The D34010WYH1 NUC gives me the option of storing virtual machines on a 2.5 inch HDD or SSD inside the NUC (and the 1TB WD Red drive gives me a good amount of local storage to play around with). The RAM is low voltage (1.35v) which is required. The 32 Gb USB 3 flash drive is over-kill (only 4GB is required for vSphere 5.5) but it is very small (and pretty fast too). I needed the HDMI adapter to connect the NUC to my HDTV during vSphere installation.
The installation process is quite straight-forward and you will need the following:
My current VMware vSphere white-box will be 5 years old in August. It has an AMD Athlon X2 BE-2400 Brisbane @2.3GHz and 8Gb of RAM – and these days 8Gb of RAM is just not enough.
The hardware for my NAS is more recent – a HP Microsever N40L with 6Gb of RAM, running FreeNAS 8.x.
The cpubenchmark score for my vSphere box is 1333 – the score for the N40L is 979.
While I still need to look at the performance of ZFS on the N40L (it is OK but not exactly where I would like it to be) I know that a lot more CPU is not desperately needed for new vSphere hardware (but it would be nice).
I have been considering the Intel NUC (Next Unit of Computing) as an alternative to having a tower PC to run vSphere for a while now. It maxes out at 16Gb of RAM and it really shines in terms of its power efficiency (13-27 watts) and diminutive size (4″ x 4″). The i3 -3217U DC3217IYE NUC (Ivy Bridge architecture) is the current NUC that I have my eye on.
The issue with the NUC though is storage – I can either install an msata SSD in the NUC or use shared storage on my NAS (or both). I would like to use local storage on the NUC for speed and back up VMs to my NAS – the cost of SSDs will limit my local storage capacity though.
The next generation of NUCs are based on the Haswell architecture and include Core i5 (Horse Canyon) and i7 (Skull Canyon) CPUs. The i5-3427U offering (cpu benchmark: 3580) is of interest to me here as it includes Intel vPro remote management capabilities.
This still leaves us with the 3rd generation of NUCs (also Haswell) which have an on-board sata and sata power connector – these are slated to arrive in Q3 2013.
The other option for a diminutive vSphere box is the Gigabtye take on the NUC called Brix. It looks like Gigabyte plans to offer Intel (i3 – i7) CPUs and AMD Kabini (E1-2100, E1-2500 & E2-3000 dual core, and A4-5000 quad core) CPUs.
I think it will be worth keeping an eye on the Brix offerings to see where they differ from the NUC. The key areas for me will be efficiency, pricing and storage – what if Brix offers a 2.5 or 3.5″ internal drive bay, for example? I imagine that the AMD offerings will be cheaper than the Intel NUC – but we will have to wait and see.
On the home NAS side of things HP very recently updated their Microserver (Gen 8) with Celeron and Pentium models:
This does potentially make the Microserver a better vSphere candidate too, especially as the supported RAM has been upped to 16Gb.
The other good news is the built in iLO support, dual gigabit NICs and USB 3.0 ports (as seen on the beta unit, at least):
So I’ll be keeping an eye on the new generation of Microserver too. The additional CPU and RAM are quite welcome (especially for ZFS). I am also keen to know the power consumption for these machines as a whole.
Either way with both the NUC and the Microserver I can build a power efficient and much smaller lab.
If I can score a couple of NUCs and another Microserver by the end of the year, I will be a happy man!
Who among us would not say “yes” to smaller laptop power bricks and longer battery life? Well, read on and see if you really are a “yes man”.
We are all used to laptops with large power bricks which sit there waiting to serve power to our laptops regardless of the workload we throw at it. So it is probably no surprise that these power bricks are mostly under-utilized and waste energy.
According to Wen-Hann Wang (director of circuits and systems research at Intel Labs) a 65 watt power brick typically only needs to deliver an average of 17.5 watts.
Wang’s ingenious solution is to place a capacitor between a 10 watt battery or power brick. Once charged the capacitor takes care of power requirements above 10 watts. The capacitor situation apparently allows for 90% of the battery to be used for chemical reaction and 10% to be used to deliver power. Current batteries typically use 33% of the battery to deliver power.
The benefit is smaller, lighter power bricks and batteries as well as increased battery life – but what happens when the system demands power above 10 watts and the capacitor is fully discharged?
The answer is that power management will kick in and lower the processor frequency so that it consumes less juice. That is the trade off, and for many usage scenarios it doesn’t sound too bad at all.
Power users though will need to look at higher end products to satiate their need for limitless on-demand compute power …
The PSU is matched to the predicted consumption of the build – so any old PSU will not do for this build.
At first glance this looks like an ideal build for the up-coming Windows Home Server (Vail) based on Server 2008. The idle power consumption is great for a machine that will be running 24/7 but there are some gotchas too:
Core i5 is currently an expensive CPU (approx $200) compared to current AMD offerings.
only 1 DIMM is populated (for maximum power conservation).
notebook hard drives are used for maximum power conservation – WHS will require multiple drives.
¹ 900 mhz IGP instead of the 733 MHz found on all other Core i5 and Core i3 models. The result is a TDP of 87W, rather than 73W.
² CPU is undervolted by 0.5 volts.