ESXi White Box Adventure – Part V, The Build Continues

Mission “return the giant ATI cards” was a success!  A quick swap for a Sapphire 5570 1GB Low Profile and an XFX 5450 1GB Low Profile (these cards are very similar, but differ in some interesting ways) and we are back in business.  The new cards ran $65 each, so a slight savings, but the main thing is they are low profile.

Opening the XFX, the first thing I notice is that a bracket swap is going to be required.  I notice that a low profile bracket has been supplied (which makes sense on a low profile card), but the LP bracket has cutouts only for DP and DVI.  Uh oh!


A tale of two brackets!

Removing the brackets is a pretty easy matter of one screw and the connector posts:
















The bracket removes easily enough, but the LP bracket being DP and DVI only is a bit of a stumper.  One option is to use a DVI to VGA adapter, but I prefer not to do that.  The other option is to do some quick and dirty moding “import tuner” style.  I decide to thread the VGA ribbon cable through the PCI slot and then rely on the usual PCI bracket play to hold the connector in place externally with the card seated.  The Gateway has a really odd slot cover arrangement, by the way.  Instead of the usual blank plate screwed in place (or, gasp, a blank plate clipped in place), it actually has a blank plate machined onto the slot.  You actually need to break the slot cover off like a metal tab.  It’s easy, but its strange and, of course, leaves you with no mounting screw. No screw? No problem!  We have the Mystery Screw that we discovered rattling around the case yesterday!


The Mystery Screw returns!

As expected, the ribbon cable finds enough play to fit with the card seated and once the bracket is screwed down, it doesn’t look half bad.  Ghetto sure, but functional and good enough for government work:

Well... there it is...

With the XFX mounted securely, it is time to close her up and move on to the Sapphire.  Hoping the Sapphire will be a more thoughtful design I crack open the package and am not disappointed.  The Sapphire also has the LP bracket with DVI and DP, but unlike the XFX, it includes a secondary LP bracket for VGA if you are willing to sacrifice a slot.  I certainly do, since nothing else is going into that PCI-E 1x slot, so it is great to see the supplemental bracket.  Score 1 for Sapphire!  XFX take note.  It is possible to be an el cheapo budget part without getting ridiculous about it!

Needle nose surgery
Both brackets in place












The final result is much cleaner with the Sapphire.  Time to close up the second system and move both of them to their final resting place.  I have decided to push the thermal profile of my home office to the limits and locate these two hosts side by side with my monster gaming rig.  I figure if the central heat ever goes, the family can huddle in the office and enjoy some incredibly energy inefficient, but super effective heating!  Originally I had located the test server at the structured wiring closet in the basement, but I plan to do a lot more tinkering with this build so a console nearby is handy.  First step is to plug these bad boys into the UPS because, hey, its there so why not use it!  In all seriousness, having the ESX servers, the core infrastructure switches, and the NAS all on UPS might actually come in handy at some point (beyond just for the happiness of seeing the “UPS” light lit in the NAS management console).  The UPS is an APC Smart UPS 750, so it should be fine for the NAS, 2 SFF machines, the tiny monitor and the two switches.


System 1, UPS, engaged!


Before putting both machines in their final resting place, since the space is tight, I decide it is time to do the network upgrade.  The Cisco packaging is pretty spartan, a disk, thin manual, and the product, but it is a decent little unit and it will fit well on top of the D-Link:


We have VLAN!

I decide to cable port 8 on the D-Link to port 1 on the Cisco for the switch interconnect.  Port 1 on the SLM2008 can be used for PoE if you choose to power the switch via the network.  I don’t mind plugging it in and it seems to be a normal port when used in a powered config.  Hopefully this won’t cause trouble.

Now that VLAN capability has been introduced into the network, I decide I need to do some recabling of existing devices.  My monster desktop has two Realtek 1Gbps NICs (Gigabyte EX58-UD5R) and the ReadyNAS Ultra 6 does as well.  Unfortunately, the ReadyNAS doesn’t support 802.1Q, but I am hoping that leaving it untagged on a port in a VLAN group should work.  Either way, the logical topology can be sorted out later, for now it’s just physical cabling.  I hate having to add a new cable into my desktop build since I had finally achieved a near Zen state of cabling management and tunneling, but sometimes these things can’t be helped:

What a rats nest! The blue is heading for the SLM2008
Farewell clean cable management, I will miss ye!











With the main PC and the ReadyNAS both having their secondary NICs cabled into the Cisco, we are headed for the home stretch!  Time to put the final pieces in place, fix my cable management, and see how horrible it all ends up looking!


The Lab in all of its limited glory!
Thats all folks! That is a LOT of BTUs!










The second shot shows the completed room.  Not bad really considering how much computing power is piled into that corner.  The Gateways stack pretty well and the network is all nestled under the end table.  The little monitor proves how great it is once again by slotting in pretty much anywhere.  The IO Gear KVM is of the fixed cable variety, and these are usually very messy, but I am able to tuck it away behind the table and it has a neat remote, so nothing is showing.  The mini keyboard (decent for $10!) rounds out the setup.


The hardware build is officially fully done!  ESXi 5 is in place on two 8GB, 1TB, GPU equipped 2.8Ghz dual core systems.  Next entry will focus on LAN config and we will then be ready to move onto some vSphere and vCenter goodness!


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