$400 ESXi homebrew build notes

The machine’s mission is to serve as a test and evaluation host for various open source projects such as docker, kubernetes, kafka/zookeper, and others. I evaluated a cloud based setup as an alternative, but it’s a little expensive to run Kafka on Azure, and everything was pretty expensive overall. You’d have to be pretty aggressive about shutting down VMs when not in use.

I am booting ESXi from USB and use a data volume for VMs.


* Asrock B450M Pro4-F (€71)
* Ryzen 2200G (€79)
* Crucial 16GB DDR4-2666 DIMM CL19 Dual Kit (€64)
* 350 Watt be quiet! System Power B9 Bulk Non-Modular 80+ Bronze (€34)
* Cooler Master MasterBox Q300L (€35)
* BCM5720 Dual-Port gigabit NIC (PCIe x1) (HP 332T, $30)
* Corsair USB3 memory stick

I picked the Asrock B450M Pro4-F for its extensibility – two m.2 slots, four memory slots and an extra x4 slot. Didn’t care much about networking since I had a dual port server NIC on hand. Worked out beautifully. Boots ESXi from USB3 headless (no monitor connected). The second m.2 is SATA only. That’s useless. Still, would buy again. Note the -F variant seems to support Ryzen 3 out of the box, it must be a newer release.
Alternatives: I could have done with a B320 mainboard.

Crucial DDR4-2666 DIMM CL19 Dual Kit – I wanted brand name memory that runs at 1.2V at reasonable speeds, At EUR 64 ($70) that did the trick.

Cooler Master MasterBox Q300L – this looked like a right size matx case with some design touches until I realized the patterned pieces you see in the pictures are actually metal mesh held on by magnets. When picking up the case, they like to come off.

This was not a bad deal at ~$40, I would probably spring for a Fractal Design Define S for another compact build,

Ryzen 2200G – I picked the previous gen mostly because I didn’t want to deal with potential issues of the mainboard not supporting the CPU. This was unfounded, since that particular MB did have a sticker on it saying it supported the 3 series Ryzens. However, the 3 series with GPU is just a small clock speed increase, not a Zen 2 design, and the 2 series was selling at a discount.

The cooler that comes with it has a screw mount not the clips you might have seen from Intel, as well as a surprisingly large fan. It is a little louder than I wanted it to be when idle, even on silent. In a normal room, it appears quiet from 3ft away. At $85 would buy again.

I ended up using an 850 evo I had, so I did not actually buy storage for now.

Overall a problem free build. My only regret is that I probably should have started with 32GB RAM. That would add a bit of convenience to just let everything running.

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