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VMware ESXi 4 Compatible Motherboard

Posted on 2009-07-07
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Hi All,

I am trying to put together a Pseudo Tower Server to move all my test VMWare ESXi machines onto to free up some production storage. I am trying to pick a motherboard for the system, I have looked through countless WhiteBox sites etc, but they all seem unclear, this chipset works kinda, maybe, with an adaptec SATA controller and an Intel NIC.

So, very specifically, I am looking for a current model Motherboard that will work with ESXi 4 and;
1. The onboard NIC's will work
2. The onboard SATA Controller will work with the Drives in RAID
3. Prefer Dual CPU Motherboard
4. Can be Intel or AMD if it helps with compatibility to go either way.

Thanks in advance - Chris
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Question by:cbresnehan
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7 Comments
 
LVL 26

Expert Comment

by:PCBONEZ
ID: 24800284
The ads don't say because it doesn't work that way.
Both the chipset and the CPU need to support Virtualization.
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The thing to do is look here:
http://www.vmware.com/resources/compatibility/search.php
Find what chipsets will work then choose a board with a compatible chipset and the other features you want.
Then select a CPU[s] to go with it checking against the compatibility list.

Tip: The earlier versions of Intel S5000PSL [and variants] that only support 65nm CPUs are fairly inexpensive right now because newer versions have come out and some dealers are flushing their stock to make room.
Incidentally, some of the versions have built in SAS.

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LVL 9

Expert Comment

by:craigothy
ID: 24800293
This is a pretty good resource for "rolling your own" esxi box.
http://www.vm-help.com/esx40i/esx40_whitebox_HCL.php#Storage
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Author Comment

by:cbresnehan
ID: 24800402
Sorry, but these "whitebox" lists are based of random peoples forum posts, which if you read them are far less then convincing, and don't state whether the drives were in RAID config or not etc.

I have found information regarding the ICH10 Intel Sata controller as being "compatible" in AHCI mode, does this mean it will work in RAID mode with drives in raid as well, or only in AHCI mode?
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LVL 26

Expert Comment

by:PCBONEZ
ID: 24801502
AHCI doesn't have anything to do with RAID, at least the way you are thinking.
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AHCI mode means the controller is operating the SATA drives as SATA drives.
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Compatibility Mode is for old OS's that are not SATA aware.
It makes the OS 'think' the drives are PATA even though they are SATA.


CH10 is non-RAID but can be used in Linux via Software RAID. [Any controller can. RAID or not.]

ICH10R is the RAID version but it's not a -true- Hardware RAID and from what I understand doesn't work well except in Windows.

I would use a 3Ware card for RAID and forget about the on-board controller except for optical drives and possibly a local [non-RAID] back-up drive.

.
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LVL 6

Accepted Solution

by:
tgtcat69 earned 1500 total points
ID: 24803575
I have built several custom ESx Servers and I have never found a motherboard where everything onboard "works"

I have been using Tyan motherboards because the onboard NIC's work.  I still am left to buy a third party raid card, but I feel more comfortable doing that because of the performance increases
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LVL 10

Expert Comment

by:dnilson
ID: 24819570
SATA RAID on the motherboard is a joke.  Its not real RAID, the Linux community calls it "fakeraid" or "Software RAID" as opposed to external hardware SATA RAID controllers like 3Ware.

Remember, Linux O/S has refused to support MOST SATA controllers, and bare metl hypervisor, thick ESX, this constraint follows through into VMware eSx and ESXi HCL requirements.

A good article on why this is and what Linus supports is at
http://linux-ata.org/faq-sata-raid.html

Professionally I'm not buying anything but 15kRPM SAS drives anymore, unless something faster comes along.

For my home serer I bit the bullet and bought a 3Ware controller and some VERY fat SATA DRives.

Wish I'd jsut gone SAS everytime i use it to develop anything ......

If you want you storage to keep up with a Tyan dual Xeon MB, you better seriously consider SAS, or at least stick with a 3Ware or areca controller.

Stay away from motherboard RAID.......

0
 

Author Closing Comment

by:cbresnehan
ID: 31600924
Hi All,

In the end I purchased a X58 mobo, 12GB of DDR3, Intel dual port NIC, Adpatec RAID 2405, 4x 1TB SATA drives and the usual other components and built up a white box.

I confirm that ESXi 4.0 is working fine with these parts and curently supporting a number of Win2k8 servers.

I hope someone else finds this information useful.

Cheers

Chris
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