The Intel NUC devices are proving very popular. Initially oriented to niche segments, these devices have now found space in many applications. Including the homelab! There is plenty of information and details on the web about the possible uses and configurations. The purpose of this article focuses on the very first time setup of an Intel NUC just after unboxing. The NUC (Next Unit of Computing) initially available on Intel, has also landed on the AMD platforms.
In particular this article (part of a mini series) refers to the Intel NUC 7i7DNHE. It boasts an 8th generation Intel Core i7-8650U Quad-Core processor with up to 15W TDP and also:
- Intel UHD Graphic 620
- Integrated Memory Controller
- Integrated PCH
At the time of writing this is not the latest model. This is based on the 8h generation of Intel processors (currently Gen 10 processor family) and as an overall including pricing this one is a very good compromise. All considering performance and hardware customization as well. The idea for this article is to kick start a mini series about creating a VMware homelab based on Intel NUC devices. In particular this series will cover:
- Intel NUC first time setup (this article)
- Upgrading RAM Memory
- Enable Intel vPRO
- Energy consumption
- and more..
Intel NUC first time setup
This Intel NUC setup mimics a similar one based on the NUC 6i5SYH. Also in this case there will be:
- 4x NUCs
- 4x USB 1GB Network Adapters each
- These will be used as additional nics for VMware vmkernels (Provisioning, VM traffic, iSCSI Prod and DR and even VSAN). This is just an example and there are multiple configurations possible.
- 32 GB RAM Memory (2×16 GB) each
- Officially maximum supported by this model
- 1x SSD M.2 (120 GB)
- This is where the ESXi binaries will be installed. Prefer this option and then leverage VMware Datastores on shared storage, rather than using a flash disk. Not available in this model and all USB ports will be used!
- Smart plug with energy monitoring function (optional)
On the back panel the NUC 7i7DNHE shows one network card (a WiFi antenna is built-in as well), 2 USB 3.0 connectors and 2 HDMI ports. This model also includes a detachable panel when adding extra peripherals. Such devices can leverage the internal additional ports as shown later in the article.
From one side the air vent taking fresh air inside the case to help cooling down the temperature. Additionally a Kensington lock to secure the device.
On the front two additional USB 3.0 connectors and the main Power button.
Last but not least on the other side also an air vent to help cooling down the temperature.
Once opened, the case reveals the magic inside and how powerful these small form factors are. Many expansions options including:
- 3 internal USBs (2x 2.0, 1x 3.0)
- Serial Port
- and more..
VMware ESXi will not use a WiFi connection when running native on the NUC. A Wireless network adapter is included in case a “type 2” hypervisor is used instead. 1 GB USB Network Adapters are affordable these days and provide enough bandwidth for homelab purposes. Each USB 3.0 has up to 5 GB/s (gigabit per second).
When it comes down to the RAM Memory the Intel NUC officially supports up to 32 GB (2x 16 GB). In reality, as shown in the next article it is also possible to run 64 GB of Memory (2x 32 GB). Quite impressive for a homelab!
As mentioned earlier it is also possible to use the internal USB and COM ports to connect other peripherals. There are specialized sites that sell additional components for Intel NUC devices. Samples can be found at GoRite and SimplyNUC.
Intel NUC Storage and Memory setup
Adding RAM memory and Storage to the Intel NUC is a very simple process. Suggestion is to install the RAM module first starting from the lower slot. And then proceeding with the next one. The way the RAM module is inserted is the same way it would be done on a laptop. Next is to add the storage. The Intel NUC 7i7DNHE support both SSD M.2 and SATA disks. Ideally the internal NUC storage can be used for VSAN configurations. In this example the NUC will follow a traditional setup installing the ESXi binaries directly onto the M.2 disk. Prices are affordable and the rest of the space on disk (ESXi install requires a very low space – 8 GB will suffice) will be used to create a local VMFS volume where to temporarily copy drivers, ISO Files and even run small VMs.
Taller NUC models have space for an extra SATA disk as mentioned earlier. Ideal for a VSAN lab using the physical hardware: SSD for Performance and SATA for Capacity. Pretty handy.