Intel NUC: Perfect vSphere 5.5 Home Lab

In the last few years Intel has been releasing these new NUC boxes. They’re very small, lightweight and can best of all run ESXi 5.5 with little modification! 41sLUt4NddL

The goal of this post is to put together an updated “Perfect vSphere 5.5 Lab” post. My last update to my “Perfect vSphere 5 Home Lab” post is a based on Shuttle units which are now getting harder to come by. So an update was needed. An alternative to these Intel NUC boxes are the Shuttle XH61V lab I have written about.

These little units are now running successfully in my home lab and have been very nice replacements for my Shuttle units. They’re smaller and require even less power. They’re not quite as powerful, but the size makes up for that. You can stack two of these and they don’t even take up half the space of a single Shuttle unit. It’s important to note that the prices listed include the processor.

DC53427HYE Kit D53427RKE
DC3217IYE Kit DC33217GKE
DC3217BY Kit DC33217CK
DCCP847DYE Kit DCP847SKE
Form factor
UCFF
Processor
Core i5-3427U
Core i3 3217-U
Core i3 3217-U
Celeron 847
Clock Speed
1.8 GHz (2.8 max)
1.8 GHz
1.8 GHz
1.1 GHz
Cores
2
2
2
2
HT
YES
YES
YES
NO
Max Memory
16 GB
16 GB
16 GB
16 GB
Network
1x 1Gb Ethernet
1x 1Gb Ethernet
1x 1Gb Ethernet
1x 1Gb Ethernet
Ports
1x USB 3.0
2x USB 2.0
2x USB2.0 (int.)
3x USB 2.0
2x USB2.0 (int.)
Thunderbolt
3x USB 2.0
2x USB2.0 (int.)
3x USB 2.0
2x USB2.0 (int.)
Intel VT-d
YES
NO
NO
NO
VT-x with EPT
YES
YES
YES
YES
AES
YES
NO
NO
NO
TDP
17 W
17 W
17 W
17 W

The Kits are shipped with:

  • Main board
  • Processor
  • External Power Adapter
  • VESA Bracket (which we won’t use).

To install ESXi you will need:

  • Memory (SO-DIMM DDR3)
  • AC Power Cord (C5) (The weird 3 prong one)
  • mSATA SSD or USB-Stick to install ESXi to.

There are several different models to choose from. The i5 being your best option for an ESXi Home Lab. The SSDs are optional especially if you have another form of shared storage. I would highly recommend a Synology DS 1513+. I have owned one for the last year and they are great units!!

Items you’ll need:

1. Chassisnuc-shopping
 2. Memorynuc-sodimm
 3.  SSDnuc-ssd
 4.  Power Cordc5-plug
 5. USB Stick
nuc-usbstick

After you put your parts together, you will need to use PowerCLI to build yourself a custom ISO that includes the correct drivers for the NIC.

Required Files:

Then run these commands and burn the completed iso to disk.

#If you've never used PowerCLI before, set the ExecutionPolicy to RemoteSigned. Skip this step if you have already.
Set-ExecutionPolicy RemoteSigned 
#Makes sure the ImageBuilder snapin is added.
Add-PSSnapin VMware.ImageBuilder
#Connects to the software depot. Takes a few seconds to connect.
Add-EsxSoftwareDepot https://hostupdate.vmware.com/software/VUM/PRODUCTION/main/vmw-depot-index.xml
#Adds NUC drivers.
Add-EsxSoftwareDepot c:\Temp\net-e1001e-1.0.0-offline_bundle.zip
Add-EsxSoftwareDepot c:\Temp\sata-xahci-1.10-1-offline_bundle.zip
#Takes the standard ESXi 5.5 iso and clones it so we can essentially slipstream in the missing drivers. 
New-EsxImageProfile -CloneProfile "ESXi-5.5.0-1331820-standard" -name "ESXi-5.5.0-1331820-Whitebox" -vendor "withNICs"
#Take our newly modified profile and spit out an iso to use. This will take a few minutes. Be patient. 
Export-ESXImageProfile -ImageProfile "ESXi-5.5.0-1331820-Whitebox" -ExportToISO -filepath C:\ESXi-5.5.0-1331820-Whitebox.iso
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4 Responses to Intel NUC: Perfect vSphere 5.5 Home Lab

  1. syhrr says:

    Good post, thanks.

    One thing to check before ordering : some NUC require 1.35V DDR3L SO-DIMMs like mine (D54250WYKH). Some others accept 1.35V or 1.5V

  2. Frank says:

    Falling in love with this NUC setup, Ryan. Noticed they’ve got a line with vPro technology. Would that be better? Or is the cost difference not worth it?

    I may wait for their i7 lineup if the power consumption doesn’t drastically jump.

  3. Pingback: TinkerTry IT @ home | Broadwell-DE announced – Intel Xeon D-1520/1540 crams incredible virtualization lab specs into tiny mITX size

  4. Pingback: The Perfect vSphere 6 Home Lab | Ryan Birk – Virtual Insanity

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