ESXi White Box Adventure – Part I, The Story Begins

I’ve decided that now that I essentially work for VMware (vis a vis VCE), it’s high time to get serious with the ESXi home lab.  My previous setup served it’s purpose surprisingly well, that being a vehicle for staying up to speed on the competition as I evangelized HyperV, but was finally hitting a capability wall.

What I had learned from that first go around was that VMware “white box” can be a bit of a pain, but that, shockingly, an old Dell Inspiron 530s slimline I used for tinkering with Linux could be re-purposed perfectly to ESXi 4. Downsides are that it doesn’t support VT-D (so no 64bit guests) and is limited to Fast E with the onboard LAN.

Farewell mighty Inspiron! You will be missed! (er... sort of)

So with free access to the full VMware enterprise suite (including juicy betas) and a more compelling driver for tinkering than mere competitive insight, I have started once again down the rocky road of VMware lab building.

By way of background, I am always enthusiastically ready to “roll my own” when it comes to computer builds. I’ve built more “borderline evidence of mental illness” gaming rigs than I care to remember (dating back to the Amiga and ST glory days when “roll your own” often required a soldering iron)   In fact the latest science project can be seen in its awful glory on the YouTube channel.


The Rogues Gallery
E-Peen Exhibits A-Z', recent builds...

All of that said, and despite evidence presented to the contrary, I’m always less than enthusiastic with the “fully from scratch” build approach when it comes to home server projects in general, and ESXi in particular.  It might be that I pour so much of my soul into the construction of unholy bleeding edge gaming rigs that there is none left for side projects, or it might just be that I am so lazy that, absent the incentive of insane frame rates, I just can’t bring myself to start picking piece parts.  Add to that the very real constraints presented by the ESX White Box HCL, and the fact that I don’t want my server gear to take up any room (think mATX or mini-ITX) and suddenly the idea of hunting down a commodity slimline that can run ESXi out of the box becomes pretty appealing.  On that note, enter “the shopping list”!  Stay tuned for Part II where I will run down the parts selection and pricing info.


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