BOM and configuration of ESXi hosts

In this post I will discuss the BOM and installation process of a new vSphere cluster for my homelab.

Goals for the cluster

  • Host Support for 64Gb of RAM
  • Host Support 8-core processor
  • Possibly VSAN capabale (2 M.2 slots)
  • Built-in Intel LAN/Video
  • Small form factor
  • Quiet and minimal power consumption

BOM

  • 3x GIGABYTE Z390 M Gaming (Intel LGA1151/Z390/Micro ATX/M.2/Realtek ALC892/Intel GbE LAN/HDMI/Motherboards)
  • 3x G.SKILL Aegis 64GB (4 x 16GB) 288-Pin DDR4 SDRAM DDR4 2400 (PC4 19200) Intel Z170 Platform / Intel X99 Platform Desktop Memory Model F4-2400C15Q-64GIS
  • 3x Intel Core i7-9700K Desktop Processor 8 Cores up to 4.9 GHz Turbo Unlocked LGA1151 300 Series 95W
  • 3x Titan DC-155A915Z/RPW 95mm Z-AXIS CPU Cooler
  • 3x Rosewill - Black & Silver, 0.8mm SGCC Steel Slim Micro ATX Computer Case with ATX12V Flex 300W Power Supply - R379-M
  • 3x ADATA 16GB UV140 Bookmarked, Capless USB 3.0 Flash Drive (AUV140-16G-RBE)
  • 3x StarTech 6in 4 Pin to 8 Pin EPS Power Adapter with LP4 - F/M (EPS48ADAP)
Total Cost: $~2921 (12/20/18)

ESXi Installation

The motherboards (as far as I can tell) only support UEFI for PXE boot. Since I install ESXi with a TFTP/HTTP server, I needed to find a way to install ESXi with UEFI rather than the legacy BIOS.

  • Thank you as always to William Lam and his awesome blog I just followed the steps from his post to enable this functionality.

This allowed the hosts to PXE boot and start the installation, but the build of ESXi 6.7 that I was using didn’t recognize the onboard Intel NIC and the installation would halt and not proceed.

This is where ESXi-Customer-PS comes to the rescue. I have used this tool in other homelab builds and packaging in old Realtek NIC drivers into an ESXi build. So I figured I would attempt to use the tool again to address the issue above.

The tool is no longer an EXE binary but rather built with a Powershell script. Tons of improvements and ease of use have been built into the script.

This tool uses the VMware online depot to build any version of the latest ESXi build from 5.0 to 6.7.

  • Command used to build the ISO for the latest version of ESXi 6.7
      .\ESXi-Customizer-PS-v2.6.0.ps1 -v67
    

Extracted that ISO following Lam’s post above and BAM ESXi installed successfuly and recognized the onboard NIC. Added the hosts to vCenter and I have a lot more horsepower added to my homelab.

Huge shoutout to William Lam and Andreas Peetz for saving me a ton of time and effort trying to make desktop hardware work with ESXi.

Written on January 4, 2019