New VMware Home Lab

Until a few weeks ago, my test lab environment was the same as my production environment (where WhatPulse and this website runs on), but in a different resource pool for some prioritisation. The test environment on occasion would make trouble for the production and it was growing too big to keep it where it was. So I decided I needed a dedicated test environment.

So I made a list of requirements I had and did what everybody does, I started to google for these specs. My requirements were pretty basic: small enclosures, low power, at least 32GB of RAM, multiple local disks so VSAN can be used, at least 2 - hopefully 4 - gigabit network interfaces and it shouldn't cost the world. Especially the 32GB minimum was tricky. There are a lot of good and small enclosures, but most of them only support 16GB.

After looking for a while, someone nudged me in the direction of the Shuttle enclosures. While the config Erik used was for 16GB, I discovered my requirements fit in the model SZ87R6:


The Shuttle SZ87R6 is 33.2x21,6x19.8 cm (LxWxH) in size, has room for 3 disks (2 x 2.5" and 1 x 3.5"), supports Intel i3 / i5 / i7 and has a maximum of 32GB RAM. Below is the full kitlist I used:

Description Price
Shuttle SZ87R6 € 277,50
Intel Core i5-4460 (4 x 3.2GHz, 84W) € 188,49
Ballistix Sport 16GB (2x8GB), DDR3, 1600MHz (times 2, total 32GB) € 228,92
Toshiba DT01ACA200, 2TB SATA (times 2) € 153,06
SanDisk X110 128GB SSD mSATA € 68,75
Dual Gigabit port Intel 82571EB (was laying around)
Total € 916,72

(first shipment)

ESXi 6.0

The onboard Realtek 8168 Gigabit ports are not recognised by ESXi by default, you'll need to install the net-r8168 package by hand. Due to the extra PCI network cards I installed (which were recognised by ESXi off the bat), I was able to simply install ESXi without doing anything special and add the net-r8168 later on. If you do not have this luxury, you should create a custom ESXi ISO with the required packages and install ESXi with that custom ISO. Tom Fojta has explained how to do that here.

It's not on the kitlist, but I used a simple USB stick (4GB) to install and boot ESXi from. That way I can keep the disks reserved for VM data. Because I only have 2 Shuttles at the moment, VSAN is not enabled. However, just to check - I added a nested ESXi to the same cluster as the Shuttles and tested VSAN. This test assured me I can switch to VSAN when I get a third. 🙂


In order to support 8 extra Gbit network ports, I switched to a Netgear ProSafe GS716Tv3 manageable switch with 16 x 100/100/1000 and 2 x shared SFP ports (€ 117,-). This switch can do VLANs, access lists, QoS, 802.1x authenticatie, rate limited and IGMP (Multicast support for NSX, yay!). As the layer 3 router/border firewall, I use a MikroTik Routerboard RB2011UiAS-2HnD-IN which has OSPF relations to the NSX Edge Services Gateways, handles my incoming ISP connection, outgoing and incoming VPNs and has a nice IPv6 tunnel (my ISP does not do IPv6).


Since having some home infrastructure, whether it be a simple router/firewall, a NAS storage system and wireless equipment, I have stored it in a small (quarter) 19 inch rack to keep the equipment safe from dust, put in proper cooling, etc. These Shuttles moved in quite nicely, they are a perfect fit!


Share the wealth!


  1. Thanks for sharing. I had similar requirements for my home lab. Now that vsan is in play, I am wondering what raid controller you are going with. so many are out there… my requirement is passthrough , esxi6/vsan6 support, and at least 600 quedepth with budget price.

    • Martijn

      May 3, 2015 at 14:25

      Hi David,

      The onboard controller does passthrough, so in my case I don’t need a separate RAID controller. Unless you need a lot of performance, I would stay onboard.

  2. Hi Martin,

    Great Site.
    Silly question here. Your photo only shows two nodes. Did you set it up as a 2 node vsan?

    • Martijn

      October 19, 2015 at 10:33


      I don’t have VSAN enabled because I only have 2 nodes, but I have a vApp running with 4 nested ESXi VMs to test VSAN. 🙂

  3. How did you get by the 3 host minimum requirement for VSAN? ESXi(nception) aka Nested Virtualization?

    • Martijn

      October 19, 2015 at 10:32


      I don’t have VSAN enabled because I only have 2 nodes, but I have a vApp running with 4 nested ESXi VMs to test VSAN.

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