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Looking for recommendations on AMD platform for VMware ESXi host

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July 13, 2010 1:26:53 PM

I want recommendations on a suitable platform for an ESXi server that I am building. While I think that core i7 is a superb platform (I have that for my desktop PC), I thought I'd save some money by going for AMD on this machine.

Also, I just built gaming rigs for my kids with Athlon II X3 435, Asus M4A78LT-M LE, 4GB RAM and GTX465, all of which works great. I tested ESXi on that platform and it seems OK, but since I am new to ESXi, i really have nothing to compare it to.

The ESXi host will be used for two to four virtual Linux and Windows Server 2008 R2 machines. One Linux server will be for production (home server with lots of storage), while the Windows servers will be lab machines used for training and testing of various MS stuff, like the System Center product line.

So my requirements are as follows:

* Support for four cores (X6 not needed, since free ESXi doesn't run on more that four cores.
* Four memory slots
* Six SATA 3Gb/s ports
* Two PCI slots for Intel NICs (ESXi can't use the on-board stuff)
* Basic on-board video (will only be used once, and in text mode!)
* As fast memory and disk access as possible.

Shopping around on various tech sites and online stores, I came up with this:

* Asus M4A785T-M
* Phenom II X4 945
* 2 x Corsair 4GB DDR3 XMS3 (2x 2GB), (8 GB total)

While the Athlon II X3 435 wasn't a particular bottleneck in my tests, I think it might make sense to move up to Phenom for an ESXi host. I would be willing to spend more on the motherboard if it increases memory and disk throughput. Any other motherboard features are not interesting for this machine. I will not be doing any overclocking or core unlocking, since stability is an absolute priority.

So, any comments on this choice of components? Am I right in going for AMD instead of Intel? Will Phenom have an edge over Athlon? Would it make sense to go for a more expensive motherboard with a newer chipset?
July 13, 2010 2:15:25 PM


I am not updated on AMD processors, but when you are going for ESXi you should verify that it has the latest hardware virtualization support. That is for AMD two technologies: AMD-v for CPU virtualization and AMD-RVI for memory virtualization.

So to optimize your ESXi you should make sure that these things does not need to be done by software (what Vmware calls Binary Translation).

Be sure also to verify all hardware you select against the Vmware Hardware Compability List, since relative few hardware components is supported, compared to e.g. Windows.

Note also that the free ESXi has recently been renamed to "VMware vSphere Hypervisor".
July 13, 2010 2:23:30 PM


You could check this out, the inofficial hardware compability list: ESX/ESXi whitebox HCL. According to this your motherboard should work.
Related resources
July 19, 2010 5:15:56 PM


Did you find a suitable collection of hardware for this?
Anonymous
a b à CPUs
September 15, 2010 6:26:21 AM

Which version of ESXi did you test on the ASUS M4A78LT-M LE? I'm trying to install ESXi 4.1 on a system with the exact same motherboard, but it bombs out after I accept the EULA, with this error:

vmkctl.HostCtlException: Unable to load module /usr/vmware/vmkmod/vmfs: Failure

Did you have to do anything special to get it installed on your system? I've tried switching the SATA controller to AHCI, disabling the on-board NIC, disabling IDE, disabling SATA and the install errors at the same point every time.

Also, did you use the on-board NIC or another model?

The only difference I see is that I'm using the Athlon II X2 260 and the on-board video.

Really interested to hear about your setup, as I haven't seen anyone else report success with ESXi and this motherboard.
September 15, 2010 2:30:18 PM

Quote:
Which version of ESXi did you test on the ASUS M4A78LT-M LE? I'm trying to install ESXi 4.1 on a system with the exact same motherboard, but it bombs out after I accept the EULA, with this error:

vmkctl.HostCtlException: Unable to load module /usr/vmware/vmkmod/vmfs: Failure

Did you have to do anything special to get it installed on your system? I've tried switching the SATA controller to AHCI, disabling the on-board NIC, disabling IDE, disabling SATA and the install errors at the same point every time.

Also, did you use the on-board NIC or another model?

The only difference I see is that I'm using the Athlon II X2 260 and the on-board video.

Really interested to hear about your setup, as I haven't seen anyone else report success with ESXi and this motherboard.


The on-board NIC will not work. I am using Intel PRO/1000 NICs. The on-board SATA should work. I was using it for a while, before installing a 3ware SAS 9750-8i. My on-board SATA is now disabled and my server is in production, so I am unfortunately unable to check the bios settings related to SATA.

If I remember correctly, I used the bios defaults, with the only adjustments being virtualisation features.

What media are you installing from? I don't think SATA cd rom drives work. It has to be IDE. I ended up installing ESXi 4.0 from USB, using UNetbootin, and then upgrading ESXi to 4.1. I could not get 4.1 to boot from USB, and the 3ware drivers would not install on 4.1 anyway (even though 4.1 is supported).
Anonymous
a b à CPUs
October 6, 2010 2:37:37 PM

I have the same problem.. Same mobo too, I have Athlon X4 with 8gigs of G.Skills ram...Sata HD and DVD.
I think is the NIC, but disabled as well...I d/k, i guess I would need to buy Intel NIC card and see.

I will report back next day.
!