The Mini ESXi 4 Portable Server

Special thanks to Kevin Miller (@kevin_miller), for making sure I didn’t burn up anything and running out to Fry’s to get a new CPU when the orginal we ordered turned out to be not compatible.

List of the material used in final Version:

Intel DH57JG – Motherboard
Intel i5-661 Core Duo – Processor (special note: DO NOT get the i5-655k unlocked CPU in the picture, it was not compatible with any intel Motherboard)
Lian Li MINI ITX Case (6x9x12 in dimensions) supports Full size PSU
Rosewill silent PSU
Intel dual port PCIe 16x Gbe NIC
Stock intel heatsink and fan (Nexus fan in the picture was very cool, just too big to fit anything into the PCIe port.
2x Intel 80GB SSD
2x4GB OCZ Memory Kit

The server built amazingly fast using PXE boot and installing an ESXi image. Only thing that didn’t work that I wish it did was the on board NIC, 2 GigE ports will be more than enough for our purpose. This is not a lab machine but will run all the components I need to deploy a solution in an automated fashion. I really like VMware Fusion but if I try to run Windows 7, a Linux Server and a Windows 2003 server at the same time my awesome Mac Book Pro becomes useless. This is a lightweight and easy way to bring all of these components together for relatively low cost and if it can save half a day on an install it will pay for itself pretty fast.
I am running:
Windows 2003 ( a vCenter Template)
UDA20 – Ultimate Deployment Appliance that I fought with for a while and finally have it running reliably.
vSphere Mangement Assistant

As of this post working on building:
Windows 7 VM (for Powershell and other tools)
Maybe a free NFS/CIFS server for some easy file shares.
Linux Server (just in case I need it)

Now for some pics:

Before:

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SSDs Mounted

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Two 80 GB SSD’s are mounted in this space.

Everything going into the Case

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Size relative to my hand

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I do not have NBA player sized hands, hopefully this shows just how small the case is. This solution is a little more pricey for just a lab machine but if it travels I do not need a SATA disk failing because the server had a bumpy ride.

17 Replies to “The Mini ESXi 4 Portable Server”

  1. Great shopping list you have there… I was about to buy a Shuttle barebone but now I’m reconsidering it and your setup is a cheaper alternative although less powerful as well…
    Thx,
    Didier

    1. Yeah, with the micro-itx motherboard you lose getting a quad core proc. I used it for a couple of VM’s so far and it works great. Getting more bang from having 8GB of mem and the SSD’s.
      Thanks for checking out my list!

  2. Great shopping list you have there… I was about to buy a Shuttle barebone but now I’m reconsidering it and your setup is a cheaper alternative although less powerful as well…
    Thx,
    Didier

    1. Yeah, with the micro-itx motherboard you lose getting a quad core proc. I used it for a couple of VM’s so far and it works great. Getting more bang from having 8GB of mem and the SSD’s.
      Thanks for checking out my list!

  3. Unboxing and install shots always makes me drool. 8^D

    Isn’t amazing at how portable we can make our tech now AND have it do some seriously awesome stuff?

  4. You can get the onboard NICs working in ESXI by injecting the drivers. This is a handy script to do it all to a USB stick for you: http://code.google.com/p/mkesxiaio/ The drivers for the Intel 82578DC which is on that motherboard are available within the Community OEM.TGZ pack. Just copy it to the custom-oem folder that the script creates when it asks if you have any other files to add.

    I have had to do this for a few of my homegrown or lower end esxi systems.

  5. Thanks for the post, We have a VMware Academy that I use virtual esxi hosts running on a vSphere cluster.
    With the introduction of vSPhere4.1 there are a few limitations that I need to work around with some of the labs.

    I’ve been investigating a very similar configuration as yours as an option. Does the DH57JG bios allow for enabling VT-x? The only information I can find is that it does not allow for VT-d, but does not mention VT-x.
    This is one of the issues I’m attempting to resolve since the bios for VMs does not have an option for VT.

    Regarding the integrated nic, have you attempting the reconfiguring of the esx install image:
    http://www.vm-help.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=12&t=2194

    I plan to either use this mb or one from Supermico: X8SIL, which is a very good solution just a bit more expensive for the complete build.

    I love the 2vcps & a truck. I’m a ford tractor man myself

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