All-In-One ESXi Microserver (mITX) Build - Need Feedback/Comments

vikingred

n00b
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Apr 11, 2013
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Hello, this is my first post. I am shameless, and a noob, so forgive that please. I want to build a very small and efficient server for my small business to achieve the following:

1. Board is Supermicro X9SPV-LN4F-3QE (fanless embedded core i7), 16g ECC 1333 unbuffered sodimms (yikes!)

2. Will boot ESXi from USB to run VM's for pfSense, CentOS LAMP Server, Exchange (maybe), pfSense, a small NAS/fileserver, and maybe a few Win7s. Nothing too heavy, 6 users max (4 of the users will be on wireless).

3. Will be using m350 itx case, and want to squeeze in a USB Wireless access point (so i can get rid of my wireless router), and also add a neat little gadget board called OpenUPS as well as a small LiPo battery pack (1250aH) for internal battery backup --just enough juice to keep it all alive while everything shuts down proper.

4. The main drives for the VMs will be Intel 520's 240gb in Raid 1 on the 6g/s onboard sata.

5. The Western Digital WD Scorpio Black 750 GB 2.5" (x2) also in Raid 1 on the 3g/s onboard sata will be a small NAS/fileserver and handle backups of the VMs. Eventually, when I can afford it, these drives would be replaced with 512gb (or the Intel 600gb) SSDs, which will be cool because then there would be no moving parts at all in this build. If this gets too full, I may do an external NAS build with fullsize drives.

Goal is to do a true all-in-one server-grade low power fanless (eventually no moving parts at all) "microserver" including internal battery backup and USB wireless access point to where all I have to do is plug in my cox business cable modem to the server, and pfsense handles all routing and firewall, and I'm good to go with exchange, LAMP server for light-duty web server and linux apps, a small NAS, all virtualized via ESXi/VMware. And my main 5 users can connect via wireless to the internal WAP.

Still more research to do, and timeframe is 4 - 6 months out. Budget is right at $2000, plus or minus a few dollars.

So here is my parts list so far:

1. Supermicro X9SPV-LN4F-3QE $796.70 here.

2. 16GB ECC Unbuffered DDR3 1333MHz SO-DIMM (2x8g) $237.36 here.

3. Intel 520 Series Solid-State Drive 240GB (x2) $509.98 amazon yo.

4. Western Digital WD Scorpio Black 750 GB (x2) $146.00 amazon

5. PicoPSU-160-XT, 192W Power Kit $75.95 here. Wonder if I could get away with the 150W kit, or even less.

6. M350 mini-ITX Enclosure (192 x 210 x 62mm , 2.5L) $39.95 here.

7. OpenUPS board $119.00 here. For internal battery backup. Elite!

8. Tenergy 14.8V 1250mAh LIPO Battery Pack $30.99 here.

9. USB Wireless Access Point - need suggestions on this. It will fit on the little front USB panel on the m350 case. I want high quality.

I would appreciate any thoughts or comments on this build. I read a few posts on here of people doing similar things. Things I wonder about:

a) would it all fit in that small box? i think so, but it will be tight. I like tight.:p

b) what is the lowest rated PicoPSU I could use and get away with? What's the safest bet?

c) Is the LiPo internal battery dangerous for the board? Don't want to ruin an 800$ board. Also I see the OpenUPS battery backup circuit supports windows, but no linux API yet (they say it's in development). Would ESXi be able to detect a power loss and shut everything down proper? How hard is this going to be to set up?

d) The enclosure is very open ventilated. With no fans, will this thing get super hot? The board is fanless embedded processor, but there is a heatsink I believe.

Any other thoughts or input would be greatly appreciated. Thanks for your time.
 

nitrobass24

[H]ard|DCer of the Month - December 2009
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Apr 7, 2006
Messages
10,462
I recently went through a similar effort.

I opted for the iStar S-21 case because it has a 200w FlexATX PSU and I did not need power bricks and DC-DC converters. Makes the cabling a lot easier.

I really like the internal UPS idea, but with ESXI/Xen/etc. I think you are asking for trouble. Personally just buy a regular UPS.

I put a small 40mm fan on my heatsink, just in case, but its probably not needed.
 

fatguy

Weaksauce
Joined
Apr 25, 2005
Messages
93
I might have missed it in your post somewhere - but what are you planning to use for your raid controller? Even for RAID1 you'll need something that's on the ESX whitelist... (Or hackable)
 

vikingred

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Joined
Apr 11, 2013
Messages
10
I might have missed it in your post somewhere - but what are you planning to use for your raid controller? Even for RAID1 you'll need something that's on the ESX whitelist... (Or hackable)

Well, the X9SPV-LN4F-3QE has onboard RAID, specs say:

Code:
4x SATA2 3Gbps w/ RAID 0, 1, 5, 10;
2x SATA3 6Gbps w/ RAID 0, 1

and type is: Intel(R) C600 Series Chipset SATA RAID Controller

Dunno if this is on the whitelist, gonna check.
 

vikingred

n00b
Joined
Apr 11, 2013
Messages
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I recently went through a similar effort.

I opted for the iStar S-21 case because it has a 200w FlexATX PSU and I did not need power bricks and DC-DC converters. Makes the cabling a lot easier.

I really like the internal UPS idea, but with ESXI/Xen/etc. I think you are asking for trouble. Personally just buy a regular UPS.

I put a small 40mm fan on my heatsink, just in case, but its probably not needed.

Yeah I wondered about drivers for the OpenUPS board for ESXi. Might prove to be problematic.
 

vikingred

n00b
Joined
Apr 11, 2013
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I've read the manual for the motherboard, and looked in other places but I cannot find the specific RAID chipset. All I can find is: Intel(R) C600 Series Chipset SATA RAID Controller. I have seen where others have posted they are able to do ESXi 5.1 on this board.
 

vikingred

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Joined
Apr 11, 2013
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As of EXSi 5 U1 support for c600 sata chipset was added.

http://www.vmware.com/support/vsphere5/doc/vsp_esxi50_u1_rel_notes.html

Awesome. So ESXi shouldn't have a problem with onboard RAID 1 for each pair of drives for this server. Do you guys realize how badass this is? That's a lot of power in a very small package. Some would say if they can't have 32gb of RAM then forget it, but for a small business this thing is gonna be small, quiet, and awesome.

I am wondering now if I could get away with the 90w PicoPSU. I think the board draws 35W. Anyone know what the 2 x SSDs and the 2 x 750gb WDs draw? Would 90w cover it?
 

nitrobass24

[H]ard|DCer of the Month - December 2009
Joined
Apr 7, 2006
Messages
10,462
I think 90w would be plenty. SSD sip power and HDDs only really suck power during spinup.
 

vikingred

n00b
Joined
Apr 11, 2013
Messages
10
Check this out: http://www.mini-box.com/picoPSU-90-XLP

picoPSU-90-XLP-b3.jpg
 

vikingred

n00b
Joined
Apr 11, 2013
Messages
10
I have realized by watching some videos and researching that there is probably no way I'm going to fit 4 drives in the m350 case. I went ahead and ordered the case so I can start preparing. Likely the max will be 2 drives, so that will be the 256gb SSDs in RAID 1. Will likely just do a separate NAS box on the cheap with 2 x 3tb WD Reds. (Having 4 NICs on the server has advantages!)

I've been thinking about wireless solutions, as the server will also be a WAP. The motherboard has 1 pci-e slot, and I will have to use riser card/extender cable to add something like this. I hope I can pull this off -- plan on doing pfSense in a VM, so not sure if the pci-e wireless would pass through to pfSense and be able to be used as a WAP for my 4 wireless clients. Anyone know if this is possible or would work? If this won't work, I'll just have to get a separate WAP and come it through one of the NICs.
 
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