A few months ago I posted the parts list for sub-$1000 ESX server. At that time Intel had not released their Sandy Bridge CPUs or chipset. Now that manufacturers are shipping chipsets without the SATA bugs, I thought I’d post an updated list of components for a screaming home ESX server. You can buy everything you need except the CPU cooler from TigerDirect.
The same criteria apply to this server as my previous post: compact form factor (HTPC case), quiet, power efficient, and dual 1Gb NICs. The CPU has a built-in GPU, so no separate graphics card is required. If you already have external shared storage (like a QNAP), then you don’t need an internal HD and could use the 8Gb tiny flash drive listed below to install ESXi on. The NICs on the motherboard are not supported by ESXi, which is why you need the SuperMicro card.
Intel also ships a lower power i5-2400 CPU (65w max vs 95w max), but it runs at a lower clock speed. Depending on your requirements, this may be a better option if your electricity bill is a concern. The WD hard drive is a screamer, but is a bit noisey. So if the noise will disturb you, going with their green line would be a much quieter option, but is slower.
Antec MicroATX Minuet 350 case $116
Asus P8H67-M Pro $130
Intel Core i5-2400 $200
Patriot 8GB DDR3 PC3-12800 2x $85
SuperMicro Dual GiGE NIC AOC-SG-I2 $86
Scythe Big Shuriken CPU Cooler $35
Total: $737 + Shipping
Asus DVD Burner $20
LaCie 8Gb ultra-small USB flash drive $25
Western Digital 1TB 6Gbps Caviar Black SATA HD $85
Intel Core i5-2400S Low-power CPU $200
Got all of the parts and the server works great. I would advise that you install the memory before you put on the CPU cooler, or you will find yourself taking the CPU cooler off. Also, if you don’t get the memory I specified above, make sure the memory you get is low profile and doesn’t have any heatsinks sticking up above the DIMM PCB. I really like the new ASUS EFI BIOS..very graphical, easy to use, and slick. I also decided to get a tiny 4GB USB memory stick from Best Buy for $15, located here
Update 2: I did some power measurements, and idiling the server uses 47 watts, which is more than 20 watts less than my previous ESX server. The integrated graphics card and more power efficient CPU sure make a difference!
Update 3: vSphere 5.0 recognizes the onboard RealTek NIC. So if you are satisfied with a single NIC you can skip the SuperMicro card in my parts list. If you want the very latest motherboard the Asus P8Z68-M Pro works extremely well, and its onboard NIC is also recognized. The Z68 chipset has the advantage of overclocking the CPU while letting you use GPU equipped CPUs, so you don’t need an add-in PCIe video card like you do with the H67 chipset.