I’m super happy to be off a couple small 4GB desktops and onto a real server class computer. CPU has not been the bottleneck for me, but memory has been very limiting. Most of my test machines sit around idle most of the time, but having to pick and choose which ones you have to start and stop has been a pain in my side. But no longer. I now have the following hardware up and running ESXi 4.1.
This motherboard supports 2 CPUs and up to 192GB of memory using 16GB chips. Although those size chips are a bit out of my price range I was able to find 8GB chips for a reasonable price. I’ve started with just 3 8GB chips and one CPU, but I’ll be able to expand that up to 48GB before having to add a second processor. And I leave myself the option to add a second CPU and up to another 48GB memory.
I read many reports of people having difficulties fitting their SuperMicro boards into cases or having to mod their case. You can see on SuperMicro’s website that some of their board sizes are listed as proprietary. This one is listed as Extended ATX so fitting it into my second NZXT Case was easy. I only had to remove the two drive cages to allow the motherboard to slide into place. After the motherboard was installed, I was able to put one of the hard drive cages back in, but the board does not allow the second cage to fit. 4 hard drive slots should be enough especially since I’m not using any at the moment. I’ve installed ESXi onto a USB thumb drive and use iSCSI for VM storage. One note though, this motherboard is designed for the power supply to be on the top instead of the bottom. My power cables are having to run across the motherboard.
This power supply is overkill for me at the moment, but it has the two 8 pin connectors needed to use two CPUs and will allow me plenty of growth without having to worry about it. Not to mention it was on sale for same price as lower wattage PSUs that don’t have 2 8pin connectors.
Like I said CPU has not been my bottleneck so I did not go for a high end processor. 4 cores at this speed should satisfy me for a while.
Luckily I read other reviews where it was mentioned that you need a cooler with threaded screws instead of the snap in clips that come on most coolers.
Memory – Kingston ValueRAM 24GB DDR3 SDRAM Memory Module – KVR1333D3D4R9SK3/24G – 24GB (3 x 8GB) – 1333MHz ECC – DDR3 SDRAM – 240-pin DIMM
Non ECC memory would not give me the future expansion capabilities I want. The supported memory listed on SuperMicro’s website I found to be very expensive. Kingston’s website has a list of motherboards and memory tested and guaranteed to work with it. I found a 3 pack part number for my 8GB chips and found it at buy.com for a good price.
All this purchased from NewEgg.com (except the memory from buy.com) set me back less than $1400. I built my first desktop PC in 1993 for over $2000. More recently, the last couple I built still cost me around $500 – $600. I’ll be able to easily run 10 VMs on this setup, probably a few more. I see my upgrade path being $400 for another 24GB of memory and 10 more VMs. Then a second CPU and 24GB more memory for $600 and 10 more VMs. Lastly another 24GB of memory for $400 and 10 more VMs. If I need that many more VMs in the next couple of years I’m in trouble. Total all said and done would be 40 VMs on one server costing $2800. My setup may be a little cheaper than others since I’m not having to purchase any controllers or hard drives, but I spent that money on a beefy iSCSI server already.