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salamihawk

Want to build new Home Server based on ESXi, have a few questions

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salamihawk

Hello everyone,

 

I currently have an older HP Microserver running WHS 2011 and it's slowly getting on my last nerves. I would like to do away with Windows Server altogether, but unfortunately my cloud backup solution doesn't have a client that runs on Linux, so I can't ditch Microsoft.

 

Now, to my questions: I want to build it based on ESXi and have ESXi and all the guest OSes installed on an SSD. Is there anything I need to be concerned with here? TRIM support maybe?

 

As for the data: I would put VM Disks on mechanical hard drives. Is there any way to pool physical drives together in one data store in ESXi? Do I need to go with RAID? If I'm not mistaken, however, in RAID you can't use disks of different types, unless there have been some new developments that I'm not aware of.

 

I've been looking at the HP Microserver Gen10, so that's the kind of hardware I'd be using.

 

Any tips would be greatly appreciated!

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mattb75

Hi there!

Sounds like you are treading the same path as I did!

I used to run WHS2011 on a HP Microserver N36L with 4 drives and 8GB RAM.

It ran well enough as my file server, computer backup and DHCP/DNS server, but I fancied delving into virtualisation.

I bought a Lenovo TS140 with Xeon processor and 32GB RAM. I installed ESXi onto a USB drive and did a P2V migration of WHS2011 from the N36L onto the new server.

This enabled me to keep the home network up and running with minimal downtime.

I’ve since added an SSD Drive and now have several WinOS and Linux systems running from this with data residing on spinning drives.

The TS140 unfortunately doesn’t support IMPI so I can’t get any monitoring through ESXi, however I’ve not had any issues with this approach over the last 2 years with the system running 24/7.

I’m not running any type of hard drive mirroring, each spinning drive has 1 or more datastores on it and I attach these to the various OS’s I’m running and do file duplication through them onto the different physical drives.

I’ve subsequently installed ESXi onto the N36L and have a Windows OS running which I do periodic backups back from the TS140 VM’s.

My primary backup from the TS140 for my photos / videos is to Amazon Glacier, the local drive backup with the TS140 and also to the N36L provide sufficient resilience to negate the need for a RAID mirror in my view.

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cocksy

You are both doing exactly what I'm doing too!

 

I was using an N36 and migrated to a TS140 a few years ago, but have been using Hyper-V free as my hypervisor and the majority of my home sharing still using WHS 2011. I'm currently in a dilemma where WHS2011 is no longer up to the task (I've hit the 2TB limit) and I'm trying to work out what to do.

 

I've been running a test of FreeNAS in a VM on ESXi on another machine and it seems quite good, but I'm not 100% convinced that snapshots and replication are quite what I am looking for in terms of user friendly home level backups. I'm also a little frustrated with the Hyper-V remote management tools; they require an active directory / domain to set up remote management, and whilst you can get them working with work arounds, I'm quite attracted to the web interface of ESXi and no requirement to change any settings on my client to manage it.

 

The main thing I'm worried about (although it's no different to my hyper-v set up) is lack of an easy way to monitor the hypervisor - things such as motherboard temps and SMART data don't get through to the VMs, so I'm kind of running blind.

 

Did either of you ever come up with a good way to monitor the server hardware on an ESXi home build?

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mattb75

Hi cocksy

 

I've had the same issue as you describe in terms of not being able to monitor the TS140 through ESXi but to be honest it's been running 24/7 since July 2015 and I've never had an issues with the motherboard components or excessive temperatures (it's quiet enough to be housed down the side of a TV cabinet in a small 'den' so gets a reasonable amount of ventilation through it compared with being inside a cupboard - so different use cases will give different results I guess).

 

Every time there's a VMware update to the hypervisor I apply the update and after rebooting I'll shut the whole thing down again whilst it's in maintenance mode and boot from a USB Linux image and check the SMART stats on the drive to make sure there's no major issues there, and I've tended to upgrade the drives for storage needs before they've crashed out anyway.

 

Ref compatibility it is listed for 6.7 - https://www.vmware.com/resources/compatibility/detail.php?deviceCategory=server&productid=36430 - I just use the default VMWare image, and apply updates directly through the SSH console using the information from Paul Braren's Tinkertry.com website.

I am getting an issue with the SNMP service stopping since I moved to 6.5, and that should have been fixed in 6.7 however it still seems to be an issue - I'm getting alerts each morning at 3am telling me the TS140 has gone offline - even though the SNMP Server (LibreNMS) is hosted on a VM on the TS140!!  It seems to be a general issue with a number of ESXi hosts though - rather than just with the TS140.

 

Overall would definitely recommend VMWare over Hyper-V. I also tried xenserver previously but kept coming back to VMWare's solution.

 

Corporately the company I work for is migrating several thousand VM's across from xenserver to VMware so reckon they believe it's a better product too!

  • Thanks 1

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cocksy

Thanks for the info @mattb75.

 

I'm kind of stuck in 2 minds now:

  1.  Just installing windows 10 on the TS140 and using it as the main operating system, server, and "hyper-V host" - that way I can install some SMART monitoring, backup, remote access etc, onto the boot Win 10 OS and then put anything extra i need onto a VM on it. Not very efficient, I know, but it would work.
  2. Or put ESXi onto the bare metal, and put win 10 in a VM to use as my home server. I won't get SMART monitoring, but I will probably survive with a decent backup plan etc, and I also get more efficient system usage to play with VMs. Also means I can easily play with freenas, etc, without affecting my W10 server.

decisions, decisions!

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mattb75

Well the good news if you take option 1 is that Windows 10 Home or Pro both allow more than the 32GB memory maximum the TS140 will hold, and it will make patching any bios and firmware updates easier!

Downside will be that any MS patch updates will get deployed automatically and bring the system down, killing any other VM’s you’d have running at the same time in a Virtualisation client.

I would definitely take the second option as once you start playing with VM’s I suspect you’ll end up running a number of them concurrently (I’ve got 8-10 running all the time!) and the limitation of the Win10 approach will soon trigger a switch to the ESXi route anyway!

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cocksy

Yeah, I'm currently running my WHS in a Hyper-V VM, and have a few others that I play with too, so I definitely see the benefits.

 

I'm just a little worried about not being able to monitor the HDDs, motherboard, etc. However, I can't do that at the moment anyway using Hyper-V, so its not actually any worse to be honest!

 

I might have to go for the plunge and convert my Hyper-V VMs and VHDX'x over to VMware.... which could be epic.....! Any tips?!

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cocksy
On 9/6/2018 at 8:37 AM, mattb75 said:

Ref compatibility it is listed for 6.7 - https://www.vmware.com/resources/compatibility/detail.php?deviceCategory=server&productid=36430 - I just use the default VMWare image, and apply updates directly through the SSH console using the information from Paul Braren's Tinkertry.com website.

 

I'm guessing you think there is no need to load the supported 6.5 image (to load drivers etc) then upgrade to 6.7 - I can go straight to 6.7?

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mattb75
 
I'm guessing you think there is no need to load the supported 6.5 image (to load drivers etc) then upgrade to 6.7 - I can go straight to 6.7?


I’ve only done in place upgrades from around ESXi 5 so not sure if there’s anything which may not work if you go straight into 6.7.

That said, it takes about 10 minutes to install onto a USB from a USB image so probably worthwhile trying the straight to 6.7 route first.

If it all goes ok let me know, not sure of the life of a USB boot for ESXi so at some point I’m going to have to bite the bullet and do a clean install on another USB drive so if I can go straight to 6.7 that will save me a load of recovery time!!!
  • Haha 1

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