ESXi 7 server build recommendations



I'd like to build an ESXi 7 server with 16+ cores, min 64gig ram, and 4TB storage. No video card or sound card is required. The build needs to be rock solid but more importantly, it needs to be quiet. The budget is around $2k. What parts would you recommend for this build (Motherboard, memory, cooling, case, etc).



  • Ian

    Greetings, I'd look over this parts list.

    For now I left the hard drive empty but there is still plenty of your budget left over dependent on whether not you wanted an SSD or just a standard HDD.

  • LCM

    Thanks Ian! I'd probably go with SSD for quiet operation. This system will always be on since it's a server. Would you recommend a water-cooled AIO for the CPU cooling or another choice?

  • Ian

    As seeing you'd be going with a high-end processor for this build. I'd recommend a 240mm or 360mm AIO.

  • rootwyrm

    Hi. I'm RootWyrm.

    As in the RootWyrm. The ESXi whitebox guy.

    I looked over Ian's list and I would very strongly recommend against it. This is NOT going to play nice with ESXi7 even as a lab box for a whole list of reasons, not the least of which is known Z690 and E-core issues which will almost certainly not be fixed. There is no driver for the i225V which works either, and I don't have time (or much inclination) to fix it myself these days.

    The fact is that to build a solid ESXi box will require you to purchase parts Microcenter simply doesn't stock. Which you should not blame them for - if they carried these parts, they'd sell maybe two or three a year at best. It's just not worth it.

    So that said, here's what you actually need:

    Yeah. We're not messing around here. First of all, the WRX80E-SAGE is a 90% HCL board. It will run ESXi without issue, period. Every component on the board is also supported out of the box, and the integrated IPMI means you do not need a separate GPU. Which is why I didn't include one - not because they're impossible to get. (If you want to do GPU workloads, Z690 doesn't do passthrough anyway.)

    Secondly, the use of Ballistix kits is very, very deliberate. These are 2x16GB Micron 16Gbit E-die, which means they are 1R per DIMM. Going from 64 to 128GB would keep you at a maximum of 8R. You can swap around to whatever Ballistix kit makes the most sense for your workload though, from 32 to 256GB. If you want to go over 256GB (which is entirely possible) then Microcenter just doesn't sell the parts.

    Case is free selection, really. I just grabbed LiLi because it was there at the top. But it also depends on your noise level tolerance and how much room you have. You need a minimum 360mm radiator though. A 280 can work, but if you're going to have consistently high CPU load (above 50%) I really would not recommend it.

    But the REAL problem is the cooling. One, never run Threadrippers on air. You'll have a bad time at best. And you CANNOT use most common AIOs. The BabyGryphon family is very, very specifically built around the Arctic Freezer II for that reason. It's the ONLY one on the market that can fully operate without additional software, which is a mandatory thing. However, the AFII does not support Threadripper (come on, Arctic, it can do the job.) EVGA is the least worst option here, because it has reasonable defaults. Everyone else is absolutely right out, and that goes triple for Corsair. EVGA uses a standard Asetek profile default and a standard Asetek bracket. But realistically I would not build this without a custom loop with a Bitspower Leviathan 360.

    Honestly, more realistically, I would ask whether a single big machine actually makes sense here or whether multiple smaller machines (e.g. BabyGryphons) in a cluster would make more sense. BabyGryphons are VERY specifically designed to be absolutely silent (sub-34dBA at 100% load) and extremely compact while scaling to 128GB per host. Much more importantly, BabyGryphons are 99.9% HCL'd (literally only missing me giving VMware a lot of cash.)

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