So, we have meant to move both produciton servers and develoment servers accross to a virtual server platform for a while now – but time / development time has been at a minimum. Recently however I came accross this great post by – Tinkererguy on Tinkertry.com. Tinkererguy had picked out a very similar spec whitebox ESXi to my goal – a resonably priced / high-end workstation, capable of easing us across to virtualization without a large supplier bill!

The kit :

Case Antec Take4 TAKE 4+650 UK
Motherboard Asrock Z68 PROFESSIONAL GEN3 Z68 PROFESSIONAL 3
CPU Intel Core i7 2600 BX80623I72600
Memory Corsair Vengeance 16GB DDR3 1600Mhz CMZ16GX3M4A1600C9
RAID Card LSI MRSAS9260-4I MRSAS9260-4I/KIT
HDD WD 1TB 3.5″ SATA3 6Gb/s Caviar Blue (x4) WD10EALX
Backpane Icy Dock MB994SP-4S Drive Enclosure MB994SP-4S
2.5″ HDD Seagate 750GB 2.5″ ST9750420AS
Flash Storage Use an existing – as ESXi is low IO

The kit was selected for the following reasons:

CaseMotherboardCPUMemoryHDDRAID
On several occasions I have been disappointed with the quality of whitebox cases, but workstation and server – it seems that there are “Budget” cases and “Enthusiast” cases, but nothing inbetween. The Antec Take4 is a high build quality, 4U rackmountable server case, with a fairly good airflow design. I would definately mark the case down for the inability to remove the 4x HDD trays which I would have liked to maybe replace with a better HDD backpane. Rigidity is good, and there was plenty of space for fitting 4 internal 3.5″ HDDs and my 4 bay 2.5″ HDD backpane.

  • Motherboard is compatible with ESXi v5.0
  • Individual SATA3 drives are detected, but when configured in RAID they are still displayed as individual drives.
  • Both onboard 1Gbps LAN are detected and work fine.
  • Supports VMDirectPath (VT-d) using my Core i7 2600 (note the 2600K does NOT support VT-d)

According to PassMark (link) the 2600 is the fastest mid-priced CPU, capable of VT-d with a resonable ‘oomph’ behind it!
Quite simply, most of the higher end DDR3 would be suitable for this project – so I picked Corsair, a brand that I have used many times before in the past.
Caviar Blue drives offer a balance of performance and reliability. The SATA3 6Gb/s interface should help give good transfer speeds for the main data store.
The LSI range have always been reliable, and as well as being on the VMWare compatability list

  • New SATA3 6Gb/s
  • Provides RAID 10 (my chosen setup see HERE for RAID types)
  • Great future-proofing with upgrades such as CacheCade, BBU etc

Next step – build a Whitebox VMware ESXi 5.0 server (wait for the bits to turn up, and hope all works as planned!)