Building my new vSphere 5.5 homelab


In order to bring you guys more and better blog posts, I need a new homelab. My current nested Workstation setup just isn’t going to cut it any longer. So what better way to spend your Koningsdag hangover than searching the Web for new goodies to buy?



  • 2  NICs
  • reasonable amount of CPU & MEM
  • low power consumption
  • low noise

Intel NUC seems to be the talk of the town nowadays, but adding extra hardware can be a bit of a hassle and is likely to limit you to the board only option. Other popular options are the Shuttle slim/mini PC’s. I decided to compare 3 different setups.

Shuttle SH67H7 Shuttle XH61V Intel NUC D54250WYB
CPU Socket 1155, max. 95W TDP Socket 1155 CPUs, max. 65W TDP Intel Core i5-4250U
Expansion slots 1x PCIe x16 (external) 1x Mini-PCIe, half size (internal) 1x Mini-PCIe, half size (internal)
1x PCIe x1 (external) 1x Mini-PCIe, full size (internal) 1x Mini-PCIe, full size (internal)
1x Mini-PCIe, half size (internal)
Memory 4x DDR3-1066/1333 2x DDR3-1333/1600, 204 pin SO-DIMM  2x DDR3L 1600/1333 1.35V
Max. 32 GB (4x 8 GB) Max. 16 GB (2x 8 GB)  Max. 16 GB (2x 8 GB)
Drive connectors 2x SATA 6Gb/s 3x SATA 3Gb/s 1x SATA 6Gb/s
2x SATA 3Gb/s
2x External SATA 3Gb/s (1x front, 1x rear)
Ethernet 1x Gigabit, Realtek RTL 8111E 2x Gigabit, Realtek RTL 8111E 1x Gigabit, Intel
Power Internal 300 Watt power supply (80 PLUS Bronze) External 90W power adapter (fanless) External 65W power adapter (fanless)
Specsheet link link link


Both the SH67H7 and Intel NUC setup will require an additional NIC. The Syba SY-PEX24028 is a nice option, especially compared to the relative expensive Intel Pro/1000 Dual, so I’ll add that to the SH67H7.
I’ll add the Delock MiniPCIe I/O PCIe full size 2 x Gigabit LAN to the Intel NUC.


The CPU on the NUC is soldered on, so not much of a choice there. I’ll add Intel Core i5’s to the other systems as well. Be advised that the Shuttle PC’s have a limited number of supported CPU’s.

Low power/performance
Intel Core i5-3570T, 6M Cache, up to 3.30 GHz, 45W
€ 180,-

High power/performance
Intel Core i5-3550S Tray, 6M Cache, up to 3.70 GHz, 65W
€ 190,-

I for one don’t like a slow lab, it only adds to the annoyance factor, so I’ll choose the 3550S.


To keep a fair comparison, I’ll add 16 GB to all configs. The SH67H7 has a maximum of 32 GB.


For now I won’t be adding any local disks. ESXi will be booted from a USB stick.
Keep in mind that both Shuttles can easily fit one 2.5″ SSD and one 2.5″ SATA HDD.


You’ll need something to keep your NUC and it’s optional components together. The guys over at ITQ created a sweet NUC setup with a nifty 3D printed case. Alternatively, you could steal some of your kid’s LEGO.

I haven’t calculated a price for the NUC housing, keep that in mind.


1x Shuttle SH67H7 € 230,-
2x Kingston ValueRAM KVR16N11/8* (16 GB total) € 130,-
1x Syba SY-PEX24028 € 35,-
1x Intel Core i5-3550S Tray* € 190,-
Total € 585,-


1x Shuttle XH61V € 170,-
2x Transcend JM1600KSH-8G* (16 GB total) € 130,-
1x Intel Core i5-3550S Tray* € 190,-
Total € 490,-


1x Intel NUC D54250WYB € 305,-
2x Crucial CT102464BF160B* (16 GB total) € 120,-
1x Delock MiniPCIe I/O PCIe full size 2 x Gigabit € 80,-
Total € 505,-

*officially supported

(more cloudfix_logo_smaller= better)

Shuttle SH67H7 Shuttle XH61V Intel NUC Board D54250WYB
Scalability cloudfix_logo_smallercloudfix_logo_smallercloudfix_logo_smallercloudfix_logo_smaller cloudfix_logo_smallercloudfix_logo_smallercloudfix_logo_smaller cloudfix_logo_smallercloudfix_logo_smaller
Power consumption cloudfix_logo_smallercloudfix_logo_smaller cloudfix_logo_smallercloudfix_logo_smallercloudfix_logo_smaller cloudfix_logo_smallercloudfix_logo_smallercloudfix_logo_smallercloudfix_logo_smaller
Noise cloudfix_logo_smallercloudfix_logo_smaller cloudfix_logo_smallercloudfix_logo_smallercloudfix_logo_smallercloudfix_logo_smaller cloudfix_logo_smallercloudfix_logo_smallercloudfix_logo_smallercloudfix_logo_smaller
Cost cloudfix_logo_smallercloudfix_logo_smallercloudfix_logo_smaller cloudfix_logo_smallercloudfix_logo_smallercloudfix_logo_smallercloudfix_logo_smaller cloudfix_logo_smallercloudfix_logo_smallercloudfix_logo_smallercloudfix_logo_smaller

I really like the scalability of the SH67H7 and a total of 3 NICs would come in handy. The NUC setup has the highest geek factor, but I’d rather prefer an in-a-box setup. Because of the low noise and power consumption, the XH61V is my personal favorite.


No turnkey QNAP or Synology, I’ve decided to go for a dedicated server running NexentaStor CE. I started with the popular HP N54L, added 1 SSD for the OS, 1 SSD for the ZIL/L2ARC cache and 3 HDD’s for the regular storage pool. At one moment I was overlooking the design and asked myself; Do I really need this ‘complex’ setup? How much storage capacity do I need? Do I actually need redundancy?

The geek inside was telling me to build this über N54L setup, but what I really need is a simple, practical solution. That’s why you should always start with your requirements 😉


  • low power consumption
  • low noise
  • lots-o-IOPS (at least SSD caching or full SSD)
  • iSCSI or NFS
  • no redundancy required
  • 500 GB capacity minimum

Since I already decided on the XH61V for the compute nodes, why not get another XH61V and slap in a small SSD for the OS and a large SSD for the storage pool?

1x Shuttle XH61V € 170,-
2x Transcend JM1600KSH-8G (16 GB total) € 130,-
1x Samsung 840 EVO 500GB € 220,-
1x Kingston SSDNow V300 60GB € 45,-
1x Intel Core i5-3550S Tray € 190,-
Total € 755,-



  • IEEE 802.1Q VLAN tagging
  • IEEE 802.3ad LACP
  • IEEE 802.1p CoS & DSCP
  • minimum of 24 ports Gigabit Ethernet
  • fanless

A popular (but costly) choice is the Cisco SG300. If you’rre an a tight budget, you could take a look at the Zyxel GS1900. I stumbled upon the HP procurve HP J9803A on eBay, looks good to me. This Procurve will cost around € 200,-


2x Shuttle XH61V compute node € 980,-
1x Shuttle XH61V storage node € 755,-
1x HP ProCurve J9803A € 200,-
Total € 1935,-

Add some cables and USB sticks and this setup is going to set me back around 2K. No one said being a virtualization enthusiast would be cheap!

For those of you who want to step your homelab up a notch, check out Frank Denneman’s post.


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