Inspired by an article at NTPRO.NL I decided that my VMware home lab was in need of a major upgrade but I could not make my mind up on which Shuttle barebone model I would buy. Time passed on and then Shuttle came out recently with the SX58J3 model. An extreme gaming PC, an all mighty barebone with impressive specifications list:
- supports for state-of-the-art Intel Core i7 family processors,
- uses the Intel X58 chipset cruising @ 6.4 GT/s and 4.8 GT/s via the Intel® QuickPath Interconnect,
- supports up to 16GB of Triple Channel DDR3@1066/1333/1600(OC)MHz,
- powered by a 500W PSU which is certified 80 PLUS Bronze,
- Integrated Cooling Engine (I.C.E.) for silent operation,
- 2x PCI-Express x16 (v2.0),
- J3 chassis for a clean and modern look.
I invite you to read the Shuttle SX58J3 specifications PDF document. Everything has been designed for performances, from the case down to the capacitors!
One of the most powerful, single socket processor, I was desperately seeking for my VMware home lab! But first of all I wanted to try out a review unit. Therefore I contacted Shuttle Europe and they replied very fast. I’ve been told that unfortunatelly all the review units were already out on several cycles and it could be a whilst before I put my hands on a test kit. After a couple of emails exchanged on the topic with Christian, a very nice chap at Shuttle, he proposed me to buy a unit at a very attractive price, that is around 425Euro (This is about 25% off its RRP for Belgium!). I can tell you I couldn’t resist and moreover the unit was immediately available…
So a few day later here I am proud owner of a master piece of engineering, a powerful computer for my VMware home lab. I can’t wait turn it on :)
But hey, wait a minute! This is a barebone computer and I have to fill it in with a processor, some memory modules, a graphic and an additional dual-port network card! So I kept on shopping through my local dealers but mostly on eBay. Here is my shopping list for reference:
I bought an Intel Core i7 920 2.66Ghz FSB 1333 8MB Cache. I think this is the best choice performance/price wise in the i7 family. It’s based on Nehalem microarchitecture and features such FT and VMDirectPath support. This is a quad-core processor for high-end workstations, and now for my VMware home lab too :) Price around 250Euro.
I bought 3*Transcend 4GB DDR3 240Pin Long-DIMM DDR3-1333 Unbuffer Non-ECC Memory. This memory brand/model is in the Shuttle compatibility list for this particular Shuttle barebone. Price around 130Euro per memory module :( That were the most expensive parts but memory is crucial for a VMware home lab!
No need for a powerful graphic card. All I wanted is less noise as possible thus I went for an Asus Extreme N8400GS 512MB DDR2 Silent that is 0dB. It couldn’t be less noisy :) Price around 40Euro.
Nothing is as good as an Intel® PRO/1000 PT Dual Port Server Adapter and it’s in the VMware HCL. I could go for the quad-port model, also in the HCL, but they are still pricy even on eBay. The price for this dual-port card is around 150Euro.
Yes, although the Intel SSD X25-M G2 160GB is on the picture, it won’t be stick in the Shuttle. Actually it is installed in my QNAP TS-459 storage device. I blogged about it in another post that you can read here.
Here is another series of pictures of the barebone with the cover removed. I have added callouts to the pictures to better describe the unit and its components. Click on the pictures for higher resolution.
After I have successfully installed the hardware, I ran for quite a long time a memory application torturer called Memtest86. I had no glitch, not a single error bit detected. These Transcend memory modules cost an arm but they are first quality memory.
Next I inserted the SD card in the SD slot available on the front panel of the Shuttle as shown on the picture above. Then next, I booted the machine up and it went straight loading up ESXi4.1. Watch the video!
Something you may have noticed from the video, the e1000 (Intel Pro 1000/MT) loads up but not the LOM (Lan On Motherboard) which is found to be a Marvell Yukon Ultra II 88E8057 Gigabit chipset. That Marvell chipset is not on the VMware HCL and VMware has no driver for it. But not worries, you can still use the NIC inside virtual machines through the VMDirectPath. That new technology is only available from ESX(i)4.x and some Intel processors like the i7. I have created a video to show you how to configure the host for passthrough devices. Go and watch it, it’s amazing what you can do with VMDirectPath. It’s awesome actually!