Based on Intel’s Ivy Bridge 3rd generation Core series platform, this Barebone system from Asus contains the necessary hardware to build a nice little whitebox ESXi server.
It features a Socket 1155 H77 series mainboard, with 4 DIMM slots, 2 SATA 6G ports, 4 SATA 3G ports, RealTek 8168 Gigabit onboard NIC and 8 USB ports all in a compact MiniATX case.
There are 4 PCIe slots, 1 x16, 1 x4 and 2 x1 in total, so there is the option to install a hardware RAID expansion card or HBA.
On the I/O plate there are VGA, HDMI, and DVI ports, 4 USB 2.0 and 2 USB 3.0 ports, a single PS/2 port and the minijacks for the 7.1 onboard sound.
Also present is a large 100mm variable speed case fan controllable through the EFI/BIOS.
The built-in 350W power supply is your average 80% efficiency labeled kind, but its stable and powerful enough for it’s purpose.
The EFI/BIOS setup is configured out of the box with hardware virtualisation support enabled (VT-i), but pass-through is disabled by default. When enabled, ESXi will allow VT-d for passing through the USB controllers, PCIe slots (rather, the bridges on which they’re connected) or even the SATA controllers.
That last option only works for non-RAID as ESXi does not do fakeRAID.
As the CPU mounted has an Intel 3500 GPU that is also visible but pass-through enabling the VGA controller will render ESXi in an unrecoverable mode should you lose management over the network.
Better try that with a low-cost extra PCIe Graphics Card.
The case fan, when left at defaults, is NOISY. I’m not kidding. It tends to get triggered even on minor jumps in CPU usage and the RPM’s fluctuate rather rapidly. It makes for a very uncomfortable level of sound. As the CPU temperature on the i5 3550 doesn’t suffer too badly and the CPU fan handles cooling appropriately, I’ve disconnected the case fan altogether.
Another minus is the location of the Power connector. The connector is in the middle of the mainboard, right where the hard disk bay is. Any disks you plug in, and you’ll need to push and wiggle the wiring aside.
Being a miniATX barebone, it is also clear that this case is not suitable for large amounts of disks. The 3.5” HDD enclosure only allows for 2 HDD’s, any more disks will have to go into the Optical bays above with the necessary padding. SSD’s could conceivably be mounted in the classic location for the FDD (still there) but the wiring for the front brackets and power button are rather short. Dismantling the whole Front panel needs to be done with care to avoid snapping the thin wires.
Then again, once mounted, you’re not going to spend many times taking the front off….
All that being said, it’s hard to beat the ROI of the total combination.
Prices below are from september 2012, expect some components to be available for lower cost with some proper shopping.
Disk drives are not mentioned due to the volatile HDD situation (low availability, many changes in manufacturer land, reliability issues).
|€ 22,02||€ 22,02|
|€ 151,50||€ 151,50|
|€ 182,95||€ 182,95|
|€ 41,50||€ 83,-|