The time has come once again to update my home lab. I’m currently running Shuttle DS81 units and a Synology DS1515+. I plan to keep the NAS unit and upgrade my hosts. I have decided to move back to Intel NUCs this time. I have used them in the past and similar to the Shuttle boxes they are low power, relativley inexpensive, small and quiet. Everyone asks me about cost and generally these can be built for $650-750 USD.
Lets start with a parts list. For simplicity we will focus on building a simple standalone host, however you mind find it nicer having 2 or 3 of them. I will let your budget decide that!
- Be sure to update to at least BIOS v44. NVMe devices can be used after the BIOS has been updated. Anything prior to that and you’ll wonder why they disappeared or are unavailable.
These Intel NUCs are nice in that they don’t require any out of box drivers to be loaded like the Shuttles required. Use the vanilla ESXi 6 install media and you will be fine.
NOTE: The disks below are only required if you’re planning to use vSAN, you can simply install ESXi to USB stick if you’re going to use some kind of NAS device like a Synology. For a basic no vSAN homelab.
- This can be used for a vSAN cache disk.
- This will be used for vSAN capacity disk.
- Because the NUC only has a single network adapter with no real way of expanding or adding additional adapters, you’ll want to ideally setup a few vLANs to segment your network traffic.
William Lam runs a very similar setup and has additional vSAN details on his page.