ESXI Server Build Log

Forum dedicated to computer hardware related projects
User avatar
Josh Hess
Site Admin
Posts: 125
Joined: Sun May 24, 2015 6:00 pm
Location: Orlando, FL
Areas of Knowledge: Electronics, Product Design, Manufacturing
School/University: UCF

ESXI Server Build Log

Postby Josh Hess » Sun Feb 21, 2016 7:10 pm

I recently decided to build a new server for home use. I currently have an old Dell Optiplex with 4Gb of DDR2 RAM, a Duo Core and a 2Tb Storage Drive. I'm currently running ESXI 5 on it with one VM that takes care of my fileserver, webserver and a few other things and it is just barely doing it. I also have a poweredge 2950, but the thing will heat up my house and it's loud so I am not running it 24/7. Time for something new!
I decided to base the new server around the new Dell Optiplex 7020. I managed to snatch one up off of ebay for about $600. The specs were as follows: Intel Core i7 4790 3.6Ghz CPU w/ 4.0Ghz turbo - 16GB DDR3 RAM (4x4GB) 500GB hard drive Radeon R7 250 2GB. In addition to that, two seagate 6Tb drives were purchased to be used in a redundant RAID 1 for the main datastore. Unfortunately, this motherboard didn't have a built in raid controller and ESXI has no support for software RAID. I did some quick research and found that LSI is one of the best for RAID cards and is supported by ESXI. I picked up a LSI 9211-4i card. Unfortunately, this had the IT version of the firmware flashed on it, which essentially disables the RAID functionality. The pictures below show the card and it's lack of a RAID menu in the configuration window.
IMG_4193.JPG

IMG_4199.JPG

Guess that explains the low price. I was unable to flash it back and I also found out that it did not have any write cache, so performance would be less than ideal anyway. Knowing this, I did more in depth research that I should have done initially, and settled on the LSI 9260 w/ battery backup. This has the write cache and should have the right firmware (we will see in a few days when it comes in). Anyway, this was a long post, but I will update this later this week once I get the new card in!
Science may set limits to knowledge, but should not set limits to imagination.

User avatar
Josh Hess
Site Admin
Posts: 125
Joined: Sun May 24, 2015 6:00 pm
Location: Orlando, FL
Areas of Knowledge: Electronics, Product Design, Manufacturing
School/University: UCF

Re: Server Build Log

Postby Josh Hess » Tue Feb 23, 2016 2:23 am

I got the new RAID card in today and it worked beautifully! The only issue with it was the battery backup was shot so I will have to replace it at some point. Data loss isn't too big of concern as I have a battery backup for the entire computer which will gracefully shut the server down in the event of a power outage.
Here is a picture of it installed:
image.jpeg

I am now working on the software side of things and will be posting more in a few weeks once I take the server home where it will be operating.
Science may set limits to knowledge, but should not set limits to imagination.

User avatar
Josh Hess
Site Admin
Posts: 125
Joined: Sun May 24, 2015 6:00 pm
Location: Orlando, FL
Areas of Knowledge: Electronics, Product Design, Manufacturing
School/University: UCF

Re: Server Build Log

Postby Josh Hess » Sat Mar 05, 2016 9:49 pm

Everything seems to be working fine and I have started configuring the virtual machines. I however won't be covering that in this log. I have finished the hardware configuration and I wanted to share an interesting problem and solution I ran into along the way. The first thing was that the Dell Optiplex BIOS doesn't have an option in the Boot menu for PCI devices. This means if you have a RAID card like me, that you can't set it as a boot device and you will be presented with the "Alert! Hard Drive Not Found. Strike the F1 key to continue, F2 to run the setup utility" screen pictured below.
image.jpeg

This happens evertime you boot and you will have to press F1 to load the OS. Great. This is a big problem for a server environment because this would prevent the server from automatically recovering from a restart/powerloss. I did find a workaround. For some reason, if there is no keyboard plugged into the computer when it boots, it will skip the previously mentioned screen and go right into booting. Kinda weird but hey, it works.
Well this about wraps up this log. I will probably do a short tutorial on at home webhosting in a separate post if I have time. If you have any questions about this server log let me know!
Science may set limits to knowledge, but should not set limits to imagination.


Return to “Computer”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest