2 Replies Latest reply on Mar 11, 2010 12:42 PM by TMack

    Custom Intel-based ESXi 4.0 server

    bkimbrell Novice

      This was my first attempt at building a server. I spent about 3 days researching compatibility of components and software. My goal was to get the best bang for my buck. The entire server was built around the Intel Xeon 5520 processors. I chose them because they were cheapest Quad-Core Nehalem Xeon processors with HyperThreading. ESXi sees 16 logical processors with 2 of these installed! All of the hardware is on the HCL for ESX 4.0. I bought all of the components except for the redundant power supply from Newegg.com. At first I tried to save money by not buying a hardware RAID controller or an optical drive. I was able to plug a regular desktop SATA DVDRW drive into the motherboard and run the cable out of the back. I used an old power supply to power it up. It worked just fine. However, when I tried to use the onboard software RAID, ESXi was having none of that. I tried everything to get it to work. I even let the whole array initialize for 2 days! Long story short, ESXi doesn't work with software RAIDs. I decided that I shouldn't skimp on the RAID controller and ended up buying a fairly high-end one. I also bought a slim DVD drive so my server didn't look so rigged up. After I put everything together and started to install ESXi 4.0, it couldn't find the RAID! Come to find out, you have to install the RAID controller in the x16 (shaped) slot for ESXi to find it. There were 3 PCI-Express slots on the motherboard, 1 that looked like an x16 and 2 that looked like x8's. They were all x8's though. Overall it took me about 2 weeks to get everything together and working (and about 2 bottles of Xanax... just kidding).I ended up saving quite a bit of money over comparably spec'd name-brand servers.


      • Chassis: Intel SR2600URBRP 2U Rackmountable $1300

      • Motherboard: Intel S5520UR included with chassis

      • Processors:  2 x Intel Xeon 5520 $756

      • RAM: 12 x Crucial DDR2 1333 2 GB Unbuffered ECC (24 GB total)  $432

      • RAID Controller:  Adaptec 5805 SATA/SAS Kit $590

      • HDD: 4 x Western Digital RE3 1TB SATA $640

      • Optical Drive: LITE-ON Slim SATA 8x DVD burner $40

      • Redundant Power Supply: Intel AXX750WPS from Buy.com $198






      Total Cost: $3956 without shipping




      This configuration runs flawlessly with ESXi 4.0 free license.




      Using RAID 10 or 1+0, ESXi has 1.81 TB available for the datastore.




      I have 5 XP VMs, 3 Ubuntu 9.04 web servers, and 2 Windows 2k Servers running simultaneously. This has put no noticeable load on the server. Average CPU usage under a heavy load is 325 MHz! Average RAM usage is 544 MB!

        • 1. Re: Custom Intel-based ESXi 4.0 server
          XelariX Lurker


          Hi bkimbrell,



          that's quite a nice machine you have there. Have you measured  its power consumtion, for example in a completely 'idle' state (no VMs running) and in a production state (with all your VM up and running)?



          That would be interesting.







          • 2. Re: Custom Intel-based ESXi 4.0 server
            TMack Lurker

            Great write up.  This helps a great deal.

            I am currently build a very similar machine for my company as a lower cost lab machine. 

            I have done about 3 days of research to make sure everything is compatible but now I found what could be a major issue.  In one of the Adaptec RAID 5805 'read me' documents it states:


            "Upgrading the VMware driver to ESX 4.0 is currently supported only for non-bootable arrays.  For Bootable arrays, upgrading will result with booting only to an ESX recovery shell with no option to reboot to ESX server normally."


            I noticed you have nearly the same system...  Are you booting from your array handled by the 5805? Or are you using a separate boot device for ESXi??


            I am looking to run VMware VSphere 4.0.


            Below is my system:

            2x      Processor     Intel Xeon E5530 Nehalem 2.4GHz LGA 1366 80W Quad-Core Server Processor Model BX80602E5530 - Retail     $559.99

                      Model #:BX80602E5530     

                      Item #:N82E16819117184     


            1x      SAS Raid Controller     Adaptec 2244300-R PCI-Express x8 SATA / SAS (Serial Attached SCSI) 5805 SGL Controller Card - Retail     $539.99

                      Model #:2244300-R     

                      Item #:N82E16816103099     


            1x      Motherboard     Intel S5520HC Dual LGA 1366 Intel 5520 Tylersburg SSI EEB Dual Intel Xeon 5500 Series Server Motherboard - Retail     $499.99

                      Model #:S5520HC     

                      Item #:N82E16813121375     


            1x      Case     SUPERMICRO CSE-825TQ-R700LPB Black 2U Rackmount Server Case - Retail     $589.99

                      Model #:CSE-825TQ-R700LPB     

                      Item #:N82E16811152095     


            8x      RAM     Kingston 4GB 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1066 (PC3 8500) ECC Registered Server Memory Model KVR1066D3Q8R7S/4G - Retail     $139.99

                      Model #:KVR1066D3Q8R7S/4G     

                      Item #:N82E16820139024     


            5x      Hard Drive     IBM hard drive - 146.8 GB - SAS     $393.99

                      Mfg. Part: 40K1044      

                      CDW Part: 1007142     


            1x      Power adapter     1ST PC CORP. 6" 8-pin EPS female cable adapter from P4 ATX 4-pin male Cable Model CB-4MP4-8F - Retail     $7.99

                      Model #:CB-4MP4-8F     

                      Note: Needed for case power supply to connect to mother board     


            1x      Raid Controller battery backup     Adaptec ABM 800 - memory backup battery     $139.99

                      Mfg. Part: 2248000-R      

                      CDW Part: 1183744     


            TOTAL               $5,927.80