I decided finally to put together a decent homelab for 2022. My goals were to have plenty of compute power and fast storage to test all sorts of things.
To that end, I began in December of 2021 searching out some hardware to achieve this goal. I have long been a Supermicro fanboy and so limited my search on eBay to that hardware. After some research(1) into various 1U options, I settled on SYS-6018U-TR4T. I was able to get three of these for roughly $350/ea shipped. Shout out to unixsurplus for having dope deals.
The processors in this system aren’t too old, it has plenty of room for expansion, and lots of DDR4 slots. I was in love (still am). I purchased three of these servers plus enough ram to get up to 128GB per unit. I also bought up (12) 1TB SK Hynix Gold SSDs, enough to fill each server with 4TB raw.
I initially had planned to use Harvester for this, but it turned out not to be the right solution for me. Not that there is anything wrong with Harvester, mind you, it just isn’t geared (right now) towards general purpose virtualization. It’s great if you need a target for deploying RKE2/K3s nodes from Rancher, but not so great if you need Windows virt, etc.
I decided to move to vSphere, having previously been a VMware admin and certified in it. It’s still the gold standard for datacenter virt and I’m still very much a fanboy. However, over time I became disenchanted with VSAN which is what I would need to use if I wanted to treat these three nodes as HCI. Therefore, I decided to go into the DIY SAN world.
I acquired another SYS-6018U-TR4T as well as an old NetApp disk array enclosure, the DS2246. While traditionally used in a NetApp device, this DAE with its IOM6 controllers will serve up the SAS (or in my case, SATA) drives to a generic HBA all day long. That generic HBA was an LSI 2008 I purchased, an old Fujitsu card.
The IOM6 controllers use a QSFP for the SAS cabling, and the LSI takes in regular SAS 8087. I grabbed three of these along with some QSFP->SFF-8088 cables. This chain of converters lets my HBA happily talk to the IOM6 controllers in the enclosure.
With all of this in hand, I initially tried to build a ZFS box. The LSI performed well, so did the server, but I botched the zpool or zdev setup. Not sure which, but the performance was abysmal. I was nerd sniped into trying this in the first place (damn you Crothers), and after much frustration I reimaged with TrueNAS.
Now, everything works flawlessly! I stuffed the DAE full of the original sk hynix ssds, set up a simple raidz2, and configured iSCSI.
(1) searching “supermicro 1u” and sorting by price, lowest
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