Home Lab capable of running just about anything you want

Caution: Articles written for technical not grammatical accuracy, If poor grammar offends you proceed with caution ;-)

A few months ago I set out to build a home lab that I could use to run vSphere, vCD, View, vCAC, vCO, vCops, and all other grat management tools that VMware has as well as Hyper-V, XenServer, KVM, OpenStack, Citrix XenDesktop, XenPVS and just about anything else I could think of running.  Initially I built a server with the following specs:

The Power House

  • (1) ASUS KGPE-D16 Dual Socket AMD Motherboard
  • (2) AMD Opteron 6320 2.8GHz 8-Core Processors
  • 128GB Memory
  • 800W Corsair PowerSupply


With this I also got a Synology DS1512+ with 15TB of Storage and a Cisco SG-300-20 20 Port Gigabit Switch and a Cisco RVS4000 router.  I figured this should give me the ability to do just about anything I could possibly want to do.  I can run both vSphere and Hyper-V virtually as well as all the other management tools I could possibly want.  However I still had a gap.  XenServer and KVM don’t have any reliable way to run inside a VM and although OenStack does, it doesn’t perform very well at all.  So I needed to add to my Rigg.

My initial thoughts was to build another machine exactly as my first rigg to give me the ability to have redundancy in my lab, but that wouldn’t solve all the issues I had.  I certainly wasn’t going to build 6-7 more of them to get to where I wanted to be either.  So I began testing hardware.  After doing some testing I found the solution I was looking for.

I purchased (4) Zotac Micro PC’s that supported up to 8GB of Memory each.  The Zotac Micro PC’s are capable of running vSphere, Hyper-V, XenServer, and OpenStack and run them very well.  These little PC’s consume very little power, take up very little space, and give me the flexibility that I need in my lab.  If you are thinking about adding to or building out a lab environment and don’t want to spend a lot of money I highly recommend these little work horses.  The specs on the units I got are:

The Little Work Horses

  • AMD E2-1800 1.8Ghz Dual-Core CPU’s
  • 8GB of Memory
  • (1)Gigabit NIC
  • (1) On-Board Wireless NIC
  • (6) USB Ports


I’m currently stress testing them with vSphere and they are performing very well.  Initially i was worried about the single Gigabit NIC, but they are lab machine and with the Cisco SG300-20 I can pump in multiple VLan’s with no problems.   The beauty is none of them have discs internally and I can just swap out a USB drive with whatever image I want on it to make them very versatile.

So with my power house (8) Core 128GB Server and 4 micro servers i am able to to just about anything and everything I can think of and if I need more the real beauty is the Zotac Micro PC’s are only $200 plus $28 for the memory.

Don’t have a lab but need one on the cheap (2) of the Zotac’s, (1) WD WorldBook, and a simple little switch will work for under $600 total.


7 Replies to “Home Lab capable of running just about anything you want”

  1. Why did you choose the Zotac over the new Intel NUC? I found the NUC more capable of running VM than the Zotac and the price is almost the same… and your new server is great, Enjoy!

    1. I chose the Zotac’s because I’m partial to AMD. The Intel NUC’s are a bit more pricey and don’t offer the versatility I can get out of the Zotac which has 6 USB ports, (1)10/100/1000 NIC as well as onboard wireless NIC. When looking any NUC’s with comparable processor they are at least $50 more.

  2. Where did you buy the Zotacs ? They came with 8GB ? for that price is really good. I am right in the process of building my homelab.

  3. Can you share what is Power House for?
    Running VMs? Running ESX?
    You are running ESX from your Zotac’s, are not you?

    1. I run all my “production” vm’s on the powerhouse. It runs my vCenter, vCAC, Active Directory, and other important VM’s. The Zotac’s are swing servers for me. For each one I have 4 thumb drives. One for ESX, one for Xen, One for Hyper-V, & one for openstack. I can then boot them to whatever hypervisor I want and perform testing and provision to them.

  4. Are you still running the “powerhouse” rig ? Any compatibility-problems or the like ? What kind of ram chips are you using ? I am thinking of buying that board, but googling finds a couple of bad experiences posted around the time the board was launched. I’m hoping latest bios has solved most issues ?

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