Home > Ultimate vSphere Lab > Building the Ultimate vSphere Lab – Part 2: The Hardware

Building the Ultimate vSphere Lab – Part 2: The Hardware

Several factors are important to make a powerful desktop pc able to host all the VMs we will need:


You need a CPU with at least 4 cores.  It’s nice to have Hyperthreading as it will give you more logical CPUs and more vCPUs to hand out to the VMs.

Secondly, you need Virtualization Technology features enabled on the CPU.

Let’s start by looking at Intel.


Intel Core i3 systems are no use since they only have 2 cores and no VT-x support.  Update: as someone pointed out in the comments section: recent Core i3 do have VT-x support!  So if you can live with the 2 cores limit, Core i3 is a valid option!

Intel Core i5 is good if you are on a budget.  Pick a CPU with 4 cores (some i5 CPUs only have 2 cores).  You won’t have HyperThreading as that’s only available on the i7.

The Core i7 CPU systems are best suitable for our setup.  Make sure you have 4 cores(some editions only have 2).  Hyperthreading is enabled by default on Core i7 so that’s a good thing.  You need to have Intel VT-x features as well but to my knowledge, all Core i7 CPUs come with those features.


I’m not following ADM brands but basically the same things apply.  At least 4 cores, and AMD-V/RVI support.  To my knowledge, all Athlon 2, Phenom 2 and FX CPUs have those.  The newest FX series are nice looking and affordable.


A stable and decent motherboard is what counts here.  If you want all kinds of fancy features and bling bling, you can easily spend 500 $ on a motherboard.  As there are tons of brands and models, let me list the most important things:

– Pick a CPU Socket that matches your CPU (i know, it sound silly but it would be a shame if your expensive cpu doesn’t fit in that small socket 🙂 )

– Make sure you have at least 4 memory banks.

– Onboard Video is nice if you don’t play games.

That’s it besides the usual stuff (SATA, USB, ATX format, …)


You will need 16 GB at minimum!  Using 4 GB DIMMs (affordable, 8 GB DIMMs are too expensive) you will need 4 memory banks in your Motherboard.  If you have 6 banks, you can go for 24 GB easily.

Memory speed matters, but look at the price.  Amount of memory is more important than speed.  Better go for 24 GB ‘slower’ memory than 16 GB of faster memory.

Hard Disk

You need at minimum one decent SSD of 40 GB minimum.  I have an Intel X-25 SSD, but any fast SSD will do.  Buy one of the latest generations since the evolve pretty fast when it boils down to performance.  Personally, i prefer Intel.  The bigger the SSD, the more VMs you can store on SSD and the faster they will respond.  120 GB is affordable these days.

We will use VMware Workstation technologies (Linked Clones) to put multiple VMs on only 10 to 20 GB of SSD storage, so you don’t really need that much storage… but then again, the more the better isn’t it? 🙂

You will also need a big ‘traditional’ Hard Disk for other storage (ISO files, less used VMs, …).  Any SATA 3.5” HDD will do.  Look for 500 GB or more.


The other components (Case, DVD, …) are not that important.  Pick whatever suits you best.

Install the system with Windows 7 64-bit (because of the high amount of memory, you will need 64-bit OS).  Linux should do as well, but i use Windows at home so I’ll focus on that one.

On the next post, we will look at the Installation of VMware Workstation and it’s configuration.

Building the Ultimate vSphere Lab – Part 1: The Story

Building the Ultimate vSphere Lab – Part 2: The Hardware

Building the Ultimate vSphere Lab – Part 3: VMware Workstation 8

Building the Ultimate vSphere Lab – Part 4: Base Template

Building the Ultimate vSphere Lab – Part 5: Prepare the Template

Building the Ultimate vSphere Lab – Part 6: Domain Controller

Building the Ultimate vSphere Lab – Part 7: SQL Server

Building the Ultimate vSphere Lab – Part 8: vCenter

Building the Ultimate vSphere Lab – Part 9: ESXi

Building the Ultimate vSphere Lab – Part 10: Storage

Building the Ultimate vSphere Lab – Part 11: vMotion & Fault Tolerance

Building the Ultimate vSphere Lab – Part 12: Finalizing the Lab

Categories: Ultimate vSphere Lab
  1. December 1, 2011 at 16:31

    Nice. So how much is this going to set you back in terms of hardware?

    • December 2, 2011 at 10:06

      Look at 600 – 800 € for the base hardware (CPU, HDD/SDD, Memory, Motherboard, Case & DVD). If you go AMD it will be more to the lower end of this range, while Intel will probably be more like 800 €.

  2. bobbydamercer
    January 3, 2012 at 17:18

    Hi there! nice article.

    I just wanna ask, does this lab setup support ‘Fault Tolerance’??

    I mean this hardware will be enough for me to practice ‘EVERYTHING’ in the VCP5 blueprint??

    Thanks in advance.

  3. bobbydamercer
    January 3, 2012 at 18:50


    Sorry, I didn’t reach ‘part 11’, still reading ‘part 3’ :p

    Will check it and get back.

    Again, Thank you soooooo much, your setup is gonna help me so much 🙂

  4. nagendra pratap singh
    January 3, 2012 at 20:37

    Core i3 has Vt-X for sure. I use one.

    I am doing fine with my VMware workstation on my i3. I3 has onboard gpu etc so it uses less power and cheaper SMPS.


    • January 3, 2012 at 20:52

      Looked over that one! Didn’t realize Core i3 came with VT-x support. It has only 2 cores, but if you can live with that, it’s a perfect solution! I will change the post to reflect that!

  5. January 5, 2012 at 01:55


    As I know that Sandybridge I5 has quad core, but you mentioned that I5 has only 2 cores..

    are you sure that I5 has only 2 cores?

    • January 5, 2012 at 02:08

      I need to mention that Sandybridge I5 doesn’t support HT. But Sandybridge I5 has real quad core.

      • January 5, 2012 at 08:53

        You are correct, there are now several models with 4 cores, however none of them have HyperThreading. Not that big of an issue because Hyperthreading only gives you some more logical CPUs.

      • January 5, 2012 at 08:56

        Voila, the post is updated 🙂

  6. Anthony Chow
    January 10, 2012 at 00:11

    @boerlowie: This is very helpful. Thanks so much.

    I know you have stated 16GB of memory is the minimum. Is there a way to get by with 10GB only? I have a Dell T110 that comes with 2GB and I have just bought 8GB of memory. Hoping that I can “get by” with only 10GB.

    thanks for the information.

    • January 10, 2012 at 10:11

      10 GB might be doable.

      You have to give the ESXi machines 4 GB (a little less could work as well, but 3 GB certainly is not enough). If they are short on memory, you won’t be able to enable HA. So start with 4 GB each, and try to lower it gradually, verifying HA between each step.

      You could also combine VC, and SQL on one machine (or install SQL Express bundles with VC). If that is not enough, then you could install VC and SQL on the DC.

      • Anthony Chow.
        January 13, 2012 at 21:11

        thanks. Will give it a try with only 10GB.

  7. nagendra pratap singh
    January 10, 2012 at 11:31

    I have used 2 gb / esxi and tested Vmotion. You can even use lower ram in ESX4 etc though I have not tried it with esxi5

    I had tried even with 800 MB per ESX host.


    • January 10, 2012 at 11:34

      Thanks! vMotion indeed doesn’t have any big issues with 2 or 3 GB RAM. The biggest problem in my tests was HA.

      You could also just disable HA and go for 2 GB ESXi hosts if you are short on memory. Still better than no lab at all 🙂

      • Anthony Chow.
        January 13, 2012 at 21:11

        Yeah, for only 2 GB of RAM vCenter will not allow us to configure HA.

  8. duane haas
    February 8, 2012 at 03:51

    Just curious to know folks thoughts on i7 2600 vs i5 2500, I realize that you can turn hyperthreading on the i7 and also play with direct hardware access, but do folks feel its worth the extra $100? I can get a core i5 2500 right now from newegg for $195, already ordered a corei7 from amazon for $295 but am thinking of saving the extra $100 and putting it towards an ssd drive. Thoughts??

    • February 8, 2012 at 08:51

      Not an easy choice:

      – i7 basically has the same performance but has hyperthreading enabled. It won’t give you huge boosts, but it simply gives you some more logical CPUs to play with.
      – Both support VT-x and VT-d so no difference there.
      – i7 has embedded graphics while the i5 hasn’t (ie. you need a separate video card or embedded on the motherboard making it more expensive)
      – i7 is a tad faster (100 Mhz), but you won’t notice that.

      If you need to choose between the i7 or and SSD, go for the SSD as that will make your lab really run fast!

      • February 9, 2012 at 20:54

        thanks much for the reply, in regards to the video question, am i reading it right that it does support video when looking @ the sandy bridge chipsets:


        in particular:

        “arrived in February 2011.

        The Core i5-2xxx line of desktop processors are mostly quad-core chips, with the exception of the dual-core Core i5-2390T, and include integrated graphics, combining the key features of the earlier Core i5-6xx and Core i5-7xx lines.”

  9. February 9, 2012 at 21:26

    duhaas :
    thanks much for the reply, in regards to the video question, am i reading it right that it does support video when looking @ the sandy bridge chipsets:
    in particular:
    “arrived in February 2011.
    The Core i5-2xxx line of desktop processors are mostly quad-core chips, with the exception of the dual-core Core i5-2390T, and include integrated graphics, combining the key features of the earlier Core i5-6xx and Core i5-7xx lines.”

    nevermind, just realized i would be ok if the board i purchased had an onboard video chipset which it does not ARRGHHHHHHH

    • February 9, 2012 at 23:32

      Sorry, i made a mistake in my earlier comment.

      Both CPUs do indeed support Embedded Graphics.

      With the ‘older’ style motherboards, you basically have a seperate videocard onboard on your motherboard. But with these new i5/7 motherboards, you can opt for graphics which are now provided by the CPU (making the motherboard cheaper since they don’t need a seperate CPU).

      So bottom line: go for the i5 with the SSD if you’re on a budget, otherwise, pick the i7 🙂

  10. Andiego
    April 2, 2012 at 03:13

    Nice write up,
    Just wanted to know if i was to setup the system with two SSD drives on RAID0, would this help with performance?. Since the base VM will have a lot of read it should it be faster to write and read from two drives rather than one. i.e have two SSD on RAID0 or just get 1 SSD with a larger capacity

    • April 2, 2012 at 08:54

      It will definitely be faster if you have a decent RAID Controller. But a good SSD on it’s own is already blazing fast… So if i were you, i would just go for 1 bigger good quality SSD. By introducing RAID0, you will add an extra layer which can fail (and adding a risk of losing all your data).

      I can easily run about 5 VMs on a single SSD and they are all amazingly fast!

      • Andiego
        April 2, 2012 at 23:38

        Thanks i should have my lab up as per your excellent write up. keep up the good work

  11. Boris
    April 2, 2012 at 15:06

    I established the lab following you instructions. I’m running everything on I7-2600 and can’t use FT. Hyper-threading is inactive and Host configured for FT is No.

    • April 2, 2012 at 15:15

      Hi Boris,

      did you change the Advanced Parameters on the VM you want to protect as described in https://boerlowie.wordpress.com/2011/12/16/building-the-ultimate-vsphere-lab-part-11-vmotion-fault-tolerance/ (it’s at the bottom of the post).

      You are correct that the host will be listed as NO on configured for FT. But it does work perfectly with x86 VMs as long as you change those advanced parameters of each VM to be protected with FT.

      • Boris
        April 3, 2012 at 11:23


        thank you for you instruction. Everything is OK until i start FT VM. After starting i get message Need Secondary VM. In cluster i see both primary and secondary Powered On. After turning FT Off, secondary VM stays powered on.

      • April 4, 2012 at 08:35

        That’s weird. What VM are you trying to protect (OS)?

        You could also try to protect the VM while it is powered down. After FT is active, poweron the VM and see if you get any errors.

  12. Boris
    April 2, 2012 at 15:27

    Thank you. i’ll try this

    • Vasim Shaikh.
      July 19, 2012 at 17:01

      Hey Boris,, I am sure you would have thought of …just in-case.

      FT do not support multiple VCPU’s .

  13. Rajiv
    May 18, 2012 at 15:21


    I have a question. I have AMD processor with 6 cores. How can I assign cores? I have read on vmware that 1 vcpu = 1 physical core. so If I want to run 5 vms then I can give 1 vcpu to each vm and keep 1 for host? Please explain.

    Also, how would I know which vcpu is assigned to which VM? Thanks guys!

    • May 21, 2012 at 09:16

      In short, you don’t.

      You give your VMs in VMware Workstation a number of vCPUs. VMware Workstation/Windows will decide what physical CPU it will use. Basically just like ESX does.

      So you can perfectly oversubscribe your CPUs (in your example, give those 5 VMs 2 vCPUs) because not every vCPU will be 100% busy all the time.

      • Rajiv Kumar
        May 31, 2012 at 01:27

        Im sorry. I am still confused.

        You said I can assign 2 vcpus to my 5 vms. Do you mean each vm will get 2 cpus?

        In my case, I have AMD processor with 6 cores – What would be the limit of assigning cpus?

        Just want to know if someone ask me this question at the interview. Thanks in advance.

      • May 31, 2012 at 09:11

        Basically you have no limit.

        You will be ‘overcommiting’ your CPUs. So a physical core will be hosting several vCPUs at the same time. But this is one of the main advantages of ESXi/VMware as this allows more efficient use of a physical CPU.

        So yes, you have more virtual CPUs than physical ones. But if you look at the CPU performance of a regular, average VM, you will notice that in most cases, it barely goes above 10% on average. So overcommiting CPUs is just fine, just make sure you always monitor this overcommitment rate and keep an eye on the physical CPU usage of the host.

  14. rajiv
    May 18, 2012 at 17:12


    How can I assign Vcpu? I have AMD processor with 6 cores. If I want 5 vms. Would I assign 1 vcpu to each vm and then keep one for host? How does this work?

  15. Ashwin
    July 3, 2012 at 07:07

    Hi, Thank you for the great writeup. As you have played around with the systems need your opinion on setting up a lab with the following to run 4 – 5 vms for testing and study.

    Will the below configuration suffice

    core i5 |16GB RAM| 1 TB Disk

    will choosing the motherboard be important here i am thinking between Intel and Gigabyte/MSI or Asus

    Will the onboard NIC do do do you recommend a Intel Pro Card

    Will be running Windows and Linux combination but one at a time across all the VM

    Also will be running Apache Jmeter for load testing while playing with MSSql Cluster | replication and MySQL Master Slave scenerios with a minimal IIS | apache front end for inputting data

    • July 16, 2012 at 13:49

      Brand of motherboard: Doesn’t really matter. Just pick one that has the features you need (number of SATA ports, USB, …)
      Onboard NIC: doesn’t matter as well as it will only be used for Internet access on that desktop PC. All vSphere LAB communication is handled by VMware Workstation and never reaches your physical NIC.

      I do miss however an SSD drive on your setup. Make sure to include one as that will give you huge performance boosts!

      • Ashwin
        July 17, 2012 at 09:58

        Thanks. Need to save for an SSD will add it later

  16. Vasim Shaikh
    July 12, 2012 at 17:28

    Hello Boerlowie.

    Need some help setting a home Lab.

    I am stuck what hardware configuration to choose.

    Intel i7 2600 with a Intel Motherboard. I would get a definate VT-x support.. Can search for a Motherboard with VT-D support if required.
    memory configuration…. start with a 16 GB, can go upto 32 GB.

    Intel i7 2600K + a ASUS motherboard that supports VT-X. Here I would miss VT-D.
    I have an advantage of Overclocking ….or atleast 1600 Mhz operating RAM can be utilised.

    Least Thought of Configuration.
    AMD 8150 with a supported Motherboard & a 16-32 GB Memory.

    Below is the Setup that I would configure.

    Windows 7 + workstation on bare hardware.

    Workstation would host a ESX which will further nest 2-3 ESX hosts. These ESX will further have Application Servers & some test sytems.

    I would also look to test VCD & Complete testing of all the features & functionalities of ESXi including HA, FT, DRS, Vmotion, DSRM, etc.

    Your inputs are highly appreciated.


    • July 16, 2012 at 12:07

      Faster RAM is always nice, but in my opinion, more RAM will give you more benefits. Also note that faster RAM is more expensive… if going for 32 GB, it will probably cost you a lot more.

      AMD is cheaper, but personally i prefer Intel for serious work… but that’s just a personal opinion. AMD works perfectly as well.

      Bottom line: go for a system with 32 GB if you have the money. And make sure to install an SSD into the system!

      • Vasim Shaikh.
        July 19, 2012 at 16:54

        Thanks for your insight Boerlowie,

        Surely I am considering a 32 Gb supported Board & will get a 8*2 = 16 GB (@1600 Mhz) for now ..but can upgrade later.

        need to get few specific inputs since you have seen multiple environments / scenarios & helping many of us.

        SSD goes pricey & less storage size.. YES performance is BEST.

        What If I go with a SATA 3 HDD, 6 Gbps & some board manufacturers claim to get comparable speed with SSD.. Will this be a acceptable config for my Environment.. I mean Workstation hosting ESX further hosting few ESX which will have Application Servers…. I am sure disk IO is high… what performance should I expect.

        I would present Multiple NIC’s through Workstation to my Primary ESX…will that have some network performance issue ??

        I would be connecting HDD’s to the SATA port… if need be I would use the RAID connections to add more disk… Do I require Intel VT-D support to present the Physical Disk to the Primary ESX hosted by workstation…or maybe for the second ESX hosted by Primary one ??

        Kindly reply so that I would decide whether to go with a VT-D supported board..(less availability in market) or I can take advantage of other Boards supporting Overclocking.

        Just to add up,,, need your comments ..Do you recommend my environment to be overclocked for Processor speeds.

        I would go with a Intel i7 3770, 3rd Gen Processor (3.5 Ghz upto 3.9 Ghz) ,, Finalizing Motherboard ….VT-D or without VT-d.

        Appreciate all your time and inputs here.

        Best Regards

      • July 25, 2012 at 07:05


        if i get it right, you want to run ESXi on ESXi on Workstation? I haven’t tested it, but i’m not sure that you will be able to run x64 Guest OS on those dual-virtualized ESXi hosts…

        You could get decent performance with regular HDD’s, but you will need a good hardware RAID controller with battery backed up (or flash backed up) write-cache. Otherwise, every IO has to go/come from HDD and it will definately slow you down!

        If you set up your storage efficiently, i still prefer SSD’s… You can use linked clones in VMware Workstation to save space. And if you have lots of Virtual VMs, you could set up an iSCSI target (or NFS if you want) with dedup technologies instead of the Microsoft iSCSI Target we are using here. That will save you quite some space as well.

      • Anthony Chow
        July 25, 2012 at 20:31

        Seems like running x64 bit Guest OS on ESXi can be done in Workstation 8:


      • July 26, 2012 at 07:33

        True, but if i’m right, he is talking about running an x64 Guest on ESXi in ESXi in Workstation 8. So run a virtual ESXi as a VM on a virtual ESXi in VMware Workstation… Quite complicated though 🙂

      • Anthony Chow
        July 26, 2012 at 07:36

        I see.

  17. August 3, 2012 at 04:34


    Thanks for putting this together. I’m looking forward to running this lab and I’m trying to build my system now. I need to run 18 VMs simultaneously within 2 networks on 2 different NICs. I’m looking at purchasing an Intel 3930K (6 core) along with 64 GB of RAM and (2) 512 GB SSDs. 9 VMs each will be split across the SSDs. Do you think I’ll be able to do this without the all the VMs running so slow that I just want to give up the whole lab? Thanks for your insight and response.

    • August 3, 2012 at 07:59

      Wow, that’s a LOT of VMs to run virtual 🙂

      First question: do all these VMs belong to a Lab/Test environment? Or are you actually going to put stuff on them (Exchange, SQL, … whatever).

      Looking at storage, your SSDs will be fast enough as they can handle lots of IOPS.
      I’m more concerned about CPU & Memory usage. Since you will be running those VMs on virtual ESXi servers, VMware Workstation will have to do quite some work translating all those virtual commands to ‘real’ ones. But then again, your CPU is really powerfull and you have enough RAM to give every VM 3 – 4 GB.

      I think it should be doable, but a running ESXi directly on this machine will probably give you more performance in your VMs… But then again, it all depends on what your goal is with those VMs.

      Let me know how it goes as i’m quite curious about it 🙂

      • August 3, 2012 at 14:11

        Yes, that is a lot of VMs and they are in a lab/test environment but I am going to be putting stuff on them. I plan to run 2008R2 on all the servers and Windows 7 on the workstation. I’ll have Exchange, AD, 7 web servers, 2 SQL clusters, SCCM a workstation and some security tools. I was planning on running the servers within Workstation 8 rather than be limited by a 60 day trial of ESXi. My goal is to be able to run all of these servers at once without the lag being so bad that it takes forever to do anything (i.e. move between them and make configuration changes). I don’t plan on stressing the boxes all too much with heavy loads or anything, I just want to test configurations and different scenarios with them.

        i haven’t bought the system I described because I want to have some level of security that when I do buy it, I’ll be able to do what I want to do. I would rather keep this in a desktop build (so it’s quieter) but do you think a dual processor system will be better suited for what I’m trying to do? I just don’t want to spend the money and not meet my expectations.

      • August 6, 2012 at 07:01

        Depends on what your focues is.

        If you want to learn ESX/vSphere, set up the lab as described. If you want to experiment with Exchange, AD, SQL, … (so applications on your VM), then i would rather install ESXi directly on your Desktop PC and run all the VMs directly on them. It will give you better performance than running them in VMware workstation.

        But you need another pc/laptop/… to manage your desktop PC since it is running ESXi…

  18. John
    August 14, 2012 at 21:02

    Hi I want to get a desktop that will be optimum for this vmware setup. I have looked at the following 2 but having reservations about the quality of the machines. Do you have any recommendation in the budget of around $600.

    The 2 have looked at are:

    1. http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16883103464

    2. http://www.costco.com/Browse/Product.aspx?Prodid=11771214&whse=BC&Ne=5000135%204000000&eCat=BC|84|4797&N=4001604%204294899772&No=17&Mo=16&Nr=P_CatalogName:BC&Ns=P_Price|1||P_SignDesc1&lang=en-US&SessionID=cc45c700-f1f2-4141-b58c-f1279538f2c4

    Thanks, any guidance will be helpful.

    • August 27, 2012 at 08:30

      Basically, both are more or less equal, except that the HP has an i7 CPU. So i would prefer the i7 above the i5!

      You could as well go for SuperMicro server, but honestly, i would only recommend then above a ‘regular’ Desktop PC if you are going to run ESXi directly on the host. So for this lab, go for a desktop which is powerfull and silent!

  19. John
    August 14, 2012 at 21:09

    Forgot to add.

    I have also looked at ebay for supermicro servers. Would those be better options?


  20. John
    August 27, 2012 at 18:16

    Thanks. I just placed an order for the HP last week and looking forward to setting up th elab as per your guidelines.

  21. October 10, 2012 at 16:07

    HI, im going to purchase an ASUS laptop that is an I7 quad core with sandy bridge architecture, 16GB RAM but it comes with 750GB HDD. Its also Windows 7 64BIT HOME Edition. Does the fact that its a home edition of Windows affect it (i.e. does it need to be Windows 7 64BIT PROFESSIONAL?) For an extra £250 ($350) i can replace the 750GB HDD with a 256GB SSD – id rather not do this but if its needed then i can possibly stretch to it if it will result in a huge performance increase. I need to get the spec right as i would like to go on from my VCP 510 that i have just passed and do VCAP so i need to know that shared storage can be mimiced on this laptop using openfiler.
    Thanks for your time

    • October 12, 2012 at 18:26

      Definately go with the SSD. It just boost your VMs performance enormously! You might need the HDD to store other things if you’re short on storage, but in most Laptops, you can install two SSD/HDDs. Or connect the HDD externally… Anyway, you get my point -> go with the SSD 🙂

      • October 13, 2012 at 08:34

        Cool thanks – and no issue running VMware workstation on windows HOME premium 64 BIT?

      • October 31, 2012 at 08:01

        Nopes. Runs perfectly!

      • October 13, 2012 at 08:35

        Thanks – and workstation will run on Windows HOME premium 64 BIT with no problem?

      • October 31, 2012 at 08:01

        Yups! That runs perfectly!

  22. Ell
    October 25, 2012 at 15:47


    I am looking at purchasing the following itmes, can you please advise if there are any problems with my choices and if I need to purchase anything else?

    Gigabyte X79 G1 Assassin 2 Intel X79 (Socket 2011) DDR3 Motherboard

    Intel Core i7-3820 3.60GHz (Sandybridge-E) Socket LGA2011 Processor – Retail

    OCZ Agility 3 240GB 2.5″ SATA 6Gb/s Solid State Hard Drive (AGT3-25SAT3-240G)

    Western Digital RE4 1TB SATA-II 64MB Cache – OEM (WD1003FBYX)

    TeamGroup Elite 16GB (2x8GB) DDR3 PC3-12800C11 1600MHz Dual Channel Kit (TED316GM1600HC11DC01)

    Thank you

    • October 31, 2012 at 08:00


      Surely looking good!

      If you have some money left, throw 32 GB at it instead of 16 GB. It only adds like 50 pounds, but it will give you some more room to play with additional VMs. Don’t get me wrong, 16 GB will be enough for the lab, but if you want to play some more and experiment with other things like vCenter Heartbeat/SRM/VCOPS/… you could always use some extra horsepower. CPU and SSD is more than enough, but 16GB mem will be a bit short for those extra things.

  23. Stefano
    October 31, 2012 at 12:19

    I have dell poweredge 1950 III with 4x73GB SAS HD. I need HD SSD?

    • November 2, 2012 at 09:22

      Depends a bit of the speed of the disks. But if you have 4 HDDs in a RAID 5 with a decent RAID Controller (using write cache), then you should be able to use the existing HDDs. SSD will offcourse be faster, but 4 to 5 VMs will be perfectly possible on 4x SAS HDDs.

  24. Will
    November 27, 2012 at 22:20

    Fantastic series of posts! Came across it when searching for a lab setup and was looking at a couple of HP Microservers but like your approach as it’s more flexible and will get used even when not studying!
    I’ve currently got a basket with the below components in:
    ASRock Z77 Extreme4 Socket 1155 ATX Motherboard
    Intel Core i7 3770 3.4GHz Socket 1155 8MB Cache Processor
    Corsair 32GB (4x 8GB) 1600MHz DDR3 Memory
    Crucial 256GB M4 SSD

    I just wanted to run it by you in case anything major has changed since you posted and to ensure it would support all vSphere features (apart from 64bit VM fault tolerance – as I understand it, still not supported in workstation). I’d definitely be interested (and sure others would be) in a latest recommendations for a 5.1 lab blog post.


    • November 28, 2012 at 10:08

      Yeah i know… i should update it to 5.1 and Workstation 9… Only have to find some spare time to do it!

      Your components look okay to me. More than enough horsepower to play with various things! With this setup, you can even setup a VDI solution and play comfortably with vShield, VDR, …

      Enjoy the lab!

  25. tony
    November 28, 2012 at 00:21

    Great Blog and the series!

    I need to get a new lab. Currently have unused Intel i7-870 SLBJG and looking to build one box to use in nested environment (to play and learn HA, etc features). Planning to work with both HV2012 and ESX on top of ESXi5 or workstation 9.
    I’m limited on budget and my hardware knowledge is also not great. Could you please suggest good and not to expensive motherboard for that processor? thanks, tony

    • November 28, 2012 at 10:13

      I have an i7-860, which is almost the same CPU as yours (a bit slower and i have embedded video in the CPU). But the same socket etc.

      I bought an Asus P7P55D-E motherboard. Standard motherboard with good functionality and good price. You have more extended version of this board available with more options, but if you don’t need those, go with the standard version as it will save you some money!


  26. Marcin
    December 2, 2012 at 20:46

    Will :
    Fantastic series of posts! Came across it when searching for a lab setup and was looking at a couple of HP Microservers but like your approach as it’s more flexible and will get used even when not studying!
    I’ve currently got a basket with the below components in:
    ASRock Z77 Extreme4 Socket 1155 ATX Motherboard
    Intel Core i7 3770 3.4GHz Socket 1155 8MB Cache Processor
    Corsair 32GB (4x 8GB) 1600MHz DDR3 Memory
    Crucial 256GB M4 SSD
    I just wanted to run it by you in case anything major has changed since you posted and to ensure it would support all vSphere features (apart from 64bit VM fault tolerance – as I understand it, still not supported in workstation). I’d definitely be interested (and sure others would be) in a latest recommendations for a 5.1 lab blog post.

    I got a bit scaled down system you do and the lab is flying on my machine along few other VM’s. I am running it on I7-2600k o/c 4.5ghz 16GB ram (considering 32gb) and only 128GB old Corsair SSD dedicated for VM – my OS is on a separate 64 GB SSD while other things such iso’s, installation files etc are on a normal HDD.
    You should definitely have no problems running anything on such hardware.

    • Shayn Parker
      December 27, 2012 at 17:30

      Firstly, great blog and am now pinning down the kit to order before I build my lab. Just wondering if you would advise getting the non K series intel chip as it doesn’t support VT-d. Would this be a problem do you think? Also what motherboard have you used?

      • January 7, 2013 at 21:42

        I have an ASUS motherboard (P7P55D), but i don’t think they even sell those anymore as it’s about 1 year old.

        If you go with a motherboard without VT-d, you won’t be able to run x64 nested VMs (note that a lot of VMware appliances like vShield, VDR, … are all x64).

        So it should work, but with it’s limitations. If you want to play around with other VMware vSphere products, go shop for a VT-d CPU.

  27. Marcin
    December 2, 2012 at 20:48

    boerlowie :
    Yeah i know… i should update it to 5.1 and Workstation 9… Only have to find some spare time to do it!
    Your components look okay to me. More than enough horsepower to play with various things! With this setup, you can even setup a VDI solution and play comfortably with vShield, VDR, …
    Enjoy the lab!

    First, Great blog and very nice lab – it helped me tremendously. I can confirm that the lab works great on VMware workstation 9 – haven’t tried vSphere 5.1 though as I am currently experimenting with Citrix XenApp 6.5 for my CCA exam.

  28. Filip Smeets
    December 5, 2012 at 21:06

    Great blog! I was wondering how my HP Elitebook 8560w would perform buiding this lab? I have installed an 256GB SSD and installed my original 500GB SATA disk in the DVD bay. I’m currently running only 8GB RAM. I’m guessing that a RAM upgrade would be necessary?

    • December 14, 2012 at 21:21

      If you bump the RAM to 16 GB you will be okay.

      In fact, 8 GB is doable, but you won’t be able to run workloads on your virtual ESXi hosts…

      • December 14, 2012 at 23:25

        Hi – I have everything up and running, however I need to give all VMs Internet access. What do I need to do with the auto bridging Vmnet adaptor to get this to work?

      • December 17, 2012 at 17:17

        Change the properties of VMNet5 to Bridged instead of Host-Only.

        Don’t use the local DHCP server to hand out IP Addresses, as the VMs should receive an IP address from your home network (usually your router).

        That should do the trick!

  29. Minhaj
    December 16, 2012 at 05:35

    In hardware list you have not mention how many NIC cards you have used. Please update on this wil be appreciated.

    • December 17, 2012 at 17:09

      It doesn’t really matter as all your networktraffic will stay isolated in VMware Workstation for this Lab. I only have one physical NIC on my desktop, but it isn’t used for this lab.

      You can actually run this Lab without a physical NIC in your desktop!

  30. December 17, 2012 at 22:45

    I only have VMnet 2 & 3 because i dont have a licence for fault tolerance so my setup is slightly different but it works perfectly with HA etc. VMnet 2 is where my vm network is running. So how do i make this work? iI cant activate my VM’s as i cant get them to the internet – help!!

  31. RAJ
    January 29, 2013 at 09:31

    Hey Boerlowie,

    Great effort.
    can we deploy this lab setup on Windows 8 machine.
    And my Sys config is Windows 8, i5 processor, 4GB RAM, 640 HDD.
    Can you please suggest me how many VMs i have to create for DC, vCenter, SQL and Win 2k8 R2 based on my sys config. And anyway i will go for 2 ESX hosts.

    • February 7, 2013 at 20:24

      4 GB of RAM isn’t enough for the lab. You really need 8 GB minimal, but 16 GB is more comfortable.

      And SSD drive will boost the lab enormously… HDD will work, but be prepared to drink load of coffee 🙂

  32. NAG
    January 30, 2013 at 13:30

    Can we deploy this lab setup windows 8 Host machine?

  33. NAG
    January 30, 2013 at 13:31

    Can we deploy this lab setup on windows 8 Host machine?

    • February 7, 2013 at 20:22

      Sure! All the magic happens in VMware Workstation.

      I plan on writing an updated version for VMware Workstation 9, vSphere 5.1 & Server 2012 as soon as 5.1 on 2012 is all officially supported and working. Keep an eye on the blog!

  34. RAJ
    February 14, 2013 at 14:09

    I will upgrade the RAM to 8 GB.
    But incase of SSD, how do i connect it to laptop and use it, as an external harddrive or something else? Will it work, when we connect SSD as an external Hard drive?

  35. March 13, 2013 at 14:34

    Reblogged this on UC Lord and commented:
    Part 2

  36. Zaki
    July 8, 2013 at 16:22

    Before I go and by 4×4 Ram I would like to know if the follwoing can support the hardware mentioned

    Motherboard: GIGABYTE GA-P43-ES3G LGA 775 Intel P43 ATX Intel
    CPU: Intel® Core™2 Quad Processor Q9550 (Supports VT-x and upto 16gb)

    Currently I have 8GB installed
    Before I go by new set’s of RAM, I would anyone to verify if it can work with this example.

    Thanks everyone

  37. Ivan
    September 25, 2013 at 15:35

    Can you post what is actual hardware setup for this articles?

  38. Jason
    November 26, 2013 at 05:39

    Hi boerlowie, thanks so much for your guidance!

    On this post, you recommended at least a 4 Core. Is this absolutely a ‘must’ ?
    I mean will a ‘2 Core, 8GB RAM, Win 8.1 64bits’ do the job ?
    I have a 128GB SSD and an external HDD running on USB 3.0. Can this work ? I mean can i run the external HDD on USB 3.0 ?

    • November 26, 2013 at 10:39

      8 GB of RAM will be your biggest problem in the config. CPU & USB 3.0 HDD will be okay, but you will be limited by 8 GB of RAM, so see if you can upgrade that.

  39. Jason
    November 26, 2013 at 05:46

    Hi boerlowie, i forgot to mention that it is a i7-3667U @ 2.00GHz, 64bits.
    It is VT-x enabled with Extended Page Tables, Hyper-Threading enabled.

  1. June 8, 2012 at 16:43

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