Spec-ing VMWARE hardware

RikkuRikku Member Posts: 82 ■■□□□□□□□□
Hey There,

I plan to build a virtual server test environment at my home.

I read through a few of the threads here and on a few other sites. Some of you mentioned that older hardware (SATA vs SCSI etc) will work with VMWARE workstation or ESX server 3.0 with the right hacks/modifications.

The last company I worked for we setup a Dell PowerEdge Monster with tons of SAS drives and specifically built it spec to order for ESX-Server operations to host a ton of virtual hosts for production server testing. I have heard some users say use VMWARE workstation for test environments and ESX-Server for production. I have more familiarity with ESX-Server and wanted to stay with that version if possible. But, I am open to input. So, I am planning to spec out/purchase a decent Dell server to host a good 5 VM's running at once at the most. The VM's will be running XP Pro/Vista and Windows Server 2003.

I just don't want to spend a lot of time guessing and researching specs/threads on finding a compatable hardware match..or for that matter talk to Dell and have them give me a hard time on providing compatable hardware info for a desktop recommendation versus pushing me to purchase a server. (It took us almost a month of back and forth with thier storage guys to provide a match for our performance/price requirements for the PowerEdge we had purchased.) If you had say around $300-$600..or maybe more.. to spend..what would you purchase for a home test box? The PowerEdge we purchased was around 5K or so....but I am really not trying to reach that kind of commitment. ;)

I was thinking quad core with 4 gigs of ram minimum. Then I thought, quads will get me up to the 1K price range, so maybe an dual core or an AMD system to reduce cost may be the only options for me right now. I am open to any suggestions/recommendations anyone has.

Thanks for your time and input. :)


  • dynamikdynamik Banned Posts: 12,314 ■■■■■■■■□□
    Pretty much any core2duo system with 3-4gb of RAM and VMWare Workstation or Server will get you through. I can get 10-12 VMs going on my laptop with 4gb of RAM. I spent about $1600-1700 on that, but you could build a desktop for half of that, maybe less. ESX server does have some particular hardware requirements, but you certainly don't need to go with that for a home lab. I'd encourage you to play around with VMWare Server on your existing hardware and use that as a gauge for what you'll need to get. You may be able to get by with nothing more than upgrading your RAM in your existing system.
  • RikkuRikku Member Posts: 82 ■■□□□□□□□□
    Thanks Dynamik,

    I had thought about upgrading. I have an Alienware Aurora 7500 desktop with an AMD Athalon 64 chipset, Windows XP and 1gb of mem and about 45gb free disk space. I could probably just add memory, but thought it may better to "invest" in a new system; since it will be a couple hundred to add memory anyway. I was checking ebay and you can even get some pretty decent rack mounted thin line servers for around $500.

    Well, as long as I can get away with using SATA drives, I think that gives me enough options.

    Thanks again.
  • hypnotoadhypnotoad Banned Posts: 915
    Storage and memory are cheap. 500 gig SATA drives are in the $100 range and 2 gig DDR2 is in the $40-50 range. To me, the 500 gig SATA and 2 gig DDR sticks are in the 'sweet spot' of price vs. performance for many desktop/workstation/low-end server applicatons.
  • RikkuRikku Member Posts: 82 ■■□□□□□□□□
    Hey There,

    I read an interesting article which talks about running VMWARE-ESX inside VMWARE Workstation 6. But, you need to have an machine with the AMD/INTEL processor/chipset with the VT supported extensions.


    I guess I won't expect to build a machine exclusively to test ESX server just yet, but it might be fun to try to see if I can get a VM with it running.
  • LaminiLamini Member Posts: 242 ■■■□□□□□□□
    On top of XP, I have ran simultaneous instances of Vista, XP, and W2k3. thats on a Q6600 2gbRAM with 300gb from a pair of 10k Raptors. did that just to see if I could do it. I run Vista now and test with 2 XP instances w/ w2k3 often (teaching myself Exhange/win2k3). glad i bought this hardware... as at work, my machine is a Panasonic CF50 512mbRAM (single core) that would barely install W2k3 on top of XP. On a dual core CF52 with 2Gb of RAM, that was another different story.. it ran like molasses till I enabled both CPUS :P), but nothing like my Q6600 (never skipped a beat), cant beat a pair of raptors at home, and, whereas i can dedicate 2 CPUs to any VM at home (not that I needed to)... and the utilization rate on them laptops could get high, compared to the q6600 which rarely got phased.
    CompTIA: A+ / NET+ / SEC+
    Microsoft: MCSA 2003
  • dynamikdynamik Banned Posts: 12,314 ■■■■■■■■□□
    Given that the blog entry is from 11/1/2007, I'm going to assume that they are referring to version 3.0 of ESX. Unfortunately, version 3.5 will not work inside of Workstation, even though 3.0 does. From what I've read, you can install and load ESX by itself, but it will die as soon as you load a VM from inside of ESX. As far as I know, ESX 3.5 does not work inside of the beta for Workstation 6.5 either.
  • astorrsastorrs Member Posts: 3,139 ■■■■■■□□□□
    dynamik is right, there is no way to run ESX 3.5 in workstation, they changed some key functionality that allowed it (it did have a significant performance improvement overall so I guess it was positive - but I still miss doing demos from my laptop)
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