Initially, when I decided to refresh my Home Lab to Generation IV I planned to wipe just the software and add InfiniBand. I would keep most of the hardware. However, as I started to get into this transformation I decided it was time for a hardware refresh too including moving to All Flash vSAN.
In this post, I wanted to write a bit more about my new motherboard (mobo) and why I think it’s a great choice for a home lab. The past workhorse of my home lab has been my trusty MSI Z68MS-G45(B3) Rev 3.0 (AKA MSI-7676). I bought 3 MSI-7676 in 2012 and this mobo has been a solid performer and they treated me very well. However, they were starting to age a bit so I sold them off to a good buddy of mine and I used those resources to fund my new items.
My new workhorse –
Items kept from Home Lab Gen III:
- 3 x Antec Sonata Gen I and III each with 500W PS by Antec: I’ve had one of these cases since 2003, now that is some serious return on investment
- 3 x Gigabyte MX31-BS0 – So feature rich, I found them for $139 each, and this is partly why I feel it’s the best ESXi white box mobo
- 3 x Intel Xeon E3-1230 v5 – I bought the one without the GPU and saved some $$
- 3 x 32GB DDR4 RAM – Nothing special here, just 2133Mhz DDR4 RAM
- 3 x Mellanox Connectx InfiniBand cards (More to come on this soon)
- 4 x 200GB SSD, 1 x 64GB USB (Boot)
- 1 x IBM M5210 JBOD SAS Controller
Why I chose the Gigabyte MX31-BS0 –
- Headless environment: This Mobo comes with an AST2400 headless chipset environment. This means I no longer am tied to my KVM. With a java enabled browser, I can view the host screen, reboot, go into BIOS, BIOS updates, view hardware, and make adjustments as if I was physically at the box
- Virtual Media: I now can virtually mount ISOs to the ESXi host without directly being at the console (Still to test ESXi install)
- Onboard 2D Video: No VGA card needed, the onboard video controller takes care of it all. Why is this important? You can save money by choosing a CPU that doesn’t have the integrated GPU, the onboard video does this for you
- vSphere HCL Support: Really? Yep, most of the components on this mobo are on the HCL and Gigabyte lists ESXi 6 as a supported OS, its not 100% HCL but for a white box its darn close
- Full 16x PCIe Socket: Goes right into the CPU << Used for the Infiniband HCA
- Full 8x PCIe Socket: Goes into the C232 << Used for the IBM M5210
- M.2 Socket: Supporting 10Gb/s for SSD cards
- 4 x SATA III ports (white)
- 2 x SATA III can be used for Satadom ports (orange) with onboard power connectors
- 2 x Intel i210 1Gbe (HCL supported) NICs
- E3 v5 Xeon Support
- 64GB RAM Support (ECC or Non-ECC Support)
- 1 x Onboard USB 2.0 Port (Great for a boot drive)
Dislikes: (Very little)
- Manual is terrible
- Mobo Power connector is horizontal with the mobo, this made it a bit tight for a common case
- 4 x SATA III Ports (White) are horizontal too, again hard to seat and maintain
- No Audio (Really not needed, but would be nice)
- For some installs, it could be a bit limited on PCIe Ports
Some PICS :
The pic directly below shows 2 windows: Window 1 has the large Gigabyte logo, this is the headless environmental controls. From here you can control your host and launch the video viewer (window 2). The video viewer allows you to control your host just as if you were physically there. In windows 2 I’m in the BIOS settings for the ESXi host.
This is a stock photo of the MX31-BS0. It’s a bit limited on the PCIe ports, however, I don’t need many ports as soon I’ll have 20Gb/s InfiniBand running on this board but that is another post soon to come!
If you like my ‘no-nonsense’ blog articles that get straight to the point… then post a comment or let me know… Else, I’ll start writing boring blog content.