For a very long time my homelab consisted of the following equipment:
- Host: Lenovo T61 laptop which is now gone, so sorry I do no longer have the exact specifications.
- Switch: D-Link DGS-1216T
- Shared storage (NFS): QNAP TS-639
However when this was originally setup, my role was as a IT consultant at a small value added reseller.
Since August 2013 I have been working as a System Engineer and Instructor for distributor Arrow ECS.
The business unit I am in handles mainly PernixData, Veeam and VMware products.
I teach Veeam and VMware – I handle all three as a system engineer doing consulting work and presales with partners
I really wanted to replace the ESXi host “server” with something that had less limitations and higher performance.
Being able to use PernixData FVP in my homelab and having a quad core cpu were hard requirements.
Having the option of adding a second NIC was a nice to have.
After researching the market it came down to three options:
- Apple Mac Mini
- HP MicroServer
- Intel NUC
Reviewing the Intel NUC I was unable to locate a model with quad core CPU. Instead I found a Gigabyte BRIX model which did sport a quad core cpu.
The box it self came without any kind of storage and memory. Also it did not include any option for adding a second NIC.
Local pricing came to approximately $600 for the unit it self.
The HP Microserver seemed to only be available with lower end cpu’s, but the CPU could however be replaced. Including decent quad core CPU and 16 GB memory the price ended up at $900.
The Apple Mac Mini took me quite some time to research. Initially I was looking at 2014 models but found out they had soldered memory to the mainboard?! Why would they do that! Since I am not going to buy memory from Apple at insane prices (I guess this is what they are hoping to force people to do) and the model is not available in a quad core version, I decided to look at the previous generation that was still for sale. I managed to find a late 2012 model with i7 quad core, 4 GB ram and 1 TB HDD for $790 including two year extra Apple Care.
I went with the Apple Mac Mini in the end and it has not disappointed me!
Since the purchase I have upgraded it with:
- Replaced memory modules 2x 2 GB with 2x 8 GB.
- Added an Intel DC S3700 200 GB solid state drive.
Before adding the SSD and memory I wanted to install ESXi 5.5 U2, so first issue was to find a good custom ISO for the Mac Mini.
Unfortunately the Mac Mini reported the actual 4 GB memory as 3.86 GB memory, which was below the 4 GB limit VMware has set.
Some Googling later I ended up on Spiceworks forums, which contained a post to Dave Tuckers blogpost with a very nice guide on how to resolve this issue.
More to come in part 2!