Anyone who knows me could attest to the fact that I’m somewhat obsessed with homelabs. There is always more I want to do, equipment I want to add and new technologies I want to deploy. Having said that it’s not all fun and games, setting up and running a homelab can be a costly business, but it’s also essential if you want to advance your career.

Thankfully homelabs don’t always have to be expensive. I started with a few desktop PCs’ and a network hub when I was studying for my NT 4.0 exams. Now with the advent of virtualisation you can do the same with a single PC on a reasonably low budget. In fact the homelab I built last year was a single PC running a nested Hyper-V environment. Although I have to admit, it was far from cheap.

  • NZXT H440
  • Asus X99-Deluxe
  • Intel i7 5820k
  • H110 CPU Cooler
  • 64GB DDR4 RAM
  • EVGA 4GB GTX960 Graphics Card
  • 1TB Samsung SSD EVO 840
  • Corsair 1000W RM1000 PSU

However that’s not what I’m going to be doing this time. This time I’m going to be breaking the bank and going all out to put together something really special.


So, first things first. What do I need to be able to do with this new homelab?

That’s a good question to ask yourself before starting to build a new homelab because if you don’t know what you want to do with it then selecting the right kit is going to be little more than guess work. Which I can assure you will almost certainly make your life difficult down the line and may mean replacing kit sooner than you had planned.

For me, this homelab is going to be primarily used for certification training and testing. I’ve let my training fall by the wayside these past few years so it’s high time I kicked my backside into gear and brought my qualifications back up to date. It wouldn’t hurt my daily rate either, smirk…

Given that I want to use this for certification looking at the technologies I’m interested in brushing up on will help me spec out the system.

I’m interested in a wide range of certifications, I may or may not get to them all but at this point in time I’m looking at a mixture of:

  • MCSE: Desktop Infrastructure
  • MCSE: Server Infrastructure
  • MCSE: Private Cloud
  • SCCM 2012 (70-243 )


So, set on the idea of building yet another new homelab from scratch I wanted to put together a short list considerations to help guide me in my equipment research, nothing too restrictive:

  • In the words of Tim ‘the toolman’ Taylor … “more power”
  • Low energy consumption (no more HP DL’s)
  • Low noise (seriously, no more HP DL’s)
  • VMware VSAN Compatible

I spent so much time looking at a variety of homelab setups across the internet. Everything from full 42U racks filled with enterprise grade servers, microlabs using the InteNUC, to single host labs running on powerful desktop PCs’. There are some fantastic websites out there, filled with information, I strongly recommend that anyone interested in homelabs take a look at the following sites: Vladan Seget, Ryan Birk, Simon Seagrave, and Paul Braren.

During my research I came across the new Intel Xeon D, this new broadwell series from Intel is aimed squarely at the System-on-Chip (SoC) market and it packs quite a punch:

  • Xeon 8 Core 2.0GHz (integrated)
  • 1Gb Ethernet ports (2x)
  • 10GbE ethernet ports (2x)
  • upto128GB of RAM
  • Mini-ITX format
  • rated at 45W

These low powered beauties certainly fit the bill although there wasn’t much information on the internet about these with regards to homelabs. Presumably because they’re still relatively new. The only information I could come across was on Adam Robinson’s website. Adam was the winner of the VMworld 2015 PernixData homelab giveaway which included 3 Supermicro 5018D-FN4T’s. These 1U rackmount servers run on the Supermicro X10SDV-8C-TLN4F which have the integrated Intel D-1540 chipset.

In the next post I’ll talk about the planned homelab topology.

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