As many of you know, I’ve been running my standard homelab on the Shuttle SH67H3 platform for awhile now. I love the flexibility it gives me with up to 32GB of RAM. Although, I know there have been many of you asking about even smaller units. So I wanted to do a review about another alternative platform that runs ESXi 5.x. The Shuttle XH61V. The reason this unit is a homelab option is that it comes with two NICs onboard and supports Sandy Bridge and Ivy Bridge processors.
To build 1 complete ESXi host, you’re looking at the following list of components. The components can be swapped out as pricing changes, but these components seem to work very well but in theory, as long as you’re buying supported hardware, it should work!
- Shuttle XH61V
- Intel Core i7-3770S (This will give you 8 logical processors running at 3.1GHz)
- Crucial 16GB Kit (8GBx2) DDR3 1333 Memory Modules (Note: 204 pin!)
- Sandisk Cruzer 16GB Small Form Factor USB Stick (Boot in non USB3 port)
- Samsung 840 EVO 250GB 2.5in SSD
Some hardware specs of the units:
|FORM FACTOR||Mini-ITX MB
3.5 L chassis
|PROCESSOR||Support Intel Sandy Bridge / Ivy Bridge 65W CPU|
|MEMORY||2 x 204 pin DDR3 SODIMM slots,8GB per DIMM (Max 16GB)
Dual Channel DDR3 1333 Mhz
|ETHERNET||Realtek 8111E X2
IEEE 802.3u 100Base-T specification revision 1.0
Support Wake-On-LAN function
|ONBOARD CONNECTORS||(2) SATA connectors
(2) 1×5 pin USB 2.0 header
(1) ATX main power connector
(1) ATX 12V power connector
(2) set 4pin fan connectors
One benefit of these units is they’re very quiet and use a very small amount of power. You really don’t hear them running whatsoever, especially if you’re using an SSD.
A couple other things to think about. You will probably need to build a custom ESXi 5.5 iso if you plan to use ESXi 5.5. ESXi 5.1 will work out of the box. You can use the steps I have laid out for you over here. Just navigate halfway down to the “fresh install” section for instructions on how to build in the Realtek driver. It’s very simple to do.
Now remember, you might have some USB sticks laying around, so you might be able to avoid that and in regards to the SSD, it’s not required but given the coolness factor of VSAN, you might be kicking yourself down the road if you don’t install an SSD. You could also not buy the I7 and purchase a slightly cheaper processor but remember that you might lose out on the Hyper Threading. Just be sure to check the compatibility list over at the Shuttle site.