some footprints in cyberspace

ESXi and Atom Avoton/Rangeley new SoCs

For the last two years, I had a Debian based router for my gigabit fiber Internet access. It was made of a SuperMicro X7SPA-HF-D525 Atom motherboard.

But I wanted more flexibility and FUN… What about a full virtualized environment, aka a “Home Lab” ? Since I’m a big fan of VMware ESXi hypervisor, my decision was made.

I needed the right hardware… A VT-x enabled processor is mandatory with ESXi but at the same time I needed a low TDP processor (<20W), mini-ITX, and IPMI/BMC (priceless for remote management) to accomodate my small closed cabinet. Intel Atom processor line doesn’t have VT-x extension and so was excluded… Until they launched their Avoton/Rangeley server SoC line.

I chose the C2550: quad-core 2.4Ghz/2.6Ghz (Turbo) (a eight-core variant exists with C2750), 14W TDP, VT-x and SSSE3/EIST/AES-NI/ECC…

For the motherboard, only two mITX boards exist: SuperMicro A1SAi-2550F/A1SRi-2558F and ASRock C2550D4I.

I chose the second one for its availability, price, 12 SATA ports (even if it’s useless for now, it could be used for a super NAS) and ESXi compatibility (i354 LAN controller and Marvell SATA controllers of the SuperMicro board have poor compatibility with ESXi).

When installing ESXi, you need the last version, ESXi 5.5 Driver Rollup 1. ESXi 5.1/5.5 can be used but you loose integrated SATA controller.

I installed ESXi on a USB key to seperate datastore and OS, don’t forget to set scratch location (see here and here).

Some links about this new plateform, benchmarks, use with ESXi…