New ESXi with XBMC build "Zen"

Discussion in 'Other Operating Systems' started by MaximusSmurf, Nov 15, 2012.

  1. MaximusSmurf

    MaximusSmurf Member

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    Hey all,

    After wetting my whistle reading up on how ESXi 5.1 has mostly full support for VM Directpath and seeing some nice new server-esque hardware around I've decided to start a new little build who shall be named "Zen"

    I will be building a small (mini itx), powerful (~9000 cpu passmarks) ESXi box for housekeeping tasks at home. The goal is to have the following setup;
    1. XBMCbuntu (lightweight amazing home theatre OS, will be using VM Directpath to output guest OS video directly to projector).
    2. Windows 2012 Server - Fileserver
    3. Windows 2012 Server - Applications server (Sab/Sickbeard/Airplay)
    4. Pfsense - Cable modem direct to this to manage all home routing

    I'm sure I'll come up with some other little bits and pieces. Also will be used for a variety of testing builds, etc.

    Now on to the important bit... the hardware. I'm trying to get as supported hardware as I can.

    Motherboard - Intel DBS1200KPR - Big enough for what I want, C206 chipset which is supported in ESXi. Vt-d support. Compatible with below CPU.
    CPU - Intel Xeon E3 1230 V2 - ~9100 cpu passmarks, Quadcore with HT. All the good virtualisation support.
    RAM - G.skill 2 x 8gb 1600mhz CL9 - Not sure exactly which model yet any recommendations? DON'T want ECC. Too expensive for home build.
    Case - Fractal Node Case - Sleek, small, cheap.
    PSU - Corsair CX-430 V3 - Enough for what I need, reliable, cheap
    HDD - Intel 330 120gb SSD - For VM storage. ESXi will be run from USB key.
    VGA - ATI 6670 (from current HTPC) - Used to passthrough video to HTPC guest OS.

    Anyone had any experience with ESXi 5.1 on any of this hardware? Specifically the motherboard. The C206 chipset has full support in ESXi but the motherboard isn't in the official VMware hardware compatibility list.

    I'm pretty impatient now that I've been trolling through forums looking stuff up the last few days. Will probbably go pickup parts tonight.

    Also for those interested it'll come to just on $800 for the whole build, apart from the ludicrous amount of hours of my own time I'll have to no doubt spend getting it setup the way I want.
     
  2. thefatdx

    thefatdx Member

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    I must ask. Why add the complexity of virtulisation and graphics passthrough when you can get 1 installation of Linux to perform all of these tasks?
     
  3. OP
    OP
    MaximusSmurf

    MaximusSmurf Member

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    When was the last time you saw a company run all of their primary tasks on ONE linux server... Virtualisation is the future. Templates, snap shotting, segmenting tasking server (ie, file, apps, web, router). Just seems like the smartest way to do it.

    Will also be using the ESXi to test new OS features and general IT tom foolery.

    Also I'm in IT, this will be used as learning experience and for ongoing testing. I want to be doing more ESXi and Windows Server work in future, not Linux server work.
     
  4. sotech

    sotech Member

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    No VT-D with that board, apparently, as per Intel's statement in a thread here:

    http://communities.intel.com/thread/26721

    No passthrough :(

    Edit: As a point, too - if you haven't seen the recent price drops on ECC RAM an 8GB unbuffered stick is now under $100. Sure, still ~$50 more than non-ECC but the price differential is getting much less. Worth considering.
     
    Last edited: Nov 15, 2012
  5. OP
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    MaximusSmurf

    MaximusSmurf Member

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    Hmmm... nice get. That's the slightly older revision S1200KP, not the S1200KPR that I'm getting. The C206 chipset supports it, but yes as you said the S1200KP board doesn't seem too. Can't find any solid info anywhere for the S1200KPR, emailed Intel.
     
  6. sotech

    sotech Member

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    I'm pretty confident that the same applies based on what others have said but I'll be interested to hear what Intel have to say about it - I haven't seen an official statement re: the revised boards.

    Are you confident that passing through that graphics card works with ESXi 5.1? It's been a while since I last looked into video passthrough but it was a bit of a nightmare in 4.x with most cards.
     
    Last edited: Nov 15, 2012
  7. OP
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    MaximusSmurf

    MaximusSmurf Member

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    Yeah I'm very keen to see what Intel say about the board. I'm not holding my breath regarding it having support. I did just find that the more consumer board Intel DH77DF DOES have vt-d support, have even seem some reports of people running ESXi 5.1 on them. Single NIC isn't ideal.... hmmm not sure whether or not to just give it a crack. Not common board though, would be hard to onsell if it doesn't work out.

    Have seen people doing video passthrough. Can be a bit tricky but doesn't seem ALLLLL that hard these days. Easy enough to get guest OS to see the card, just a matter of the driver installs sometimes bluescreening (in win 7), so hoping I can get around this by using XBMCbuntu.
     
  8. 3t3rna1

    3t3rna1 Member

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    I second that ESXi is pretty horrible idea.

    XBMC, Samba, Sickbeard, Sabnzb and a DNA server can all be run on a single linux host easily. The PFsense requirement would probably need it's own VM (but do you really want your HTPC running your internet? Buy a Mikrotik hardware router) which you could use KVM or Virtual Box to host without any fuss.

    Virtualisation isn't the future for everything. It's just a tool to get a job done and it's probably the wrong tool for this job. Use Linux, do it properly the first time and then enjoy some TV.
     
  9. sotech

    sotech Member

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    Well, there's nothing stopping you using a non-VT-D board with ESXi, you just won't be able to pass through any devices. ESXi wouldn't run without VT-x, though.

    One other board you might consider is the Portwell board - I don't know much about those but it's another C206 ITX server board so it's probably worth investigating. No idea about VT-D status or Ivy support.

    Last time I tried passing through a series of graphics cards with 4.x ESXi would hang during the boot process whenever you set one to passthrough. With some fiddling certain cards would boot and work but it was a right pain. If things have improved that much since then I'm going to look into that again today...
     
  10. elvis

    elvis Old school old fool

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    All excellent arguments... for complex business setups.

    My home HTPC will remain bare-metal Linux.
     
  11. rkaid

    rkaid Member

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    Virtual is the future and this project is epic.
    The services being run here, sab, sickb etc might not need complicated careful setup but can break pretty easily with complicated setups. Being able to revert back to a snapshot in seconds cant be scoffed at.

    Having a place to rapidly prototype complete environments when paired with a VLAN capable switch is about as good as it gets. Add some proper shared storage via OpenFilter / FreeNAS, pfSense as a border gateway and you pretty much have it all IMO, and if you can get the XBMC setup it would be pretty mind bending.
     
  12. OP
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    MaximusSmurf

    MaximusSmurf Member

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    @3t3rna1 - I actually already have Mikrotik router (RB751G-2HnD). Have not been all that impressed thus far. Wireless performance in particular has been fairly poor.

    Yeah I understand, but I want to play at having a fairly powerful setup at home. Couple of guys at work can do some impressive things on their home setups.

    My current HTPC is base XBMCbuntu install with sab/sickbeard/airplay installed.

    Bit the bullet and ordered with the more 'consumer' DH77DF. Will assemble tonight and see how we go.... worst case I flog some of it off and go down another pass.

    Thanks for the support rkaid.
     
  13. aokman

    aokman Member

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    Thats interesting...your supposed need a Q series chipset such as DQ77MK (very good board with ESXi) for VT-D, id be amazed if Intel have changed that policy.

    I just got the DQ77MK and its so much better than the old Q67 chipset, has dual networking etc...

    Will be interested to see how you do this, graphics pass-through is a major PITA from what i have heard and very unreliable.
     
    Last edited: Nov 15, 2012
  14. OP
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    MaximusSmurf

    MaximusSmurf Member

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    It is indeed supported, as verified here;
    http://www.intel.com/support/motherboards/desktop/sb/cs-030922.htm

    The DH77 boards are supposed to use the 'consumer' version of the C216 chipset, which replaced the C206.
     
  15. 3t3rna1

    3t3rna1 Member

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  16. OP
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    MaximusSmurf

    MaximusSmurf Member

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  17. OP
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    MaximusSmurf

    MaximusSmurf Member

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    All assembled. Great case to work on. Got Esxi installed on the USB key I bought. Had to add a driver for the NIC as it wasn't supported on default image.

    Found some great little sites for help;
    This one listed the packaged NIC driver and advised of a nice esxi-customiser tool - http://www.ivobeerens.nl/2011/12/13/vmware-esxi-5-whitebox-nic-support/

    Then found Rufus iso to usb to be the most reliable tool to move to it usb installer - http://rufus.akeo.ie/

    All up and running now. Just got 2 x Server 2012 VM's and 1 x XBMCbuntu.

    This thing is FASSSST. Installed Server 2012 in less than 2mins. Reboots from desktop take 8 seconds.
     
  18. sotech

    sotech Member

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    Have you tried enabling passthrough on the video card?
     
  19. OP
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    MaximusSmurf

    MaximusSmurf Member

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    Have enabled the card on the xbmc vm. Didn't test it all though. Was 1:30pm and that point and working today. Well get on proper testing when I get home tonight.
     
  20. cleary

    cleary Mental in the Face

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    I virtualise, therefore I am

    ...(going to contribute to this thread).

    I use XBMC on my host.
    sab/sickbeard/couchpotato etc are pretty complex/time consuming to get setup and tied together neatly, so the less times I do this the better - the answer, KVM on the host, and a little VM that does that plus some other handy services (DNSmasq, webserver etc), and hook back into my host storage with nfs.

    That way, moving host os, or host hardware is pretty trivial.

    I have a second VM on this host for OS testing/dabbling.

    The best bit about it, it's at least 3 years old, runs an amd 4850e low power dual core cpu and 6GB ram, and probably cost me less than $300 when I bought it that long ago, and hasn't missed a beat in 3 years of 24x7 service.

    Imo, it's not just your configuration that seems like overkill, but also the hardware choice - having said that, it should be fun to play with.
     

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