Monthly Archives: January 2017

Home Lab – 10Gbs Install

Next bit of the Home Lab update – a 10Gbs link between the 2 servers.   For less than £50?

Mellanox MT26448 ConnectX 10GbE. (PCIe 2.0)

From the US.  £48 delivered.  In 8 days.  2 cards, 2 cables with SFP+ on each end.  Courtesy of eBay.

installation went like this:

  • Shut down server and unplug
  • remove top cover and remove daughter-board
  • Install card on low-profile side
  • re-install daughter-board
  • close server and reconnect power
  • Fire It Up!

ESXi 6 detected it and installed the drivers without any intervention, happily displays 10GbE.

Same for the other server.  Hook up the cable and lo and behold – 10Gbs goodness in your system.

First test – vMotion.  2 new vmk ports – and with a mask of   Swap the vMotion traffic over.   I had used vMotion over the USB ports and it was pretty quick taking 30 – 40 seconds for a hefty vm.  Over the new 10Gbs it went….. 2%… done.  In about 5 seconds!

But its not all speed I’m interested in, its being able to run a number of VLANs and networks across it.  This is a lab after all.  I need a couple of decent SSDs and more RAM and VSAN is next on my target list.

To go along with VCSA 6.5 HA.  I set that up this afternoon – running over 10Gb.  Works really well.

The long-term plan is to find a managed switch with 4 x SFP+ and 24 or 48 copper ports then I can expand what I can do with 10gbs.  With another 2 cards and cables……


Home Lab – USB 3.0 NICs.

Carrying on from my previous post – Home Lab – reloaded! I thought I would detail the additions I’ve made.

The first was a follow-on from a post on VirtuallyGhetto – William Lam’s excellent blog.

He has a post detailing how to set up a USB 3.0 single or dual NIC adapter.

I have followed the instructions and can confirm that it works a treat and takes 2 minutes to install.  Download the VIBs from Williams page, follow the instructions and Robert is your mother’s brother!

I used the Dual-port StarTech – £50 from Amazon.  USB 3.0 has a throughput of 5Gbs.  So 2 x 1Gbs NICs are not exactly going to push it are they?  Network speed is excellent, although I haven’t monitored it yet so don’t have the numbers.  But I do now have 4 x 1Gbs ports.

The StarTech adapters also support LACP, Jumbo frames (4000kb max), and lots of other goodies.  So if you are NIC-challenged – its an easy setup and an easy win.

Home Lab – Reloaded!

Right.  I have a new home lab.  Still have the old one but the new one is SO much better.

I decided to bite the bullet and buy new.  Restrictions included:

  • Price – it is a home lab after all
  • Power consumption
  • WAF
  • Size
  • Normal operating volume

I really liked the Supermicros but at the price point and with DDR4 being the price it is, they were just too expensive.  So before Christmas I did some extensive research, and stumbled upon the HPE DL20 Gen 9.  They are on the vSphere 6 HCL, They use the E3 v5 Xeons, and its the cheapest server I could find with the E3-1230-V5, the lowest powered of the E3 family with hyperthreading.  So I bought 2.  And was surprised to find them arrive with rapid-rail mounting kits!  Its all good!  And I am a very very happy camper!

And as far as the WAF goes – well she said that I could dip into savings to build my lab, but it MUST be future-proofed.  And I MUST be happy with it afterwards.  Would be rude not to comply.  After all….

The story so far:


  • 1U shallow 15″ depth.
  • 2 x PCIe 8 slots on daughter board
  • 2 x M2 headers on the Mobo
  • 2 x 1gbs NICs – one shared with iLO
  • Mine came with 16GB – 1 x DDR4
  • They are whisper-quiet, the fans do spin up occasionally and it sounds like they are breathing.  VERY Quietly!
  • Booting off a SanDisk 32GB USB 3.0 drive from the onboard socket
  • ESXi 6.0U2 – HP Custom Image
  • No CD but who uses them these days?  I have a USB BluRay player anyway if I need it.

Only negative is the inclusion of 2 x USB 2 ports on the front – but no VGA.  Odd.  2 x USB 3.0 on the rear with a VGA there though.  In a tight rack its a tad frustrating having to pull the server out to struggle to plug in the monitor though a small gap at the back in but I have resurrected an old 2-port KVM to use with them so that’s not necessary any more.

They come in 2 storage configurations – 2 x 3.5″ SAS and 4 x 2.5″ Hot-swap SAS.  I opted for the 2.5″ hot-swap for greater flexibility.  However no drive caddies.  This IS HP don’t forget.  However – Amazon to the rescue – £12.  Not HP genuine but have the spinney round LEDs.   I bought a pair of WD Red 750GB 2.5″ NAS drives.  There are reasons for this:

  • They are SATA – but consumer-grade SATAs are not designed for 24×7 operation.   The WD NAS Drives are.
  • They are designed for hot-swap and RAID – so can handle failing properly and being removed from a RAID without taking the whole set down.
  • I already have 2 of the 3.5″ WD Reds in 3TB versions and really like them.
  • Its a HOME LAB not an enterprise production datacenter.  SAS drives are just too expensive.  These were a good price.  Don’t care about massive performance differences.
  • NAS can present NFS datastores and run VMs happily.   So these should do fine.
  • I also run iSCSI from both servers to a 3TB WD Red in a Synology NAS.

This is the basic setup.  I will add other posts to separately detail the further enhancements – USB 3.0 NICs, 10Gbs NICs, VCSA 6.5 and so on.

These little servers just keep giving and I’m really happy with them.