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

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

The Computing bits

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 updating this page the latest version of Intel NUCs shipping is with Gen 10 of the Intel Processor (Comet Lake / Frost Canyon). At the time of writing the first edition I opted for was version Gen 6 (Skylake / Swift Canyon). They can run the latest releases of VMware vSphere 6.0, 6.5 and 6.7 pretty much out-of-the-box and with the help of Intel network drivers. 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.

In the meantime I have added more Intel NUC 7i7DNHE based on the Gen 7 (Kaby Lake R / Dawson Canyon). The considerations about the VMware ESXi install are exactly the same as per Gen 5. Including extra support for the built-in network driver. Also for Gen 7, the preference is for Jose Gomes drivers and performances are great even in conjunction with virtual Distributed Switches and several VLANs. The great news is all NUC generations starting from Gen 6, support 64 GB of RAM Memory and possibly even more if there were more RAM slots available, especially with newer CPU generations. A quick article shows how to run 64 GB of RAM Memory on Intel NUC and upgrade BIOS to the latest version.

domalab.com homelab Intel NUC Synology Netgear TPlink4x Intel NUC 7i7DNHE

Intel Core i7 1.9 GHz

8x Samsung 64 GB RAM Memory

4x WD Green 120 GB M.2 SSD

4x USB Network Adapters (Anker - Realtek)


domalab.com homelab Intel NUC Synology Netgear TPlink
4x Intel NUC 6i5SYH

Intel Core i5 1.8 GHz

4x Crucial 32 GB RAM Memory

4x Kingston 120 GB M.2 SSD

1x USB Network Adapter (Anker 3 Ports USB - Realtek)

1x USB Network Adapter (Anker - Realtek)

1x USB Network Adapter (Anker - Realtek)

1x USB Network Adapter (TPlink - Realtek)

The Networking bits

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 desirable: 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 upgrade 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.

As soon as the computing side of things was growing I have decided to maintain the same network redundancy approach and invested this time in a couple of TPlink Layer2 managed switches. In particular, the choice went for the T2600G-18TS model. These models are Layer2 feature rich and definitely a good one for a homelab at an affordable price.

domalab.com homelab Intel NUC Synology Netgear TPlink4x NETGEAR GS108Ev3

8-Port Gigabit

VLAN support for traffic segmentation

IGMP snooping for multicast optimisation

Jumbo frame support up to 9 KB packet size
domalab.com homelab Intel NUC Synology Netgear TPlink2x TPlink T2600G-18TS

16-Port Gigabit L2 Managed

VLAN support for traffic segmentation

IGMP snooping for multicast optimisation

Jumbo frame support up to 9 KB packet size

Features rich L2 Switch

The Storage bits

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 additional 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.

The cost of the SSDs is going down compared to the beginning and the cost of 1TB SSD disks is not really prohibitive. As I was looking to expand even further the homelab, why not add a DS620Slim all SSD and upgrade to 6GB RAM Memory? A perfect NAS full of features and a very small factor.

domalab.com homelab Intel NUC Synology Netgear TPlink1x Synology DS416Play

4x 3TB WD Red Pro - 1GB RAM

RAID 10

Dual gigabit LAN ports runs Link Aggregation

Backup Storage
domalab.com homelab Intel NUC Synology Netgear TPlink1x Synology DS916+

4x 1TB SSD - 8GB RAM

RAID 5

Dual Gigabit LAN

Certified for VMware, Citrix, Hyper-V integration

Primary Storage

domalab.com homelab Intel NUC Synology Netgear TPlink
1x Synology DS620Slim

6GB RAM

4x 1TB SSD RAID 5

2x 1TB SSD RAID 0

Dual Gigabit LAN

Certified for VMware, Citrix, Hyper-V integration

Primary Storage and fast Restores

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 and Desktop OS Applications as Virtual Machines in VMware:

Nutanix Server OS Applications nested in VMware vSphere:

Virtual Storage Appliances:

HyperConverged Platforms:

Cloud

Data Protection Applications:

Deployment of Server Applications:

Monitoring:

Networking:

 

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