Category Archives: Projects

Perfect vSphere 5 Whitebox Project


I have been entertaining HP ProLiant MicroServer N36L for nearly a year now. Great machine for the money and with cost of around £120 (after the cash back) it was an absolute bargain at the time! Box itself has been upgraded to 8GB of DDR3 RAM (maximum the motherboard can take) and its running ESXi 4.1 U1 absolutely fine. Disk space wise, there is only 30 GB Vertex SSD for few VMs (and .vswp files), rest of the storage needs is provided by QNAP TS-509 NAS (by means of NFS and iSCSI) This setup has been absolutely flawlessly so far but there is simply not enough RAM and CPU power for my needs (or rather my VMs). CPU Ready is going through the roof quite often due to AMD Athlon II Neo 1.30GHz processor which is just slightly better performer compared to Intel Atom range. 8GB of RAM is tight and ESXi was paging the VMs like mad to .vswp files hence why I put them on SSD which helped only to certain extent. At the end I kinda had enough and decided to build a custom server which would address all of the issues above.

Here is what I came up with:

Processor: Intel Xeon X3450 2.66GHz with HT/VT-x and VT-d
Processor Cooling: Corsair CWCH100 Hydro Series H100 Cooler
Processor Cooling Fans: 2 x Noctua NF-P12
Motherboard: Supermicro X8SIL-F-O Server Board
RAM: Kingston 4 x 8GB [KVR1333D3Q8R9S/8G]
Case: Lian-Li PC-V350B
Case Noise Dampening: AcoustiPack LITE (APL) Multi-Layered Soundproof Material
Case Backplate: Custom backplate to incorporate moving PSU to the right and adding 120mm exhaust fan

5.25″ Drive Bay Cooling: Evercool Armour ATX HDD Cool Box HD-AR
5.25″ Drive Bay Cooling Fan: Noctua NF-R8-1800

Case Exhaust Fan [Back]: 1 x Noctua NF-P12
Case Exhaust Fan Guard: 120mm Standard Wire Case Fan Guard Grill [Black]

Power Supply: Be Quiet! BN180 L8 430W Modular PSU
Storage 1: Samsung 830 256GB SSD (main datastore)
Storage 2: Seagate Barracuda 2TB [ST2000DM001] (second datastore)
Storage 3: Vertex 1 30GB SSD (.vswp datastore)
Storage 4: Patriot Extreme Performance Xporter XT Rage 8GB (local storage for ESXi)
Storage Adapter Bracket: SilverStone SST-FP55B (allows 1 x 5.25″ and 2 x 2.5″ in one 5.25″ slot!)

Network 1: Onboard Dual Intel 82574L Gigabit Ethernet Controllers
Network 2: HP NC360T PCI Express Dual Port Gigabit Server Adapter [which effectively is Intel PRO/1000 PT Dual Port NIC]
Network 3: Intel Ethernet Converged Network Adapter X520-DA2, 10GbE, Dual Port

RAID Controller: IBM ServeRAID M1015 [which kinda is OEM version of LSI 9220-8i]
ODD: Toshiba/Samsung TS-H653 20x DVD±RW DL SATA Drive

I will be updating this post as work on the server progresses! Stay tuned.

Project Update #1
Project Update #2
Project Update #3
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Project Update #5
Project Update #6
Project Update #7

How to update mpt2sas driver on ESXi 5?


Interesting question and even more interesting is why VMware would use such an archaic version of mpt2sas driver in their fairly recent builds of ESXi. Quick background on why I’m writing about this.

I bought my IBM M1015 RAID controller from eBay for about £65 and since M1015 is not supported by ESXi natively cross-flashing was the only way to get it working without too much of a hassle (if you could call cross-flashing RAID controllers not too much hassle!) I went for IT mode as opposed to IR for simplicity and ease of adding drives without mocking about with virtual disks etc. I will write a separate post about how to cross-flash to IT/IR mode later on this week (if time permits)

Going back to my issue, here is what my IBM card looks like right now cross-flashed to LSI 9211-8i in IT mode:


As you can see it’s running the latest available firmware (P15) and its in IT mode meaning its simply doing straight pass-through for any connected hard drives. Once we’re booted to ESXi we can quickly list all HBAs and the driver names by issuing this command:
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Cisco ASA 5505 – Compatibile CF/RAM Upgrade Modules


Some very generous people at work decided to offer me (for free!) Cisco ASA 5505 security appliance. Great isn’t it? Great indeed given ASAs are top class firewall devices.

Appliance itself has unlimited number of users (other options made by Cisco are 10 and 50 users based on internal to external VLAN connections) and its running security plus licensing model. Needless to say that’s about £500 worth of money!

So moving to the ASA itself – model I have shipped with 512MB of RAM and 128MB CF card. Both of them modules can be upgraded to incorporate e-pen (RAM) and more space for historical data i.e. logs (CF card).

I just happen to have spare Integral IN1T1GNSKCX 1GB DD1 PC3200 (400 MHz) stick which, to my surprise, worked straight away! ASA didn’t have any issues detecting the new memory and booted up absolutely fine. There are lots of modules that won’t work full stop and quick search using your favourite search engine reveals that some people had tried 2-3 different sticks with no luck whatsoever. In my case completely random module worked first time. Awesome.

2GB compact flash card has been ordered from eBay and should turn up any day now so I will let you guys know how that goes. 2GB is the maximum that ASA can take, anything above will be most likely seen as 0MB so no point trying (it’s a limitation of FAT16 and cluster size not the ASA itself though). Card I have ordered is made by SanDisk and the exact model reads as ‘Ultra II 2GB 15MB/s’. USB CF card reader is also required so you can copy ASA firmware, ASDM and license file from old card to the new one.

So, for now, my ASA looks like this:

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