Hardware help - Need a small form factor mini-ITX or mini PC that can run VMware+PFsense with 2 Intel NIC's and decent graphics adaptor.

Must have:
A smaller form factor PC, such as mini-ITX etc that can run VMware plus PFsense and maybe some Windows/Linux VM's.
Has to have 2 Intel NICs, 100 or 100/1000 speed. Intel HD graphics or better.

Would be great to have an Nvidia graphics adaptor (or does that matter at all with VMware VM's?

Would like to have this be a Firewall, VMware host server and have at least 1 VM that can handle
1080P or better video very well.

I have looked on Mini-ITX's website and Shuttle too, but really need advise from the Pros :)

Thank you,
TheGreatEye OfSauronAsked:
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TheGreatEye OfSauronAuthor Commented:
Actually, if a small form factor wont work at all, then a standard size Motherboard is ok.
Preferably an Intel motherboard and Intel NICs.
JohnBusiness Consultant (Owner)Commented:
Take a look at Lenovo Small Form Factor machines (M73) www.lenovo.com  and then Products -> Desktops -> Small Form Factor.

The high end machines allow 32 GB of memory - needed for multiple Virtual Machines,
They have Intel Graphics - good enough for VM's as the Virtual Application (VMware at least) provides its own virtual hardware
You can get them with 1 TB hard drives.
Then they come with an on board Ethernet NIC and you can add the second with a PCI card or a USB NIC.

I use these at clients and they work well.
TheGreatEye OfSauronAuthor Commented:
Thank you Thank you! I definitely want to get a machine with onboard NICs as opposed to have 1 being a USB adaptor.

I will check them out now John.
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Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
Try an Intel NUC.
TheGreatEye OfSauronAuthor Commented:
I havent found any Intel NUC with dual NICs yet is the only issue.
Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
Why do you want a nVidia Graphics card ?

You cannot pass it through to the VM, so if this is VMware vSphere (ESXi), it does not matter what the GPU is, as the VM will use virtual hardware.

If dual nics, is a requirement, and do not need a nVidia GPU.

Then I would recommend the HP ProLiant MicroServer Gen 8.

It has Dual Nics, a Celeron Processor, which can be jacked up to a Xeon, because it has a socket, at least room for 4 HDDs, in the chassis, we use these for Labs, and ESXi Whiteboxes.

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TheGreatEye OfSauronAuthor Commented:
Thank you for the info. So it doesnt matter what the GPU is, may I assume that applies
with having a Intel HD graphics adapter as well?

I am checking your HP Server recommendation now.

Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
All virtual machines will use a virtual graphics adaptor. It does not matter what the host has.

If you want to use hardware graphics in VMware vSphere (ESXi) for VDI, you will need to purchase an nVidia Grid K1, K2.

or, some users, have experimented with certain models of AMD Radeon graphic cards and passed them trough using PCI Passthrough or VM Direct I/O if your motherboard supports it - but this is unsupported, and has many issues. (but is unusual, and only for Geeks or Tweakers!)
TheGreatEye OfSauronAuthor Commented:
Those nVidia Grids are super expensive! But very interesting, thank you.

I read the reviews on Newegg:
"Cons: Possibly fan if noise is an issue, when running in AHCI mode instead of using RAID the ILO cannot read the SMART temperatures of the drives and overcompensates by boosting fan speed to avoid damaging them."

"Cons: The RAID controller in this server is NOT supported in Linux distributions, like RedHat, SUSE, or Ubuntu. HP states that the B120i RAID controller driver is proprietary, and thus not included in Linux distributions.
HP provides a convoluted driver download and installation workaround that is very difficult to get right, even if you are a pro.
So, if you are looking for a small, quiet, and good performing server running Linux with the high availability feature of RAIDed disks, this is not the server to buy."

Since I will be installing ESXi, I can avoid the linux and noise issues?
Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
That's the problem with reviews, they don't tell you what small server to purchase!

As for noise, we don't find them noisey, but that's a personal issue, as far as I see it, as to what you think is noisey.

In the standard box, the RAID controller is not supported by ESXi, but you have to remember this is a whitebox! Although I think it may be on the HCL.

But you can always add a supported RAID controller.

I don't think you will find many products as cheap, with the case which includes 4 HDD bays.

If you want a quiet ESXi server, purchase an Intel NUC.

Hey beggars cannot be choosers!
TheGreatEye OfSauronAuthor Commented:
I dont suppose you found an Intel NUC with dual NICs built in? I have searched but didnt find yet.
If you have a link, please let me know. I know I am asking too much, many thanks again!

I am pretty sure I will buy a HP ProLiant MicroServer Gen8 E3 with a Xeon processer.

Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
At present, the latest Intel NUC does not have dual nics, but it does not have four HDD bays either, or ability to add PCI cards!
TheGreatEye OfSauronAuthor Commented:
Found a less than $500 HP Microserver, but havent received any emails yet.

Just in case I cant buy that, what do you think of the following? Think the first PC linked can run both VMware and PFsense? My friend uses it as his company as their PFsense Firewall/VPN.




Thank you,
Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
I'm sorry I cannot comment on hardware I know nothing about.

I generally do not comment on whitebox hardware other than whitebox hardware I have used myself and I know works with ESXi without issues myself. Intel NUCs and HP ProLiant Microservers have been tested and work.

otherwise ensure that all hardware purchase is on the HCL.

The processor, bios and motherboard must support Intel VT or AMD-V, other issues you can encounter is unsupported storage controllers and network interfaces.

I think you will have to refer to your friend, if he has it working, I would not like to comment.
TheGreatEye OfSauronAuthor Commented:
I took your advice and bought a HP Proliant Microserver Gen8.
It's very quiet and speedy, plus the gentleman I bought it from included some free TB harddrives
and Win 2012 Server. http://seattle.craigslist.org/est/sys/5217873072.html

ESXi 6.0 Installed quickly and easily. Already installed PFsense. Great!

New issue for you Andrew - http://www.experts-exchange.com/questions/28714417 Where can I find this vSphere Web Client?

Thank you everyone for your advice and tips,
Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
Good choice of whitebox/HCL server, low electric power, we have about 40 of them now!

for testing large clusters....
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