Best Server for ESXi

ESXi 5.0 Home Lab DiagramMany people have asked me what hardware setup that I have in my current lab. Note that this is not what I would consider a cheap, nor a standard lab. This was built with a number of specific things in mind, including not only having an environment to train in, but also one for programming, practicing technologies like Highly Available MySQL, clustering, and so forth. It is also a production environment where VMs for the house use live, and other items. In choosing the hardware and networking, I wanted to have solid hardware compatible with ESXi, and leave plenty of room to grow.

“Physicalizing” VMs as Desktops

Also, I do something quite unique, that I believe I may be the only person on the Internet doing, at least in the method I am doing it. I take VMs, pass video cards through to them, and then use them as “physical machines” for everyday use, including having a physical keyboard, mouse, and peripherals, such as printers. I’ve coined the term “physicalized” for this practice. This began with using XBMC as a VM, and evolved into using the same method to virtualize my son and wife’s PCs. The only physical desktop that I have left in the house is my own.

My specialized method stands apart in that I pass video and peripheral data over CAT6, using keystone wall jacks with HDMI and USB plugs so these physical components simply plug right into a wall outlet. For video, I run HDMI over CAT6 to the desktop monitor or wall-mounted TV (in the case of the HTPCs), and then run USB over CAT6 to a USB hub. From that USB hub, I connect a keyboard and mouse for input, and any other peripherals that I may need, such as printers. This has worked extraordinarily well, and has turned out to be no different, in use, than having a physical box. My son even games on his, and has dual monitors. Currently, I have four VMs physicalized like this.

As I write the article, I’ll also try to give some thoughts and background on why I did what I did, and also give some round prices on what I spent. Almost everything was sourced off eBay, or Craigslist at discount prices. Also, I will give links where relevant, and these are associate links for Amazon, just for transparency. It doesn’t cost you anything to use them, and I get a small percentage of anything you purchase, so it helps out if you don’t mind.

Intel Intel PRO/1000 PT Quad Port Server Adapter
CE (Intel)
  • Device Type - Network Adapter
  • Form Factor - Plug-in card
  • Interface Type - PCI-E
  • Dimensions WxDxH - 0.9 in x 5.1 in x 4.7 in
  • Dimensions WxDxH - 0.9 in x 5.1 in x 4.7 in
VMware VMware Workstation 12.5 (1 PC- Lifetime Validity) Online Key Delivery
Software (VMware)
  • Windows Virtualization for Everyone
  • VMware Workstation Pro and VMware Workstation Player are the industry standard for running multiple operating systems as virtual machines on a single PC. Thousands...
  • Workstation products allows users to run multiple operating systems including Linux, Windows and more, as virtual machines on a single PC. Users can replicate server...
  • IT pros use Workstation products to securely connect with vSphere, ESXi or other Workstation servers to manage virtual machines and physical hosts. A common hypervisor...
  • No physical product will be sent, You ll receive key and instruction via message.

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