Posted by: s002spa | June 2, 2009

VMware vSphere – Building a Lab on the Cheap!

With the release of VMware’s vSphere I decided it was finally time for me to invest in a home lab.  As an IT consultant specializing in Server & Storage Infrastructure it was simply a need that I could no longer overlook.

I rationalized that building a lab based on VMware vSphere would enable me to:

  1. Tinker with hardware…something that I *love* to do but simply don’t do often enough.
  2. Tinker with software…most notably the ever-growing stack of CDs/DVDs obtained via my Microsoft Action Pack Subscription.
  3. Spend money!

A quick check of server prices on both the HP and Dell websites gave me pause.  While I had both time and cash available to invest in building a home lab, I decided that I simply wasn’t willing to invest *that much* of my cash.

Convinced that there *had* to be some cheaper alternatives for the hardware, I turned my eye to, and set about compiling a parts list to build my own server.

I spent several hours reading product reviews at in addition to articles from like-minded folks and finally settled upon the following list of components:

Admittedly the list was motivated in part by the simple fact that there was a MicroCenter within 15 minutes of my door that had all of the items in stock.  Bonus!  With credit card in hand I set out for the store that I love to hate.  I collected the parts and made my way to the register for checkout.

Final total = $429.95 + tax

I am also eligible for a $30 rebate from Corsair which brings the total system cost to $399.95 + tax!!!

For those of you still reading, I’m sure you noticed that my parts list does not include storage of any sort.  That is because I plan to load ESXi from a USB flash drive.

With the ESXi server built, my next task is to build a small, dedicated NAS server that will be used to host an NFS Datastore.  In the meantime, I loaded a spare sATA disk into the server and created a local VMFS Datastore via the vSphere client.



  1. I minterested in building a similiar rig. Just curious if you are running Vsphere in it and if tis fully compatible (disk controller, NIC) with both esx and esxi 3.5 and 4. I cant seem to find that board and CPU at my local Microcenter, I did find a DP45SG intel board but I want to make sure its compatible first. Also would have ot go with a q9550 CPU. How many guest machines are you running? Generally please with the setup? Im looking at getting two so that I can hook them up to a SAN for Vmotion, etc..

    • I’ve only loaded ESXi 4 on it thus far – and it is fully compatible – I assume that means ESX 4 would load up fine as well. I built two servers and they run clustered with VMotion/DRS/HA – or at least they will as soon as I finish building up a NAS server to host the shared Datastore. 🙂

    • Just out of curiosity but do you know if the processor supports FT?

      • Based on some other posts I’ve read I believe it is – have not yet confirmed that however.

  2. Im in the same boat. Im trying to get two boxes and then configure one of my old boxes as an openfiler SAN serving up ISCSI. Just out of curiosity but are you going to just try the 60 day free trial to get the full blown setup? I assume so as I think thats the only way without paying for it. How many guests have you loaded? Is the server handling the load ok at this point?

    Thanks! Looking forward to more posts on your blog.

    • I will use trial software to get all the bells & whistles. This is just a home lab – a place to test new software and learn how to implement and work with the new features in VSphere. While I’m not running much just yet – I can easily forsee running 8-12 VMs (1 vCPU, 1-2GB RAM) without causing the servers to break a sweat – especially since performance is not my primary focus.

      • Hi Guys,

        Just wanted to know that Intel DG45ID , all worked fine .i.e. disk, NIC.

        I am looking forward to buy one this weekend.

      • DG45ID worked without issues here – all components recognzied and able to be used.

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