I had a really enjoyable dialogue with a TinkerTry site visitor recently, and I've obtained Mike's permission to go ahead and publish this, with some of my minor typos cleaned-up, and formatted so you can read from top to bottom.
It's all about processor and storage choices when building your own virtualization lab, such as my vZilla build. Most of what we discuss below applies to both VMware ESXi or Microsoft Hyper-V. I plan to eventually nest Hyper-V under ESXi, but first, I need to take care of moving off my old Home Server (for backups) to the new Home Server 2011 version, described at TinkerTry.com/whywss2008r2essentials. With the recent release of vSphere Hypervisor ESXi 5.0 Driver Rollup 1 downloaded from here, the entire LSI driver install step outlined here is no longer needed, with native 9265-8i driver support now built-in.
So I'm ready to proceed with actually building my final configuration, after months of preparation, testing, watt-burn-measurements, rehearsals, and hundreds of RAID and SSD speed tests. Here's the draft outline of the build procedure I cooked up.
In some ways, a couple of readers who are also bloggers have already given their feedback, as seen here:
which is just, well, so awesome, making all the effort to blog about this so very very worthwhile for me, and hopefully for my valued site visitors!
Enough build-up, please read the email below, then consider taking a moment to let us all know what you think, site sign-up not required!
Sent: Saturday, December 03, 2011 3:33 PM
Subject: [TinkerTry] i7 2600 processor
Hey there, I'm tying to build a home vSphere lab, using the Intel i7 2600 processor to run ESXI 5. I was thinking about getting the low profile 2600s. Would you recommend the 2600 over the 2600s? Does that processor support vmotion/ft/vmdirectpath?
Sent: Saturday, December 03, 2011 4:41 PM
Subject: Re: [TinkerTry] i7 2600 processor
I love questions like this!
Mike, any chance you'd let me put this conversation up on tinkertry.com (without your email address, and just your name "Mike", of course)?
Anyhow, either way is fine, always glad to hear from a reader.
It should work, but I can't be 100% positive, here's why:
1) According to the Intel website, it should work:
the row to look at is "Intel® Virtualization Technology for Directed I/O (VT-d)", and both the 2600 and 2600k say Yes.
But Googling around you'll find many stories of motherboard/CPU combos that should work but didn't work for passthrough (BIOS implementation or other unknown factors that consumer Z68 motherboard makers don't advertise). That's why I made a point of posting my first-hand test results, including BIOS levels, at
(a post I need to redo from scratch and rewrite perhaps someday, with ESXi 5.0 in mind):
2) Same Intel site shows 95W for 2600K and 2600, and 65W for the 2600S, so a 30 watt difference.
3) Accord to the same site, it's lacking Intel vPro Technology, explained here, some of the features have to do with virtualization as well:
So I knew I might save a little $, but I decided to go with the easier to find (and very similarly priced) 2600, as you know, from:
It's true, you'll save some electricity.
A site like this (coupled with a look at your electric bill and the rate it says you pay) can help you decide how much that electricity would cost you over the 3-4 year span of running your machine 24/7:
(where I live, in CT, it's 18 cents per killowat hour)
So for my situation, assuming that at near idle workload, the difference in the watt burn comparing the 2 CPUs would probably be about 30 watts (not at all sure this assumption is valid). This comes out to $47 per year extra, or $188.68 for 4 years non-stop running.
For me, my focus was on possibly testing advanced virtualization technologies and I figured I'd go with the 2600, just in case I wound up caring about vPro for some reason, someday.
I hope this helps your decision a little!
On Sat, Dec 3, 2011 at 4:53 PM, tinkererguy wrote:
Mike, I took a stab at answering the vmdirectpath part of your question, but I forgot about vmotion and ft.
Well, looking at that Intel comparison, I cannot imagine why those features would be different between the 2600 and 2600S, I just don't really know for sure. Moreover, I don't currently have a second ESXi host to properly test those features.
Sent: Saturday, December 03, 2011 9:03 PM
Subject: Re: Fw: [TinkerTry] i7 2600 processor
Thanks for the quick reply.
You can surely post my question. I have no problem with that at all.
Thanks for the detailed reply. I guess the 2600k would be good for overclocking, but I'm not planning on doing that. I think I'll stick with the 2600 like you. I do not plan to run it 24/7....Basically a few hours a day, maybe 8 hours at best.
I was planning on buying 2 of these shuttle PCs, but I'm going to start out with one.. I guess I'm actually more concerned with vmotion/FT, then I am with DirectPath...all features would be great though. I'm trying to get my VCP, also will use it to learn advance vmware topic and VMware View.
I also plan to purchase a NAS. I'm considering the Synology DS712+. I was looking for the DS411+, but all I can seem to find is DS411. Pricey stuff, but I don't want to put local drives in my shuttle PC....I'd rather create LUNS and connect via iSCSI. Do you have a preference for these type of devices?
Thanks again for the reply. I appreciate it
Sent: Saturday, December 03, 2011 9:16 PM
Subject: Re: [TinkerTry] i7 2600 processor
Great, thank you for the permission!
And consider using the Subscribe button to get on my list, and I’d like to stay in touch with folks like you...
(irrelevant section removed)
Yeah, 6 years ago, I had a somewhat slow, but somewhat affordable NAS (Infrant ReadyNAS, which then got bought by Netgear), that I had to wait years for NFS capability I had requested, described here:
and used to do NFS tests with vMotion with it.
I also played with OpenFiler and other solutions to re-use older PCs. But once I had prepared for VCP in 2006, and again for VCP 4.0 update exam in 2009, using VMware Workstation for ESXi in a box self-training, that I presented here:
I realized that I don’t have the frequent need to vMotion, and was more concerned with fast performance, so I’m trying this local extremely fast storage route, as I begin to prepare for VCP 5.0 next year. Nice thing about ESXi 5 is the very easy migration from one storage pool to another (say from the big RAID0 to the motherboard-SATA3-port-attached SSD, for example), to do quick comparative tests with ease, without even having to reboot the VM.
It also helps that I had a group of hard drives for this project, ready to be reused, and an interest in using fast RAID controllers with caching via SSD, which I liked learning about.
But that’s just me, just my little test, for my specific needs. It’s not intended to say it’s a better way or anything.
Great talking to you, stay in touch!
Dec 3 2011 Update:
Looks like I made an error as I read the Intel comparison chart in the email:
it's the 2600K (overclocker/gamer) version that doesn't have vPro, the 2600 and 2600S both do have it, confirmed here:
So this seems to mean the only significant difference between the 2600 and 2600S is the 2600S is underclocked (runs .6GHz slower), thus, it saves some power.
Cache and all other specs that matter are identical.
Here's a very helpful article about this:
and the sentences from that article that caught my eye:
There is a fall in performance of around 12% compared to the 2600K, which is mostly visible with programmes that usually make the most of multiple-core processors. That's logical because the Turbo mode is less useful and the processor has to fall back on its basic clock speed, which is lower here.
Places like newegg.com show the 2600 out of stock:
but here's one place that says in stock at $306 USB here.
What do the rest of you think about CPU choices?
How about storage? Have you found a NAS Solution with incredible speed, and a decent price?
I had to go past 2TB for my 4TB of PC Backups, so for me, passthru of USB3 connected external RAID fit that need nicely, allowing me to just NFTS format it from directly inside the Home Server virtual machine, and take care of PC backups that way, leaving the rest of the shares on local storage (which exists on the super faster internal RAID array). Going NAS, I could go with NFS or iSCSI mount from within the Windows based VM and get past the 2TB virtual machine drive size limitation ESXi 5.0 has, but the gigabit speed would like be a big bottleneck, and it's hard to find affordable NAS devices that can handle my 7 drive requirement. I'm happy with the amazing speeds I'm seeing on local storage, shown in one example here:
This speed should improve even more, once I can use SSD Caching with CacheCade 2.0 coming to my LSI 9265-8I RAID adapter early next year, which won't require any operating system drivers or software. This is in contrast to Intel Smart Response Technology, which works great at a much lower price point as I talked about at TinkerTry.com/gzilla, but is currently Windows-only.