I run a mixture of white-box and entry level HP Proliant servers in my VMware vSphere home lab environment. I have been running a number of HP Proliant Microservers in the past 18 months as they have offered exception value for money at £100 (approx. after cash back), as at this price-point you’d be hard pushed to even build a PC/server white-box. For more information on the HP MicroServer check out my hands on review here. A number of people have emailed me asking whether it is possible to take the HP MicroServer past the “official HP” 8GB memory limit so I have put together this post that I hope helps answer this.
Despite not having the fastest CPU (AMD based dual core 1.3 – 1.5GHz) in the world, only taking a maximum of 8GB memory and not having any hardware based RAID (which would be highly unlikely for such an entry level server or micro-PC), the HP MicroServer has been adopted by many for use as home media centers, file servers and home/work lab servers. In my VMware vSphere lab environment I predominantly run Microsoft Server VMs, with later versions of this popular OS consuming more memory than ever. I generally don’t run CPU intensive workloads on any of my VMs so physical memory on the ESXi host is generally the first to be consumed before CPU and disk capacity/throughput resource. This has meant that without wishing to experience too much memory paging down to disk, and the subsequent hit to VM and ESXi host performance, I have had to limit the number of VMs I run on my MicroServers before consuming all of the 8GB of physical memory. VMware technologies such as Transparent Page Sharing (TPS) and memory ballooning definitely help in oversubscribing the memory and allow me to run more VMs, though this only goes so far before all of the modest 8GB of physical memory is consumed and paging to disk does start to occur.
The following is a quick video I put together that demonstrates the installation and running of VMware ESXi 5.1 on the HP MicroServer with 16GB of memory. As I mention in the video I have found a particular brand (Kingston) and model (KVR1333D3E9SK2/16GB) of memory to work well (which I buy my tried and tested supplier of lab kit, ServersPlus).
I hope you found this post of use, there are more VMware vSphere and lab videos and posts to follow …. As always, feedback and comments most welcome.