VMware Home Lab 2015

Well it’s about time I post about my home lab 2015 edition.  Last year I was running a happy home lab on HP workstations using Operton 2xxx processors.   This year VMware releases vSphere 6 and I loose support for Operton 2xxx processors.   So I had to start over again.   I am a very cheap man so I want the cheapest thing that will reasonably work.  This time I wanted to get three nodes for possible vsan so here is my home lab.


After pricing out all kinds of stuff I stuck with the HP workstations.   They are normally server class hardware with great life and lightly used.   They also don’t sound like a Jet engine when running.   The HP version of ESXi installs out of the box without any problems and does not require any modification which is a huge win.    I wanted to make sure the processor was on the HCL (I don’t care about the server being on the HCL because I am cheap) so I browsed options and found the E5404 was on the HCL for ESXi 6.   Searching ebay I found some great deals on the HP xw6600 workstations with a single quad-core E5404 processor.    Normally they ship with two broadcom 1GB nic’s and 4GB of RAM.   They max out at 32GB of RAM with a single processor.   The only real downside is you only get four cores, but it’s $79.99 each right now.   You add some RAM – 32GB for $88.99 and you get 4 cores and 32GB of RAM for $167 per node.   This forms a very solid cluster with three nodes.



Shared storage is critical to a good cluster.  You have a few options:

  1. VMware vSAN
  2. Additional PC providing NFS or iSCSI
  3. Some type of NAS (Synology)


vSAN requires at least one SSD and one spinning disk per node.   So you are looking at roughly $300 total to go this way.   It also requires a license from VMware.


Additional PC providing NFS or iSCSI – use FreeNAS or something similar.   It’s cheap and easy if you have hard drives and PC’s sitting around.


Synology – These sell for cheap on ebay and rock so much.   I love them… you can buy with drives on ebay for around $150 if you are lucky.


I personally have vSAN and a synology nas in place.



You really need a Gigi-Managed Switch for VMware implementation.  Buy one for $120 or so or find one on ebay.



Here is the sticky bit… you need licenses.  There are two options available at this time for low-cost:

  • VMware vExpert – This program provides great access to licenses and is not hard to get into at this point
  • VMUG Advantage program – for $200 a year you get licenses and lots of other benefits


Let me know if you have any questions.

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