-LM and i210-AT) Ethernet ports
- HDMI 2.0a
- 2 Thunderbolt 3
- 3.5mm rear speaker / TOSLINK combo jack
- PCIe x16 slot with 6+2-pin & 6-pin PCIe power connectors, up to 225W, up to 8” card length, double-width capable
- PCIe x4 slot
- 500W internal power supply
Having it build to match my requirements I was looking at a price tag of around 2200 euro per unit. I don’t even want to multiply that by 3. 😀
That unit comes with 4x 1GbE and 2x 10GbE! To bad my switch doesn’t support that many ports. The design is pretty simple, nothing special there. It will definitely take up more space then the NUC. The price tag is around 2000 euro per unit. Still not a price I want to multiply by 3.
I didn’t find any orderable Shuttle with an Intel XEON CPU. So I ended up with the Intel Core i9-9900 which is also from the Coffee Lake family. One big advantage the Shuttle has it holds up to 4 3,5” disks plus 1 M.2 disk. I can create one very large vSAN diskgroup which will mean the end of my Synology. Based on my requirements I was looking at a price tag of 1600 euro. Now that’s a price I’m willing to multiply by 3.
So did I end up buying the Shuttle… I can tell you I did not!
More on that in an upcoming blog!