The Under $800 VMware Quad-Core 32GB Home Lab


Jonathan Frappier Virtxpert

Because I am a geek, and my needs change, and this is what I like to do I often check out new hardware, cost features etc.  One of the things I wish I did on my 8-core lab was go for a smaller form factor case.  Pricing, as always is subject to change.  I actually prefer to buy most of my hardware on Amazon because I seem to have an easier time returning items that are defective but I’ll link to NewEgg.  You may be able to find a part or two for a bit less somewhere else which is always good.

Here is a run down on the parts for this VMware home lab build which should be capable of booting nested 64-bit VMs or as a stand alone ESXi host running other VMs since it is cheap (you can get almost 2 of these for the price of my 8-core build).  My goal was a slim line case, the In Win case comes equipped with a power supply and 2x internal 3.5″ drive bays.  The 2x drive bays gives you the option to add 2x of the ICY drive caddys so you can mount a total of 4 drives inside this small form factor case.  In this build I opted for a single SSD and HDDs so if you build several of these you could do a VSAN lab.  Originally I had 3x HDDs in here so if you go the nested build route you can use the on-board RAID controller to configure the 3x HDDs in a RAID-0 for a total of about 1.5TB of usable datastore space stripped across the 3 drives an single SSD datastore (think “gold” and “bronze” tier – OS’s on the SSD and everything else on the HDDs?).  Of course the drive configurations are just an example, I went with a single drive here for cost reasons.  You could also drop the drives all together if you were using a NAS/SAN in your home lab and just boot via USB.  The on-board NIC will need drivers, however best I can tell the Siig 2-port card uses an Intel i350 chipset which appears to be on the HCL.  You could also go with a used HP NC7170 as I did in my original build and drop almost $70 of the price via Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/HP-NC7170-network-adapter-383738-B21/dp/B0009MWAI4) to get a working lab setup under $750, in fact you can get down almost to $700 if you drop the drive caddys as well!  One caveat with the used NICs, they may not come with the low profile face plate, so that may send you on a bit of a hunt to find one.  According the Siig site, those NICs ship with the low profile face plate.

For the CPU I went cheapest quad-core available that is 64-bit with virtualization support – the Athlon X4 740 Trinity CPU with 2x 16GB RAM kits (each kit containing 2x 8GB memory modules) to finish out the build.  I’ll assume you will boot from USB, and that you have plenty of them from conferences past to keep my price under $800 :)

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Part TypeNewEgg URL / Part NumberPrice (As of 9/5/14)
Case – In Win BL631 SFF mATXN82E16811108065$64.99
GIGABYTE GA-78LMT-USB3Motherboard – GIGABYTE GA-78LMT-USB3N82E16813128565$58.99
AMD Athlon X4 740CPU – AMD Athlon X4 740N82E16819113329$74.99
AMD Radeon R3 Value Series 16GB RAM (qty 2 kits of 2) – AMD Radeon R3 Value Series 16GB Kit (2x 8GB)N82E16820403053$319.98
ICY Drive CaddyDrive caddy (qty 2)N82E16817994141$25.98
SSD – Kingston SSDNow V300 240GB SSDN82E16820721108$99.99
<img src="http://images17.newegg.com/is/image/newegg/22-152-289-TS?$S300W$" alt= "SAMSUNG Spinpoint M8 ST500LM012 500GB" width="150" HDD – SAMSUNG Spinpoint M8 ST500LM012 500GBN82E16822152289$49.99
SIIG Dual Port Gigabit Ethernet Server PCIe x4 NICN82E16822152289$102.99

Total

$797.90

The Under $800 VMware Quad-Core 32GB Home Lab