While attempting to explain virtualization to a podcaster recently, it suddenly struck me that I hadn't yet made a single, unifying article that tries to pull my many virtualization articles together. Such a guide could really come in handy for the newer user, since obtaining detailed help for ESXi on home-builds is a bit lacking.
A known-good-configuration is a good thing, especially when you realize that VMware ESXi 5.0 is a bit more picky than other OSs you may be more familiar with. For example, for years, only SCSI drives were supported, but now, traditional SATA drives, and even SATA3 SSDs, are fully support as well. For RAID, Adaptec and LSI-chipset adapters (IBM, Dell, etc.) have been fully supported for many years, whereas Areca and HighPoint and others are only recently getting ESXi driver support. The trend has been toward more commodity hardware support, with each release and driver rollup of ESXi having more devices in the compatibility list, But I required a solution that worked great with ESXi 5.0 in 2011, as is.
So, that leads me to my first tip: If you're at all uncomfortable with trying a lot of hardware out, and don't want to be a pioneer, stick with the same parts I chose. They're all listed at TinkerTry.com/vzilla.
I put together these links to help give you confidence when building your own affordable, efficient and fast virtualization platform. Much more affordable lab build are readily here and here for example. But my focus is also on performance, versatility, power savings, and daily de-duped automatic backups of over a dozen systems, some at otherlocations. This is in contrast with the much more typical self-training, occasional-lab-use scenario, where cheap and slow is the focus.
It took me a great number of weekends and nights to get to this point, where I know I can save you a whole lot of trouble. I tested 5 motherboards and 3 RAID adapters out, for example, to get to a configuration I'm now very comfortable with. So with the same parts, and the videos and documentation I'm creating here at TinkerTry, you'll have everything you need to set up an identical system, right on down to the exact BIOS level and settings to use. And a supportive community of TinkerTry visitors, with helpful comments. Stay tuned for more step-by-step guides and videos as I roll-out the master plan, drafted at
I planned to meet my objectives using the latest Z68 chipset motherboards, back in April of 2011. I've now met, and exceeded, those objectives, as I've heavily tested and abused this system these past months, rehearsing for my final re-configuration. I'm seeing excellent performance at a reasonable cost, and can handle running 6 operating systems concurrently, running 24x7, with reasonable watt burn.
Note that VMware ESXi 5.0 can run Microsoft Hyper-V in a nested configuration, so you really can have a lab all-in-one box. Admittedly, this box I built call vZilla is entirely unsupported by VMware and Microsoft. If that doesn't scare you, then by all means, read onward!
The CPU and motherboard choices, and the rationale behind those choices, explained over here:
The reasoning behind 3 separate RAID5 “baskets” of storage, and watt burn comparisons, over here:
Next, how to install a Virtual Machine on ESXi, step-by-step:
- Finally, the "icing on the cake": if you have a CPU and motherboard that allows vmdirectpath
you can read exactly how to enable it here: