Needs and wants for TinkerTry's 2022 virtualization home lab replacement based on Intel Xeon D-1700/2700
Specs for Xeon D-1700/2700 systems are starting to surface on the internet, partially in response to their company announcements at Mobile World Congress. But before I get into those details in future articles, I've been writing quite a bit about my wishes for a worthy successor to the popular-for-good-reasons Supermicro-based Xeon D-1541/1567 Bundles. They were the only mini tower capable of holding 4 SATA drives, with each bay either the 3.5" size (think $300 18TB spinny drive) or 2.5" size (eg., 4TB SSDs). They were the only mini-tower quiet system I could find based on Intel Xeon D-1500 Series anywhere in the US that were also on the VMware Compatibility Guide, which tends to help protect your investment in your home lab, and allowed for a longer, more affordable lifecycle of 5 years or more.
Now that most of the world has moved away from 3.5" drives as being necessary, so I may need to implement a different way to handle my daily backup needs to 3.5" drives through a very efficient NAS or the like, especially since server-class gear like Xeon D doesn't offer Thunderbolt storage extensibility, and USB devices aren’t natively supported for VMFS datastores. VMware doesn't tend to handle recovery from external media mishaps very well. I still have some PTSD from a non-locking eSATA cable causing a PSOD and VMFS corruption.
I also need to keep overall watt burn at a minimum, given I leave my vSphere running 24x7. I also live in New England, the region of the US with the highest electricity prices. When you're going to leave something running 24x7 for years, you sure should include the cost of powering it all in the total cost figures you present to the CFO of your dwelling. Most folks want to sleep at night, not just from less fan noise, but from lower cost too.
This topic of suitable home lab replacement is something I've written about for quite a while in numerous articles, but this is the first time I'm putting out refined wish list like this, with the benefit of an actually-announced CPU helping me refine it to better match what now seems not just desirable but also quite possible. Note, we don't have the benefit of any pricing data yet on recently announced Xeon D-1700/2700 CPUs, and you may also want to check out my recent thinking on home labs at TinkerTry here too.
- Xeon D-1700 Series CPU with 8 cores
- 1 PCIe 4.0 slot
- 1 M.2 SATA or 2.5" SATA (for hypervisor)
- 4 M.2 NVMe slots
- 4 USB 3.0 Type A
- 1 1GbE RJ45 port for OOB management
(BMC, IPMI, iKVM, iDRAC, iLO)
- 2 1/10GbE RJ45 ports for networking
- Xeon D-1700 Series CPU with 10 cores
- 2 PCIe 4.0 slots
- 1 M.2 SATA (for hypervisor)
- 2 2.5" SATA drive bays
- 8 M.2 NVMe slots
(4 of them could be add-on optional via PCIe)
- 6 or 8 USB 3.2 Type A
- 1 1GbE RJ45 port for OOB management
(BMC, IPMI, iKVM, iDRAC, iLO)
- 2 1/10GbE RJ45 port for networking
- 1 1/10/25G SFP+ port for networking (with optional RJ45 support)
- Exact system listed on the VMware Compatibility Guide
- Fanless (for a much greater market of home lab virtualization enthusiasts, avoiding some of the need to locate such servers away from living spaces)
In addition to the Wants list above, likey very much in the pipe dream, not-gonna-happen category:
- Xeon D-2700 Series CPU with 20 cores
(with Xeon D 1700-like watt burn at idle, would need to be carefully tested like I did with Xeon D-1500)
- 4 3.5" SATA drives bays (could be instead of 2.5" drive bays)
- Exact system on the VMware vSAN Compatibility Guide vSAN ReadyNode list with readily available, affordable SSDs also on the vSAN VMware Compatibility Guide
- Large, low-speed fan
Disclosure: I was a VMware employee from 2017 to 2019, helping customers learn about a variety of vSAN ReadyNode and Dell VxRail solutions, so I'm biased, and I quite like vSAN. I also currently work at Dell as an SA talking to customers about a variety of enterprise solutions including Dell VxRail. But neither of these day jobs justified running vSAN or VxRail cluster fulltime at home. Even if something like VMware's Project nanoEDGE was something I'd be to just buy as a mostly turn-key solution. Instead, maybe a system capable of housing a resilient and supported boot device for proper vSphere 8 (or whatever it gets named). It would also probably need to have 4 capacity drives and 4 caching drives. This would allow a home lab vSAN enthusiast (or SE like I was) to occasionally run 4 nested ESXi VMs, each with a capacity drive and an NVMe caching drive passed through to it, something I tested in 2018. That way, a proper 4 node vSAN cluster could be created as a learning exercises with all the bells and whistles including erasure coding, and it would also actually be quite performant as well, so showing it off to others wouldn't be a problem either. Still, that's a lot of resources to have dedicated to vSAN, even though it'd all be running in one hosts. Why? Those 8 SSDs couldn't easily be repurposed for other uses when not using vSAN, at least not without breaking the vSAN cluster.
- Intel Xeon D-1700/D-2700 (Ice Lake D) finally launched, up to 20 cores/2.5GHz/3.5GHz Turbo/25GbE/1TB RAM and PCIe 4.0 doubling NVMe SSD speeds!
Feb 24 2022
- Intel Xeon D-1700/D-2700 (Ice Lake D), a promising choice for efficient home labs? (leak/rumor)
Feb 12 2022
- No future for booting ESXi from USB in VMware home labs, using max endurance microSD for ESXi 7.0U3 now, SATA/SATADOM or M.2 later
Oct 26 2021
- Supermicro SYS-5028D-TN4T mini-tower/Wiredzone Bundles are on the VCG for ESXi 7.0 Update 3
Oct 09 2021
- Intel has started sampling next-gen Intel Xeon D processors for space and power-constrained environments, promising for home labs?
Apr 07 2021
- New 1U Supermicro SuperServer SYS-E300-9D 4 and 8 core Xeon D-2100 models bring back the E300-8D's M.2 slot and network ports
Oct 31 2018
Given the higher return rates for 1U Xeon D-1500 systems to Wiredzone these past 3 years, I still have no regrets to focusing my attention on the much more versatile mini-tower form factor Bundles, with far greater family acceptance factor and bang-for-your-buck than all similarly priced 1U variants. That's all detailed at TinkerTry.com/compare. That said, of course I've been keeping my eye out for appealing alternatives all along, seen here for example.
Realistically, I'll likely need to wait for Intel's long-awaited 10nm production finally gets going before I can possibly justify investing in new gear to keep, not just test.
- Intel Xeon D-2100 announced, a promising choice for efficient home lab datacenters?
Feb 08 2018
Finally, my thoughts. I had frankly hoped a 3 year wait would result in a smaller than the 14nm design of the original Xeon D, but that just isn't happening quite yet. Perhaps pressure from AMD will accelerate the shrink soon, which would tend to result in even lower watt burn.
Higher watts generally means louder fans, or larger chassis, or both
Larger CPU size may mean Mini ITX motherboard designs have no room for M.2 slots, example pictured here
I'm also skeptical whether DDR4 prices will fall far enough for the 512GB of memory maximum will ever be something obtainable in the home lab in the Xeon D-2100's lifespan.
- Order a TinkerTry'd Supermicro SuperServer Bundle - powerful and efficient home virtualization lab solutions
Oct 30 2015 updated Jul 27 2021
On July 26, I learned from Wiredzone that they are no longer able to accept orders for the SuperServer Bundles due to a combination of logistics and profitability challenges that 2021 has posed. I'm truly sorry for the inconvenience and frustration this may cause.
- The Xeon D Supermicro SuperServer "Bundle 2" of joy, a complete home datacenter virtualization solution that really flies
Dec 07 2016
- Intel Xeon D-1500 crams incredible virtualization lab specs into tiny mITX size, codename Broadwell-DE
Mar 09 2015