gopherhockey
Contributor
Contributor

Low Cost ESX 3.5 System - Suggestions?

For training purposes, I would like to put together a Vmware ESX 3.5 compatible computer to use in a lab environment. Something that can still run 3-4 systems, but also something that is not expensive.

To test with Windows 2008 Hyper-V it took about $550 on newegg.com and I have a solid lab box that can run 4-5 systems easily. Plenty to train on and practice.

With Vmware ESX its more confusing. First, the dual-CPU requirement seems to force me into server class motherboards. I think there are some motherboards meant for home systems that could pull it off. My guess is it will have to be Intel EM64T compatible (in order to run 64-bit hosts) as I'm having a hard time finding dual-CPU mothersboard that run AMD Athlon X2 type processors (something in the $140 range per processor)

I figure someone here has had probably done the same. I have an old Dell server that can run ESX, but its huge, slow, only has 3GB ram and while it has dual CPU its not 64-bit compatible.

Has anyone been able to put together a dual-CPU system for at or around $600?

So far it looks like the majority of my training will remain on Hyper-V. A nice product actually. Good thing they support Single CPU.

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116 Replies
Smeagol
Enthusiast
Enthusiast

Dont forget you can write ESX 3i to a USB and boot from that then it doesnt matter if it has any local disks at all or whether they work or not. You can then run the vm's off your desktop if you set up nfs sharing which windows server can do, or linux vm etc, etc.

Or just buy a cheap network NAS device with nfs support. Then you can do clustering, HA and all the nice stuff like storage vmotion etc too. No point just having one server Smiley Happy

Info on making your own 3i is on the forum just search for "winimage 3i" or similar. Thats what Id do.

When my Tyan single server gives up the ghost thats what Id do. Three dualcore desktops with 8gb and nfs NAS for a cluster.

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Argyle
Enthusiast
Enthusiast

Another confirm, this time on the HP DC7100 Desktop PC. Successfully installed ESX 3.5 straight out of the box.

Hardware Model

HP Compaq dc7100 Small Form Factor PC

Mainboard Model

HP 097Ch

Mainboard Chipset

Intel 915G

Mainboard Southbridge

Intel 82801FB (ICH6)

Mainboard Bios

HP 786C1 v02.14

CPU

Intel Pentium 4 540J Processor (3.2 GHz, 800 MHz FSB) HT. Socket LGA775

RAM

4 GB DDR PC-3200 (200 Mhz)

NIC

Broadcom 5751 NetXtreme Gigabit Ethernet

Video

Intel 82915G Integrated

Disk

Western Digital Caviar XL WD5000AAKS (500GB - SATA)

CD/DVD

LITE-ON DVD SOHD-167T (16x DVD, 48x CD. CD/DVD Read only)

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rpartmann
Hot Shot
Hot Shot

Hi,

right the 7100/7600 already confirmed on 2008/01/07.

i outranked you. Smiley Wink

keep on testing... the more system we get to work the better for our labs....

thanks & greetings,

Reinhard.

ps: Award points if you find answers helpful. Thanks.
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hw-man
Contributor
Contributor

Hi Paulo,

I bought an HP P400 Array Controller too, but I found not the right cable to connect a SATA HDD directly.

Do you know which cable I need?

hw-man

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jkahn_au
Contributor
Contributor

Hi guys,

I've gone and set myself up a dc7100 ESX 3.5 box - works fantastically. An issue I have is that ESX only sees 3.12GB of RAM, even though I have installed 4GB. With a bit of googling I've been able to find that this is apparently to do with the chipset in the PC reserving a chunk of RAM up to 4GB for bus functions. I'm going to update the BIOS tonight to see if that helps at all. Has anyone else run into this problem? Did you manage to get around it?

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Hw-man,

You need a SAS fanout cable (Google it) like this one:

Regards,

Paulo

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jkahn_au
Contributor
Contributor

The BIOS update didn't help with the RAM issue. Something to keep in mind for anyone considering a dc7100 ESX box.

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hw-man
Contributor
Contributor

Hi Paulo,

thank you for the information.

Do you use or tested that cable?

I tested a new Adaptec Cable ACK-I-SASx4-4SATAx1-SB-0.5M R but it not works.

The machine I would like to use the P400 is a dc7800. The controller is initialized but the drives are not detected (PCIe x16 slot).

First I think the controller is defect but I could tested it in a HP ML350G5 machine. It works.

My SATA drives are ok too. I tested it in a ML350G5.

Regards,

Hw-man

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Hi hw-man,

My cable is precisely equal to this one: (I bought mine on eBay from this seller).

It's been working fine on my dc7700. I don't know if the P400 would work on a dc7800, though it should.

Maybe you could test the cable on the ML350 before you buy a new one?

Regards,

Paulo

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Virtual_Jazz
Contributor
Contributor

Hi Guys,

Can anyone advice me if this whitebox would work. Is it VT enable and support x64 Vm.

HP/Compaq DC7100 Tower PC P4 HT 2.8Ghz/1GB/DVD/160GB/XP

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Argyle
Enthusiast
Enthusiast

A P4 2.8 GHz will not support x64 VMs.

You can check for VT compatibility in this list for intel:

Model number 520 in that list is a P4 2.8.

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Virtual_Jazz
Contributor
Contributor

Hi Guys,

Has anyone been able to get a whitebox that supports x64vms and works straight out of the box for about £300? Still looking for the right whitebox, but a bit short on cash

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Erik_Zandboer
Expert
Expert

Running ESX 3.5 update1 on two identical machines:

Asus M2N-VM mainboard

4x 1GB DDR2 ram

AMD 64 X2 4000+ dualcore CPU

2x Intel Gbit desktop NICs (1x PCIe, 1x PCI)

Adaptec 29160

This configuration runs 5-7 VMs per host easilly, for storage I use an EONstor (device that carries RAID arrays of SATA disks and presents them on two parallel SCSI busses). Even VMotion, DRS and HA works! 64bit OSses run as well. (Tested XP64 and Solaris10 64bits)

I have seen issues with SATA just like you, able to install ESX, but it fails on bootup. The solution which comes to mind: Use ESX 3i !! Boot the server from a USB stick carrying 3i, and use SATA for VMFS storage only. Works like a dream Smiley Happy

Visit my blog at http://www.vmdamentals.com
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Virtual_Jazz
Contributor
Contributor

Hi Erik,

How did you get your stuff to work. I have similar kit, actually ASUS M2N-SLI deluxe AM2 motherboard, AMD Athlon 642 2.8GH 5600+ processor, 4GB RAM, 500GB SATA and Adpatec 2940 318Gb scsi.

Any tips would be greatly appreciated. I would rather spend another £100 -£150 to get this box working, than buy a new box altogether.

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Erik_Zandboer
Expert
Expert

Hi Virtual_Jazz,

SATA is not always supported on consumer mainboards. I know it does NOT work on the M2N-VM (which I have), I know it DOES WORK on the M2N-E (collegue of mine). However, the M2N-E will install ESX on SATA, but not boot it. He uses 3i to boot ESX, then uses the SATA pure as VMFS storage. I'm not sure on the Asus M2N-sli deluxe, chances are that SATA won't work on that one (as with many other consumer mainboards).

The solution I use is somewhat out of the ordinary (and way from supported): I use an EONSTOR which delivers a dual SCSI bus (allthough my disks are SATA), and I have Adaptec 29160 SCSI cards in both of my ESX hosts.

Visit my blog at http://www.vmdamentals.com
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Virtual_Jazz
Contributor
Contributor

Hi Erik,

I have an adaptec 2940 and 3*18GB scsi drives, but esx 3.5 does not see them while trying to install. So might work if I get the 29160, and some more scsi disks?

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Erik_Zandboer
Expert
Expert

Hi,

I have succesfully used Adaptec 2940UW cards with ESX 3.0 and ESX 3.5. Make sure your 2940 is on the HCL:

Do'nt forget that if you get a PCIx card (64 bit PCI), it will work in an 32 bit slot, but you should make sure that the PCB behind the slot is clear of any tall components...

Do you see the disks in the BIOS of the card? did you setup the SCSI IDs on all disks properly?

I would recommend to get a RAID controller, then you can join your 18GB disks in a RAID5 or even RAID0 config, which can actually be quite speedy once you get to U160 (that is, if your disks support those bus speeds).

Visit my blog at http://www.vmdamentals.com
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Virtual_Jazz
Contributor
Contributor

Hi Erik,

Cant confirm now if my card is on the hcl, but I am guessing so. If I were to go for the 29160, I have found 1 on ebay for about £40, would this be a recommended solution, however if Iam considering a raid controller, got any recommendations. Really looking to spend no more than £100 - 150 to get this thing working.

Thinking back though, @ post my pc keeps saying no disks found, but it says that for even my sata drive. I would be so happy if I can get this thing working

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Dave_Mishchenko
Immortal
Immortal

I have an adaptec 2940 and 3*18GB scsi drives, but esx 3.5 does not see them while trying to install.

Do you get a message about picking an install source before you get the above error? It may be that ESX is having a problem with the install CD and not the storage. What model of SATA controller does the MB have?

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Erik_Zandboer
Expert
Expert

Hi Virtual_Jazz,

Adaptec 2940 should simply work. Even the non UW's are on the HCL. If your machine does not find any disks at bios post, you can be almost certain ESX won't either. The only exception is when you have devices not on LUN0, but that will not be the case when you hook up disks. I think your first step should be to check your SCSI cable setup, it can be rather complex if you are not used to SCSI chaining. Make sure you have all disks on a chain with a terminator at the end. Make sure your 2940 also has a terminator active (enter the BIOS of the card). From the BIOS, you should be able to see your disks. If they do not show there, you have a problem, but it is not called ESX... Also do not forget to make sure all your disks have a different SCSI ID (jumpers on the disks), or otherwise they'll share the same SCSI ID, which is kind of like an IP address conflict.

I remember a saying which said to offer a goat every once in a while to your SCSI cable to keep it working ok, so pay attention to your setup Smiley Happy

Visit my blog at http://www.vmdamentals.com
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