To the pinnacle of your "homelab"! Tell your stories


Jun 7, 2004
Think that virtualization really helped make the "homelab". As things moved away from rows of racks in the datacenter to something much more consolidated.

I started out with a dual Athon setup, dual P4 Xeon setup, dual Opteron setup and then moved to making a SAN using a 14 drive Nexsan converted from DAS (SCSI) to 2Gbit FC (all drives were IDE) and added a Nexsan SATABlade with 8 1TB WD's. My switch was a Qlogic 5xxx something or another. Anyway, as far as "homelab" goes that 3/4 rack I had was the closest to going "nuts" at home.

At one time I had dual X5550 Xeons with 32GB, the CPU's were ES (warning). I was running ESXi at the time. But when an update for ESXi came out I got the PSOD... it didn't like the ES CPUs (lesson learned). I converted the hypervisor over to Xen (SUSE). This worked well there (didn't care about the ES CPUs). I ended up getting rid of that and moving it all to a KVM based hypervisor on a dual Opteron 6128 setup (in a large HAF case). At this point I decided to tear down and get rid of the SAN and rack. Rack equipment, which can be incredibly cheap, is heavy and loud. Just the way it is. I found I could do most simulations without it. Glad I did it, but then.. later sort of glad to get rid of it, you know?

Not too many years ago, I replace the dual 6128 with a 2xE5-2660 with 128G and 22TB or so of disk. I liked the setup because there was plenty of room for lots of VMs, but in all fairness, the E5-2660's scale, but are slow. Ok for Linux VMs, but struggle with desktop VMs (a necessary thing in a lot of my simulations). Worked, and faster than the dual 6128's, had more memory, etc... but sort of sluggish and loud. I'm trying to sell this server right now. If you're ok with rack mount gear, it's not horrible loud, but I've learned to love silence. VMs included a Windows DC, several different Linux distros, Linux Bind/DHCP, MacOS (cough) and various Windows desktops... and even Android.

My new "lab" is a combo. It's my desktop. It's 2xE5-2667v3 with 160GB, 1.5TB SDD and 8TB disk plus an additional 4 x 4TB USB attached (where I stage my Plex media, a backup if you will). Anyway, I love the new setup which is very very fast and very quiet.

Oh, network wise, physically, just a 16port gigabit switch, no FC or anything. Interesting networking done mostly software side inside of the hypervisor.... which is still KVM.

I have a desire to purchase some cheap <$150 Optiplexes with 32GB to run a Nutanix (community) cluster on.

So... I radically downsized (and I don't think I'm alone). When somebody shows me a rack mount server deal, I usually say, "Hey, that would be great for YOUR homelab."
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May 22, 2006
My original home lab was a collection of Pentium 3 Gateway mini-PCs that I'd install Windows 2000 Server or Fedora Linux onto for practice. Eventually I had a AMD Athlon 64 x2 4400 with 2GB of RAM and would load 3-4 VMs on it with VMware Server.

As the years progressed I upgraded to 2x whitebox PCs with AMD Athlon x4 with 32GB RAM, AMD 6100 6 core CPUs with whitebox shared storage (10k Raptor drives) on FreeNAS, and more. My last real home lab was a pair of servers with Intel e5-2650 v4 ES CPUs, 128GB RAM each, direct connected via 16Gb FC to a Pure Storage m20 R2-10TB.

I've since gotten rid of a dedicated home lab and beefed up my two last PCs in the house. My office PC has a Ryzen 9 3900X with 128GB RAM and a 2TB NVMe SSD and my HTPC has a 3700X, 64GB RAM, and a 2TB NVMe SSD. I can spin up 2 DCs, assorted VMs, VCSA appliance, 2 virtual Pure arrays, and 2 virtual ESXi hosts across it all no problem.