Want to build a homelab and looking for ideas? Here’s mine!

Computing

This is probably one of the most important unit I have in my homelab environment. After a long research I have opted for the Intel NUC. There are different reasons for this choice and primarily these include low power consumption and super low noise levels. After purchasing the first one and checking the consistent performances I have decided to buy more of the same type to bring consistency in my homelab configuration.

At the time of writing the latest version of Intel NUCs is shipping with Generation 7 of the Intel Processor. They can run the latest releases of VMware vSphere 6.0, 6.5 and 6.7 pretty much out-of-the-box. For more information there is a great resource at virten.net. In addition, I have also created an article showing the steps to upgrade the existing VMware ESXi installation searching and comparing for the drivers details against the official VMware Compatibility List.

The only caveat if I really need to find one is this: only one built-in network card. This is not really a problem though. If we need to add more network cards we can simply use additional USB Network Adapters and use the excellent drivers from Jose Gomes. I’m using Realtek based nics with amazing and stable performances.

 

domalab.com homelab Intel NUC

  • 4x Intel NUC 6i5SYH
  • Intel core i5 1.8 GHz
  • 32 GB RAM Memory
  • 120 GB M.2 SSD
  • 4x USB Network Adapters (Anker – Realtek)

Networking

For the Networking layer I have initially opted for small and cheap Managed Switches from Netgear. In the meantime the homelab environment evolved by adding more Hosts and Storage. So over time I bought 4 of these Netgear Switches. There are a few features that make these little switches desireable: VLANs and Jumbo frames support up to 9KB. Perfect for playing with a homelab.

Overtime I have also noticed good and stable performances. Also tried to upgrage the firmware and the procedure all in all is very simple. If you’re planning to use these ones with VLANs just make sure PVLANs (Private VLANs) are not in use as the firmware shipping with these models do not support such configurations. In the end these are just an entry level Managed Switch model.

domalab.com homelab Netgear managed switch

 

  • 4x NETGEAR GS108Ev3
  • 8-Port Gigabit
  • VLAN support for traffic segmentation
  • IGMP snooping for multicast optimisation
  • Jumbo frame support up to 9 KB packet size

Storage

What about the Storage layer?

I have to admit I’m a Synology happy customer. Initially I bought a DS416Play model running with 4x 3TB Western Digital Red Pro Drives. All configured with RAID 10. So essentially 6TB to use for different purposes. As long as the homelab environment was growing I decided to go for an addtional Synology DS916+ this time equipped with 4x 1TB SSD Drives. This one runs on a RAID 5 providing 3 TB of Storage. So the former is storing Backups and running the Storage for Data Dedupe Virtual Appliances like DellEMC Data Domain and HPE StoreOnce. The latter is used from Primary Storage and where all VMs are running.

The new one also comes with certified support for VMware VAAI integration. Both Synology NAS are configured with various iSCSI LUNs I use for several VMware Datastores. Last but not least also plenty of Apps easy to install and configure. Some of them proving helpful also for homelab environments like addtional Servers for DNS, Syslog and more.

domalab.com homelab synology backup storage

 

  • 1x Synology DS416Play
  • 4x 3TB WD Red Pro – 1GB RAM
  • RAID 10
  • Dual gigabit LAN ports runs Link Aggregation
  • Backup Storage

 

 

domalab.com homelab synology primary storage

 

  • 1x Synology DS916+
  • 4x 1TB SSD – 8GB RAM
  • RAID 5
  • Certified for VMware, Citrix, Hyper-V integration
  • Primary Storage

 

 

Which Applications can I run in a homelab like this?

Of course the list is not exaustive and can help having an idea on what we can use this homelab for. This list also include links to articles on this blog for a step by step walk through.

Hypervisors:
Server OS Applications as Virtual Machines in VMware vSphere 6:
Server OS Applications as Virtual Machines in Nutanix Acropolis:
Virtual Storage Appliances:
HyperConverged Platforms:
Cloud
Data Protection Applications:
Deployment of Server Applications:
Monitoring:
Networking:

 

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