Build your home lab on the cheap… and make sure it works!
Many virtualization pros - myself included - maintain home labs so that we can hone our skills and test new features in a safe, non-production environment. However, funds aren’t unlimited! All of the hardware that we buy costs money. The truth is, however, that we don’t need top of the line equipment in most cases. In fact, we can get along with “good enough” equipment that might include custom built white box machines or buying desktops from a company like Dell. The catch: VMware is pretty particular when it comes to what is supported and what can and will work under ESXi. The company produces a comprehensive compatibility document for the enterprise but this document doesn’t include the plethora of white box and desktop-like hardware that might be perfectly functional in a lab environment.
So, how do you buy hardware that you know will work for your VMware purposes when it arrives?
Simple! You use the Unofficial VMware ESX Server Whitebox HCL which provides you with a community-generated resources outlining individual experience with various pieces of equipment. The Whitebox HCL lists hundreds of computer models and links to forums that describe individual experience with each model. So, if a particular hardware combination worked for someone else and it’s not working for you, leave a message.
It’s a great resource for those that need labs but that don’t want to break the bank.