I'm planning to build an ESXi server on consumer hardware for a home lab. I'm hoping to get some recommendations on important features for a consumer grade motherboard.


I've only ever run ESX on enterprise class hardware, so I'm not exactly sure what is going to make one consumer grade motherboard better than another. I turn to you, ServerFault community.

The two priority features are:

  • That the MB support 16g ram
  • Consumer grade - ie, ATX-like form factor.

The rest is negotiable. I'm looking for versatility here. The number and types of VMs will vary greatly from week to week.

My two biggest concerns/unknowns are:

  • Are there chipsets/processors that are specifically aimed at improving virtualization performance?
  • I want to account for heavy disk IO. My intention is to use a sata raid controller with disks in Raid 5. Can my motherboard selection impact the overall system disk IO performance?

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.


I'm not looking for shopping recommendations. I'm looking for important features and/or technologies that would be beneficial for this project.

closed as not constructive by HostBits, kce, womble, Chopper3, Chris S Jul 10 '12 at 17:57

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    Not so sure Heavy Disk I/O and RAID 5 would make for a happy marriage. – Magellan Jul 10 '12 at 17:52
  • shopping questions are off-topic, sorry. Why not buy an entry-level server instead of building your own? As for RAID levels, have a look at this excellent SF question. – tombull89 Jul 10 '12 at 17:54
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    @Adrian: Not to mention "Heavy Disk I/O" and "SATA"... – womble Jul 10 '12 at 17:54
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    scsi drives aren't really any louder the sata these days. Aside from a slightly different controller, and better testing there really isn't much difference. Most of the noise of a computer/server is from the fans. – Zoredache Jul 10 '12 at 21:47

To be honest, its very difficult to find the parts that are compatible with ESXi. Especially building from scratch. You are way better off going to a site such as ebay for a used desktop of sorts. Personally, I picked up a Dell T5500 for $525 (Dual Quad-Core processors, 16GB of RAM, RAID card). Otherwise your first step will be to check what is compatible and what is not.

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    Couldn't agree more - just stick to the HCL, anything else is pain and suffering. – Chopper3 Jul 10 '12 at 17:55

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