Looking for advice on a home VM box

dr.stevil

[H]F Junkie
Joined
Sep 26, 2008
Messages
9,129
I'm interested in setting up a VM rig to replace my current Media-File Server/Workstation/Gaming/etc machine.

My current box is a jack of all trades and does the job without too much of an issue, but my problem with this setup is that everything has to live in the same environment which has its disadvantages... especially when it I run into a hardware/software issue. It would be nice to have separate VM environments for different purposes.

So my ideal setup would look like


Hyper-visor OS >
-Windows 7/10 (Gaming)
-Windows 7/10 (Work/Moonlighting)
-Windows 7/10 or Linux (Plex Media Server)
-Windows 7/10 (General Testing)
-MacOS (iOS and Dev work)

And possibly a few others, if I find the need for them. As mentioned above, this is all already being done on my current box, but it's all hosted on a Windows 10 OS, and using VMWare for the virtual machines (with work and gaming being done of the host OS).

So with that all said, I don't have any experience using a dedicated hypervisor OS and have limited experience with Linux (which makes me a little nervous if something were to go wrong on the host). I was hoping someone would be kind enough to give me some advice on what software I should be looking into to make this happen as well as the hardware I'd need. easy to use would be preferable, but it needs to be able to run MacOS as well.

I was also looking at the new AMD 8900X 12core CPU as a possible candidate, but will have to do some more research into it. Any thoughts?
 

Keljian

[H]ard|Gawd
Joined
Nov 7, 2006
Messages
1,269
Having no experience in the area yourself, I would suggest you look at second hand gear to start with. Maybe something with a pair of intel xeons on it...
 

DJS4000

Gawd
Joined
Nov 2, 2009
Messages
770
So with that all said, I don't have any experience using a dedicated hypervisor OS and have limited experience with Linux (which makes me a little nervous if something were to go wrong on the host).

don't worry. when i started my homelab and began to virtualize it, i too, had neither.

TL;DR: if you have a general interest and some experience in computers, it's quite easy. but let me preface this with a disclaimer:

homelabbing and virtualisation is a rabbit hole. i used to have a win server 2016 machine that provided plex and a couple of game servers. i have since moved to a single esxi host (more on that in a minute) and right now i have 8 VMs, of which 6 (1x win server 16, the rest are various linux distros) are constantly running. i went from a virtualized pfsense install to a bare metal pfsense host. i added a unifi ap for my wireless. i added a smart ups to gracefully shut down all hosts in case of a power failure. and now i'm looking into 10G networking and adding a second host, plus indulging in about a dozen projects that i want to undertake.

fortunately, it's not that expensive if you are willing to scan ebay for a bit. consumer hardware is possible, but most people go for used servers, which means single or dual xeon boxes. there's tons of those on ebay and i got my dell box for 200€ shipped.

anyway, i'd recommend esxi as the base hypervisor on a used server. it works perfectly with most professional hardware. it's also free in its basic form, which for starters is plenty enough. the advanced features like live migration and high availability come at a cost, but you can get yearly licenses for 200 USD.

depending on what you want to do - there are tons of guides all over the net. especially for linux. i wanted a grafana dashboard for my whole infrastructure and ... it's not intuitive. but with the guides it's easy enough. same goes for migrating existing physical machines into VMs.

that's the basics for now, i think. extremely fun project if you are into computers and well worth the effort. if you have any further questions just ask :)
 

kdh

Gawd
Joined
Mar 16, 2005
Messages
806
I do virtualization work professionally and personally. You can easily do it, but avoid virtualization of your game OS. Can it be done? Yep.. but Its a hassle. Dip your toe in the water, and go simple. Use Vmplayer, and its free. Its not as full featured, but if you want to start out it? Its works well. I have 3 64gig am3+ boxes in my house that I use for development work all running windows 10 with vmplayer. I don't need to migrate my work loads live around each box for my side project, I just need a bunch of centos vms i can ssh into to test scaling of my application. My gaming rig is Windows 10 home with a 1080ti. When I want to game, I launch the game normally. If I find the game I'm trying to run is competing for resources, I
ll pause or shutdown vmplayer on that one machine. Usually, its not an issue as most games these days are gpu bound and not cpu bound.

Also, if your current box does about 98% of what you need, don't trash it. Build a new gaming rig, move your gaming gfx card and games to it, when not gaming, run Vmplayer. Use your original box to run your virtual work loads as described in your post. Best of both worlds with minimal hassle.

Also some great advice about picking up used gear to just start out. You don't need some monster expensive piece of gear to run any virtualization technology. You'd be shocked at how well some of your work loads might run on some dated hardware. I have a lot of buddies that absolutely love those intel nucs for virtual work loads.

Don't stress about the linux part. Why? Ask your self what you'd like to do with Linux, then google it. Everything you could ever think of has already been done. Someone was so excited about figuring it out, they posted it about in a blog, on youtube, message board, forum, or a news reader with the exact steps. Don't treat linux like a black box, and don't put it on some technical pedestal either. Its just a tool to accomplish your goals. I absolutely believe you can pick it up, just think about what problem you're trying to solve with it and go from there.
 

schizrade

Supreme [H]ardness
Joined
Feb 15, 2003
Messages
4,842
I do virtualization work professionally and personally. You can easily do it, but avoid virtualization of your game OS. Can it be done? Yep.. but Its a hassle. Dip your toe in the water, and go simple.

+1 on not VM'ing your gaming box. Its not worth the hassle, unless you just want something to accomplish to say you did.
 

Majinhoju

[H]ard|Gawd
Joined
Apr 12, 2008
Messages
1,359
Are you planning on running a single VM at a time or all at once?
If you run ESXI free you can only assign 8 virtual cores to a single VM at a time so you'll have to keep that in mind if you plan on stacking all resources to a single VM. If you plan using more like a mulitboot system Unraid might suit your needs better.

Passthrough can be very finicky and require some tweaking to get working. Here's also a few things I've encounterd.
Geforce cards don't passthrough by default. In Unraid you have to get copy of the bios and remove the header. Nvidia wants you to buy their workstation cards for passthrough. No such limits are on AMD cards though.
USB passthrough is a pain in the ass in ESXI. I had to buy a pci-e usb card to passthrough my mouse and keyboard to my vm. Unraid usb passthrough didn't give me any issues and could passthrough any usb device I had connected.
This might not affect everyone but I have an issue when I reboot my VM in ESXI, my screen remains blank until I restart the host.

If you still plan on gaming in a VM make sure you have some extra time on your hands as it likely won't be problem free.
 
Top