Author Topic: My ESXi setup  (Read 5298 times)

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Offline michrech

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My ESXi setup
« on: January 12, 2015, 10:09:08 PM »
My main system is an HP Z800 workstation with ESXi 5.5.0.  It's innards contain the following:

2x Intel Xeon E5620 (engineering samples)
12x 2GB DDR3 sticks
1x AMD Radeon 7470
1x AMD Radeon R9 270x

Connected to the internal LSI 8 port HBA
Primary datastore : Two 400GB Seagate Scorpio 10k SAS HDD's

Connected to the internal Intel(?) 5 port HBA
3 1TB SATA HDD's in a 3-in-3 cage (which will eventually be replaced with a 4-in-3)

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VM's:

VM1 : WHS2011, StableBit DrivePool
Installed onto a 160gb VHDD. 
The onboard 5 port HBA is passed through so that the VM can directly access / control the HDD's.  This system performs the workstation backups, and contains my NzbDrone/Sickbeard/Plex Media Server/Sabnzbd setup.

VM2 : Windows 7 - This system currently contains my Quassel-Core install.  It used to contain a BBS (Synchronet), but since it saw so little use, I decided to take it down.

VM3 : Win8.1 - This system has the 7470 passed through.  It's connected, via VGA, to a projector, which I use to project maps onto my gaming table.  I control the system remotely with Chrome Remote Desktop.

VM4 : Win8.1 - This is a test system.  I actually used the VMware vCenter Converter to P2V a physical machine.  It has the R9 270 and one pair of USB ports passed through to it (I'm actually using the VM now).  I'm testing this to see if it can replace the physical system.  SO FAR, it's doing OK.  The only problem I'm having is a sound issue (I get choppy sound over the HDMI link, but it's random and I'm not sure what's causing it).

Offline michrech

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Re: My ESXi setup
« Reply #1 on: January 17, 2015, 11:54:34 AM »
I ended up having to purchase a USB 'sound card' to take care of the stuttering / metallic sound I kept getting from the HDMI audio.  I've only found one Radeon driver that even works (14.4) -- the rest of them caused the VM to reboot during the boot-up process (I couldn't tell if it was BSOD'ing, but eventually the Windows Repair process would automatically come up).

My "physicalized" PC isn't quite as snappy as when it ran on the i7-2600k / 240gb SSD, and I'm assuming that's primarily due to running on spinning HDD's instead of the SSD.  In the next month, or so, I'm going to look into getting either another 240gb SSD (so I can combine it with my existing SSD, to make a large enough DS on the host to store the "physicalized" VM), or a single 4xxGB SSD, so I can move the "physicalized" VM to it to see if there is any difference. 

Otherwise, everything seems to be working fairly well.  I've even been able to play STO at nearly the same performance I had when I ran the i7. 

Another thing I really need to check is to see if the LSI RAID HBA built into the mainboard is a 'soft raid' (meaning ESX won't see any arrays configured on it), or a 'real' HBA... ;)

Offline michrech

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Re: My ESXi setup
« Reply #2 on: May 13, 2015, 11:51:20 AM »
More updates!

Since I installed the Z800, I purchased a PowerEdge R710 at my employer's auction for $35.  This server included two Xeon X5677's, which were somewhere around 1GHz faster, per core, than the E5620's I originally installed.  I swapped them into my Z800, and installed the E5620's into the R710.  The R710 is now an ESXi host in my office (it's primarily used for building VMware ThinApps).  :)

I've also removed the 400GB SAS HDD's and replaced them with three 240GB SSD's for the primary datastore.  All of the VM's have seen a significant speed increase (due to both the processor bump and the SSD swap).  Eventually I'll probably add one more 240GB or, depending on when I'm ready to do that, I might just replace the whole datastore with larger SSD's.  Right now it has 185GB free, and I don't foresee needing to add any VM's in the immediate future, so It'll stay as it is.

Lastly, I had a pair of the 2GB sticks die, so I removed all of them and installed four 4GB sticks.  These actually came from a second-gen i7 I used to use as my 'gaming' system -- I had to pull off the heat-spreaders in order to get the chips to fit under the RAM fan shroud / ducting in the Z800.  I have two more identical sticks on the way, and with those, I'll be back to 24GB.  Switching to the 4's will leave six slots open, so I'll be able to expand if I need to.

On the software side, I upgraded to ESXi 6.  This resolved the sound issue I was having with my 'gaming' VM.  I can now use the latest Radeon drivers and rarely ever hear the constant echo / metallic sound, nor does the VM crash / reboot loop unless I use a specific driver version.  Since I need a microphone input, I do still have the USB sound card attached, but it's no longer used for audio output.

Since the built-in USB ports were only transferring data at roughly USB1 speeds, I added a two port USB 3 PCIe card to my WHS2011 VM.  This allows me to transfer data to / from USB devices MUCH more quickly!  Unfortunately, the card I picked up requires a SATA power connector (which I was hoping NOT to need, and the comments in the Amazon reviews stated it wasn't needed unless you were connecting lots of bus-powered devices, but it wouldn't recognize *ANY* devices until I plugged it in).  Thankfully, I happened to have an available 4 pin molex cable available, so I connected a molex to SATA adapter, and now it's happy.  :)