William Lam's "Supermicro VMware Homelab 2020 Options" and an update on TinkerTry's next Intel or AMD based home lab Bundle on the VMware Compatibility Guide

Posted by Paul Braren on Jan 25 2021 (updated on Jan 27 2021) in
  • CPU
  • ESXi
  • HomeLab
  • HomeServer
  • Virtualization
  • vSphere7
  • virtuallyGhetto.com

    Click/tap the image above to read William's article.

    William Lam does yet another fantastic job summing up the current line-up of small-form factor Supermicro gear including some Xeon D-1500 and Xeon D-2100 based systems. While I don't know William, and I'm not at all sure why he continues to not mention the still-very-popular mini-tower form factor with quieter, slower RPM fans, it's probably mostly because of his focus on affordable multi-node configurations that are compact and vSAN-friendly. I think it's also great that he's been pushing for support for a wider variety of hardware at VMware, a very worthwhile cause, including traditionally more consumer focused products such as Thunderbolt and Mac Mini, and this fanless Supermicro that I admittedly didn't pursue as I wasn't all that impressed with the Xeon D-2100 platform.

    I realize full VMware support isn't a priority for many folks, and not everybody needs 10G. That's the strength of the #vCommunity, there's so many bloggers out there focusing on such a diverse set of hardware, making it far easier for folks getting started with VMware, able to better leverage what they have and/or can afford.



    See also Virten.net's fantastic 11th Gen Intel NUC - Which is the best candidate to run ESXi?.

    If you want to run graphics-intensive operations, this might be your model of choice to be used in homelabs or as VMware ESXi host. If you are only interested in CPU performance or need multi-nic support, the "Pro" line is definitely the better choice.


    and VMware Support

    Note that unfortunately, only the popular SYS-5028D-TN4T Mini-Tower is on the VMware Compatibility Guide for ESXi 7.0 / 7.0U1, click/tap the image above to read the detailed article.

    Here at TinkerTry, there are only so many hours in the day, and NUCs are quite well covered already. So I've continued to keep focus on what's next that is also fully supported for use with VMware, reasonably affordable, and quiet enough for home labs including my home lab, ideally with 10G capability built-in, especially now that many NASs offer both NVMe cache and the 10G to actually use it. There are now well over 1,000 Bundle owners out there, expectedly they're sometimes asking me what's I'm using and/or planning to buy. I'm still using my 12 core Xeon D-1567 Bundle on a daily basis actually, and my 8 core Xeon D-1541 Bundle is used for ESXi upgrade testing quite frequently as well. Everything is still working well, and I even regularly produce 4K videos which is quite a tough job that lends itself nicely to lots of CPU cores.

    This March of 2021, it will be 6 years since Xeon D-1500 was announced. So unless the person seeking my advice is simply looking to just get another identical node or two of identical mini-tower Bundles that "just work" and are fully supported, I usually mention that they might want to hold off a bit if they can, especially if they're looking for a single CPU unit with even more grunt. Also a consideration is next-gen PCIe 4.0 based systems have a greater likelihood of at least 5 years of VMware support, and even faster access to NVMe-based storage deliciousness that simultaneously cloned VMs are quite hungry for.

    Quiet / Fanless / Brand TBD

    I have continued to seek out quiet solutions based on modern, server-class single-socket CPUs, but I honestly just haven't been that impressed just yet. Unfortunately, in 2020, one contact I had with Supermicro didn't seem particularly intersted in continuing with the mini-tower form factor, at least not for already-2-year-old Xeon D-2100.

    Intel/AMD CPU Family Launches

    Thankfully, 2021 is looking to be much more exciting, with new CPU families finally due to arrive, see also Intel Confirms 10nm Ice Lake Xeon Production Has Started at AnandTech (which isn't really a Xeon D successor), mention of Sapphire Rapids too at STH, Intel to Outsource 'Atom & Xeon Based SoCs' to TSMC at Tom's Hardware.

    Note, Xeon D is considered an SoC (System on a Chip), so this feels to me like this outsourcing to TSMC could be a setback/delay. While it's awesome to see VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger is now becoming the CEO of Intel, I suspect his initial focus will be trying to catch up to Apple's spectacularly successful M1 launch that's much more consumer-focused. Don't read too much into these last 2 sentences, it's just conjecture, based on what very little information we have at this time.

    As for the exciting AMD EPYC 7003 Milan Update at CES 2021 at STH, the price range of EPYC (Zen 3) 7003 CPUs aimed partly at HCI solutions is not yet known, we'll have to wait and see whether any of this winds up being affordable for home lab enthusiasts.

    By the way, when I'm not tied up with making a living and helping my extended family stay safe lately, I have been spending some time week-long-torture-testing an innovative fanless server design from an overseas company that quite impresses me. It's one of 2 non-Supermicro servers my "skunkworks" home lab. Each vendor has their own BIOS quirks and design choices and advantage, and full VMware support continues to be a resource-intensive challenge for the niche home lab market. I'm not quite ready to share those details as there isn't too much of a point getting folks excited about something that isn't even widely available in the US yet, and the CPU it's based on is quite long in the tooth at this point anyway.

    The long-awaited 10nm process is sorely needed. Yes, this is something I've groused about for years. It's not so much about the process, it's about innovating on performance per watt, an area where things have stagnated unfortunately. Hopefully Intel's TSMC move will help.

    Those 8, 12, and 16 core versions might be promising for the home lab.

    Next Steps

    I'm not sure yet whether I'll want to stick with waiting for Xeon D-1500/D-1600/D-2100 successors, or if I'll go with AMD EPYC this time around, we'll see. I won't jump to any conclusions until I'm able to get my hands on some gear and start testing first-hand, part of my process of TinkerTry'ing things out.

    I can say that in this day and age of RAM-hungry NSX/VMware Cloud Foundation, the appeal of the NUC or NUC like small form factors that have limited storage and use mobile processor and/or watt thirsty GPUs continue to lack appeal for me. I personally prefer quiet, purpose-built gear that is miserly with the watts when left running 24x7, but can really crank up the overall computer power as needed when under load, even for extended durations of time.

    See also at TinkerTry



    See also

    • AMD EPYC 7003 Milan Update at CES 2021
      Jan 12 2021 by Cliff Robinson at STH

      During the AMD keynote at CES 2021, the company gave an update on its next-generation of server processors. This is the AMD EPYC 7003 “Milan” generation that is due out for general availability in 2021, and more specifically, in the next few months.

    • Intel Confirms 10nm Ice Lake Xeon Production Has Started
      Jan 11 2021 by Dr. Ian Cutress at AnandTech

      As part of this week’s announcements, Intel has confirmed to AnandTech that it has started production its next generation server processors, known as Ice Lake 3rd Generation Xeon Scalable. This news is somewhat at odds with remarks made by the CEO Bob Swan – it doesn’t fit into the timeline of how Intel’s processor production usually works, and the discrepency appears to go beyond simple terminology.

    • Intel to Outsource 'Atom & Xeon Based SoCs' to TSMC
      Dec 03 2020 by Anton Shilov at Tom's Hardware

      ... It's no secret that Intel will outsource more production to TSMC in the future, but so far, the company has been pretty vague about the details. According to the job listing, in addition to Xe-HPG GPUs and Xe-HPC compute slices, TSMC will also produce 'Atom and Xeon' system-on-chips for Intel.


    Jul 27 2020 - STH - The 2021 Intel Ice Pickle Why Ice Lake Xeons Are in a Tough Spot