Sunday, July 26, 2020

AMD Ryzen 9 3900x VMware ESXi 7.0 Home Lab Build

Since not too many people have VMware ESXi home lab builds on AMD, I thought it would be helpful to share my build in case someone is looking to do the same.

With the global corona-virus pandemic in full swing, social distancing at home as much as humanly possible, and the surprise of some actual free time to work on projects I had been putting off... I finally decided it was time to upgrade my poor old Optiplex 960 (Intel Core 2 Duo, 4GB RAM) server that could barely be considered a server other than the fact it was on all the time ;)

With an initial budget of about $1000, I started doing some Googling and quickly found William Lam's VMware Community Homelabs Project site which has an awesome collection of home lab BOMs (build of materials), which gave me a great place to start.

All my previous PC build experiences were with Intel CPUs, but I quickly realized I could get a lot more processing power (clock speed and cores) for my money from AMD CPUs.

I also read lots of forum threads about installing ESXi and having no network connectivity because the Realtek drivers are not included in ESXi by default (requiring injection of the driver into a custom ISO)... However, I ran into a Reddit thread mentioning the Gigabyte X570 Aorus boards having on-board Intel NIC that "works like a charm out of the box."

This finalized my decision to go with the following build:

Thermaltake Core V1 Mini-ITX Case, Black Edition

I went with the Micro-ITX form factor to ensure my build wouldn't take up to much space in my half-rack.

Gigabyte X570 | AORUS Pro WIFI Motherboard

I choose this board because it's one of the few AMD Micro-ITX boards with onboard Intel NIC.

AMD Ryzen 9 3900X 12-core, 24-thread processor, with cooler

24 logical threads gives me plenty of processing power for just about anything I want to run at home.

Corsair Vengeance LPX 64GB (2x32GB) DDR4 3200 (PC4-25600) RAM

64GB of RAM gives me a nice amount to run the handful of VMs I'm planning to run, with room for all the VMs I haven't planned for yet.

Samsung 970 EVO SSD 1TB M.2 NVMe SSD

For under $200, can't go wrong with a full TB of SSD. All my less-critical and high capacity storage (Plex library) get stored on my Synology NAS.

SanDisk 64GB Ultra Fit USB 3.1 Flash Drive

Flash drive for ESXi installation/boot media. 64GB is way more than needed, but you pay just as much for anything smaller. This Ultra Fit isn't even noticeable in the back of my build.

Thermaltake Smart 430W 80+ White Power Supply

Just need a power supply to support this simple list of components. No fancy graphics cards in this build.

   

EVGA GeForce 8400 Graphics Card

Just popped in an old PCIe graphics card I had lying around for video output. Not doing any GPU passthrough at this time. Maybe upgrade this in the future.


I few pics from of the build process...

Installed ESXi 7.0 with no issues. Powered up the system, setup the datastore on the SSD, and I was up and running... It really did work like a charm.

Over the last few weeks, I've got Plex, Minecraft/CraftBukkit, PRTG, Nessus, CyberPower PowerPanel, OpenVPN, and VMware's F@H appliance all up and running with lots of room for expansion :)


The only issue I've run into is ESXi shows no hardware sensor information since the Gigabyte X570 Aorus Pro Wifi board does not support IPMI. Also means, I've been unable to find any way of monitoring the thermals of the system with PRTG.

Happy home-lab'ing!
Justin

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