Sunday, September 13, 2015

Mini VMware vSphere 6 Homelab on VSAN with Shuttle DS81

Finally I have a homelab to support my study on VCAP-DCA and my job. My current work often requiring me to test a complex upgrade or a complex setup. VMware Hands-on Lab and VMware Product Walkthrough are great to learn how to configure specific features. But not all products and features available and the lab does not provide walkthrough from scratch - for example installing ESXi host, vCenter Server, etc.

It was not easy for me because I need to submit and present to my CFO - my wife, WAF (Wife Acceptance Factor) is one of the design factors that need to be considered plus there are also some technical constraints. I can only submit a Purchase Order after the BoQ has been approved by CFO.
- Total budget is $2,000USD
- Low watt. Apartment's maximum watt is 1,300W, there are fridge, aircons, TV, lights, etc. We are looking at lab that draws up to 200W max 300W.
- Compact and small form factor. Apartment's size is only 33m2, there is not much free space left.

Looking at above lists, I was not sure if I can get a homelab that can meet above requirements and constraints so I look for a cloud that can provide a lab with bunch of VMs with nested ESXi. I found ravello systems but I'm not sure if I can rely online labs and still prefer physical labs.
I was visiting Jason Langer's blog and read his post on replacing homelab with ravello systems.
I'm interested in the Physical Design lab on Micro-ATX w/ Lian-Li Case and Intel NUC. The Micro-ATX based lab can provide 32GB RAM per host, but the power supply is 400W. So I need to go with Intel NUC w/ 16GB RAM.

I was planning to get a small 4-bays storage for SOHO/SMB like Synology DS415+ but it is quite expensive.  Alternative for 4-bays in Synology w/ lowest price is DS414slim. But again still quite expensive and I'm not sure if the total budget is sufficient. So I decided to go with VMware VSAN.

To build a VSAN with NUC, I will need NUC that support multiple disks (1 SSD and 1 HDD). Apparently there are a lot of model for NUCs and I wanted something that can run vSphere 6. Florian Grehl's has an article on ESXi 6.0 Image that works with NUC. Most of local electronic/IT shops here sell the complete set NUC and in the end the memory & disks will be useless since I will replace it to 16GB RAM and at least 120GB SSD + 1TB HDD. NUC with Intel vPro is cool because it provides a KVM Remote Control. I agree with Mike Tabor as he pointed on his article Intel NUC i5 5th Generation an ESXi lab improvement, the best suite would be NUC5i5MYHE - 5th Gen Processor, 2 internal disks, and Intel vPro. So I contacted a local Intel's distributor to ask for a BoQ on NUC5i5MYHE / D54250WYKH2 / NUC5i5RYH, they only sell Intel stuff so I need to buy memory, disks, etc from different shops and build my own. The total cost is above $2K and it is quite troublesome to purchase from different shops, one of the risk the warranty and support are separate and there could be compatibility issue if I'm not picking up the correct brand and model.

I was looking for alternatives for Intel NUC and Shuttle DS81 looks promising.