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What should I add to convert a Dell Poweredge 830 Server into a Virtual Lab environment ?

Posted on 2016-10-04
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Last Modified: 2016-11-22
I have little resources but I have gotten my hands on a Dell Power edge 830 server .
I would like to use it as a Virtual Lab which would run 3 machines ( Dare I hope )  I would like to host  Windows server 2012 or something around that .. as well as a windows 7/10 desktop and maybe Kali Linux or Mint with a virtualized network .
My goal is to work on Server Administration skills ,powershell skills , python and other scripting skills as well as some hacking skills .
I was thinking of buying a 3 terabyte Drive and some memory and hope that this could do it .
Can you provide any guidance as to how you would proceed in my case ?
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Question by:Andre P
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by:Casey Weaver
ID: 41829089
It'll really depend how it's equipped. What model processor is equipped? Server 2012 R2 requires Intel VT-X which only two Pentium 4 models ever supported. There's also only SCSi and IDE on board, so you'll need a SATA card to get any large storage. If you have a service tag or a hardware report, maybe I can help you figure out where you are now and what your options might be.
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by:Seth Simmons
Seth Simmons earned 83 total points
ID: 41829094
don't think you'll get far on this system
it supports up to 8gb ram and 1tb sata drives

There's also only SCSi and IDE on board, so you'll need a SATA card to get any large storage.

datasheet clearly shows sata support
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by:Casey Weaver
ID: 41829096
That makes sense, I thought pentium 4 had sata support because I had it back on my 865P chipset. I read the tape backup section. Still though, due to the size limitations, another sata card will most likely be needed.
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by:Michael Machie
Michael Machie earned 83 total points
ID: 41829105
You have very little resources, especially RAM for a deep virtual environment and I suggest using vware from a usb drive. Running hyper-v requires a license and at least 2 gigs RAM for the OS only to assign more resources to your virtual machines. Running VMWARE requires no licensing and almost no memory leaving more resources for your wallet and VMs - much faster too.

Assign your RAM, perhaps as such:
4 gigs for the server 2012
2 gigs for your Windows 7/10
1 gig for each of your two Linux machines
8 gigs total

That's a good start.
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Author Comment

by:Andre P
ID: 41829107
PowerEdge 830
Service Tag: 9C25H2J | Express Service Code: 20320249771
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Author Comment

by:Andre P
ID: 41829109
So is the consensus that I should just toss this box ?
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by:Andre P
ID: 41829114
Failing that can you suggest what i should look for on Ebay instead of this unit ?
Everything I read gets into weeds of Ram ,hardware, chipsets ,etc .. I just want to know ., Buy a DELL X and add x ram and x Hdd and you can do what you want .
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by:Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE)
Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE) earned 251 total points
ID: 41829348
Does noise and electrical power concern you?

you could just purchase an Intel Desktop i7, with 32GB RAM for your ESXi server or Hyper-V ?

or purchase a low power HP ProLiant MicroServer Gen8?, 16GB Max memory, and purchase two, to build a cluster.
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by:Michael Machie
Michael Machie earned 83 total points
ID: 41829720
I was under the impression this question was geared on how to use the hardware already possessed.

@Andre P:
Is that the case or are you looking for advice on what to purchase to replace what you have? I don't think you need to replace the device as long as the current resources meet your needs. However, if you do want to go with other hardware you can follow Andrew's advice.

However, my opinion is to stay away from the Gen8 microservers. Only a single 4-core CPU so your vms will be CPU starved - requiring two as stated, with more cost. The option of running vmware from the embedded SD card slot is nice though - leaves the usb slot open for other devices and does not require space on the local disk.
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by:gheist
ID: 41830742
It houses 8GB of RAM. Even CPU had VT-x it will burn so much electricity that you better go to buy a laptop with 32GB and guaranteed low power consumption.
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Author Comment

by:Andre P
ID: 41830776
Yes Im sorry the question was geared toward using what I had but it looks like people are saying that the  Poweredge is useless for my purposes.

My secondary question was . IF the poweredge is useless then what ?
I want to spend time setting up .. not building from barebones motherboard cpu etc ...
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Author Comment

by:Andre P
ID: 41830811
Michael Machie


Thats just it .I dont know if i can make this box  fit my needs .
If it cant then advice on what to rummage for would help .
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by:gheist
ID: 41830833
Buy a polite desktop PC, look for nested virtualisation and big RAM support in CPU AND MOTHERBOARD:
Rotational disks are slow, probably hybrid SSD+HDD is better bang for the buck (mirror gives better IOPS, you can add extra network card and call it a server)
Extensions:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/X86_virtualization#Chipset
Which means that you can run one ESXi, one KVM and another parallels at the same time for al your lab needs
2nd extensions means various PCI passthrough options, like plugging extra wifi card in each VM (bad example probably, you can plug USB wifi in software virtualized guest too)
e.g. I have nice MSI mobile workstation with on-cpu Intel HD graphics and discrete nvidia quadro, and I can connect later to a virtual machine using vmware workstation. But I would say it is all game of luck.
Other option - slightly more expensive, but guaranteed to work - find supermicro or tyan server motherboard in vmware or microsoft HCL or both, that fits in dell case, change PSU, add silent fans. Again - one server upgrade is not a busines case for reseller, you will need to use screwdriver yourself.
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Author Comment

by:Andre P
ID: 41831075
Gheist ,
Can you give me make and model of such a "Polite desktop " ?
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by:David Johnson, CD, MVP
David Johnson, CD, MVP earned 83 total points
ID: 41831125
What I've been using for the last 5 years is
i7-2600K ($300), P8Z68-V PRO/GEN 3 ($150), 32GB RAM

You could probably do better with a newer generation Skylake CPU and newer motherboard.I have all the VM's on SSD's
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Accepted Solution

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Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE) earned 251 total points
ID: 41831280
Gen8 Microservers, the CPU can be overcome with a SWAP for another Xeon processor, however CPU is really not the bottleneck, it's the maximum memory of ONLY 16GB per server.

Depends on your budget, whether you don't mind noise, power consumption. Low Power Box, Gen8 or Intel Nuc is fine, memory and CPU expansions can be expensive.

But purchasing any server from the bay, can also be upgrade in terms of expensive upgrades, e.g. memory, disks

Another overlooked workhorse available on the bay, is the Dell T5500 Precision workstation, with can accommodate two Xeon Processors E5640@2.67GHz, 8 Cores, 16 Logical Processors. 72GB and we have these expanded to 144GB and 288GB.

Not bad for a Desktop! works well with ESXi and Hyper-V, and supported Intel VT and VM Direct Path I/O.

or, you could always use the Cloud, Amazon AWS, Microsoft Azure or Ravello to create and hosts your VMs, no purchase necessary of hardware, to use your electric, and also noise free.
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