VMware ESXi 5 home lab upgrade

In the past I’ve been using a single server to run my VMware ESXi home lab. it was slow, old, big and loud. I’ve been meaning to upgrade my home lab for a while and just never got around to it, until now! When looking for new hardware I wanted the servers to be as compact as possible, quiet, and low energy usage as possible while still having some horsepower.

I debated on going the whitebox solution as I build all my own desktops anyway, I also looked at several other solutions such as the HP ML310e server, Shuttle XH61V barebones machine, but ultimately decided to go with two Intel NUC i5’s.

Intel NUC i5 and 16GB ram

Intel NUC i5 DC53427HYE Features:

  • Uses very little energy
  • Completely quiet
  • Supports up to 16GB RAM
  • A dual core CPU that scores nearly 3,600 in PassMark benchmarking
  • Includes vPro which allows me to easily run both NUC’s headless
  • Extremely small, nearly 4 1/2″ inch square footprint

I loaded both of my NUC i5’s ESXi hosts with 16GB G.SKILL DDR3 RAM, and a SanDisk Cruzer Fit 8GB flash drive to install ESXi 5.0 onto – they are smaller than a thumbnail and provide more than enough space to install ESXi.

The only “downsides” I’ve found with the Intel NUC are:

  • The NUC doesn’t come with a power cord, so you’ll have to buy a clover leaf style cord if you don’t already have any.
  • Only one NIC, but really for home use this isn’t a terribly huge deal.
  • Speaking of the NIC, the Intel 82579v NIC on the NUC isn’t on the standard driver list. This is easily fixed though by downloading the correct drivers (net-e1000e-2.3.2.x86_64.vib)(mirror) and injecting it into the ESXi ISO using ESXi-Customizer.

Once I had the correct NIC drivers added to the ESXi ISO, I simply followed the same steps as previously written in my Install ESXi 5.1 from a USB Flash Drive post, then plugged the USB drives into the NUC’s and performed the install from my home computer using the remote connect thanks to vPro!

ESXi lab cluster

I’ve been running this setup now for several weeks and everything seems to be running perfectly and vSphere is only reporting two minor warning messages:

home lab host error

The first warning message “This host currently has no management network redundancy.” can be silenced by setting das.ignoreRedundantNetWarning to true in the HA Advanced Options:

  1. Open the vSphere Client and right click on the cluster and click on Edit Settings.
  2. Select vSphere HA and click on Advanced Options.
  3. In the Options column type: das.ignoreRedundantNetWarning
  4. In the Value column type: true
  5. Click OK.
  6. Finally, right click on each host and click on “Reconfigure for vSphere HA”.

home lab HA error fix

Second warning message: Since ESXi 5 is installed on the USB thumb drive, I am given the second warning message “System logs on host are stored on non-persistent storage.“.

I have since setup my Synology DS412+ NAS to also host a syslog server and then pointed each host to the Synology Syslog server. I will have a future post about how to enable the syslog server on the Synology and how to make ESXi send logs to the syslog server.

All in all I’m very pleased with the upgrade. The new NUC i5’s are having no trouble running the virtual machines and I believe I can load them up with several more VM’s with no issues. Having two hosts now also opens up more things I can play with while at home. I’m now using MUCH less power than before while being completely silent and out of sight with their tiny footprint.

For my next upgrade, I’d really like to replace my Synoloy DS412+ with a DS1813+ so I can keep my RAID 10 while adding a hot spare and have room to add SSD cache as well as a single SSD drive for VM’s that use high IOPs.

UPDATE: My Intel NUC home lab is now running ESXi 5.5 without any issue. I completed the upgrade via command line which is very quick and easy.

UPDATE 2: One of my SanDisk Cruzer Fit’s have failed and I have since added a third NUC to my ESXi home lab and doing so I’ve replaced all of the Cruzer Fit’s with Sandisk Cruzer Blades. They are not as small as the Fit’s but still very small and have been working without any problems so far.

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