Migrating aging HP workstation to ESXi 6.5U2 for Plex/other-tasks - WWYD?

voip-ninja

Member
Apr 5, 2019
33
2
8
Hi guys,

I'm needing some help here as I've been putting this project off for way too long.

I have a 5+ year old i7 based HP workstation running Windows 10 that I've been using as a catch-all server for all of the random home server tasks that I need. It is running Plex, Milestone Xprotect server for my home CCTV and a few other tasks like Logitech Media Server.

I have been dying to upgrade this to ESXi for a while now so that I can break various functions out, have more flexibility for upgrades, tinkering, etc., and I think it's time to get off the fence.

The biggest workload on this box, without a doubt is that I run Plex under Windows 10 on this box and am at times transcoding 2-3 full BD rips. I really want the ability to transcode H.265 video as I plan to upgrade my home theater soon and would like to buy/rip/play 4K HDR BDs.

I had been planning on putting something together built around a couple of high efficiency CPUs like E5-2630L V3 or V4 that won't use much power since the server is fairly idle most of the time.

I've now discovered that GPU offload transcoding with Plex is possible with cards like P2000 and am interested in doing that, if I can.... in a virtualized environment. So now I'm thinking perhaps I can go with a single CPU and a GPU for offloading... this would hopefully reduce my power consumption and I can get less expensive single CPU motherboard or chassis, etc.

Does anyone have a similar set up?

I'm looking for hardware recommendations.....

Is there a good choice in a barebones HP or similar workstation or server that I can run recent generation CPUs on AND run a GPU like the Quadro P2000? I would not want to have to hack drivers for ESXi to get things to work.

I would also like to use 2X1TB consumer SSD (Samsung 850 EVO or similar) if possible and it's not clear if this means I need a server with a hardware RAID card as I don't believe ESXi will run with Intel's software RAID.

Thanks
 

Jemplayer

New Member
Jun 25, 2016
6
1
3
38
Gulf of Mexico
I do some similar as what tour planning

I have a i5 8400 that I run esxi 6.7 on. On it I have 3 to 4 VMs on it.

1- windows 10 for plex, I pass through the integrated gpu for hardware trans code. Recently switched motherboards trying to chase a stability problem. It wants to crash the whole esxi server randomly.

2- debian for file storage and cloud service

3- windows 10 for steam streaming to the living room. Having problems with gpu passthrough right now, crashes whole server ever time I try to boot VM.

4- pfsense, not using right now because of stability reasons due to gpu passthrough so back to using a consumer router till its rock solid again.

Before I started playing with hardware passthrough everything was nice a stable.

Not so much now. Feeling like it has more to do with the consumer asus and gigybyte motherboards I'm using.

Any reason why you want to use 6.5u2 vs the latest 6.7 version? I recently downgraded to 6.5 thinking that might be the problem. It wasnt, but the server was slower to boot and the web interface was buggy compared to 6.7. Also according to VShere lit 6.7 is supposed to run VM faster.

I run a SAS raid card with some ADATA ssd in raid 1 for my boot drive and have no issues. Good raid cards are around $100 and worth it in my opinion, you cab get battery backed up read wite cache and better tools to manage your arrays.
 

voip-ninja

Member
Apr 5, 2019
33
2
8
I was going to use 6.5U2 since I have a license for that and could do things like VM backups if using a licensed copy vs. the free version.

Definitely for me this needs to be very stable so I want to continue using enterprise class hardware (My HP workstation that I do this with now has been a rock for the past six years).

I also want to be able to do some modest upgrades over the next 5-7 years that I expect to use the solution so I would rather spend more $$ on the front end than be in a situation where I'm doing a complete rebuild (although another bonus of using paid for ESXi is that I could backup and restore my VMs and hardware migration should be relatively painless).

Right now after doing a lot more research I am zeroing in on a couple of directions;

Direction 1;

  • Dell T430 or R430 server with 1 or 2 55 TDP V3 or V4 2560 series CPUs. I would be limited to a 30 watt GPU in this case since the server cannot deliver full power to a PCI Express card.
    • Advantages of this solution;
      • Huge availability of hardware... I would potentially even be able to get something with a factory warranty that is refurbished from an authorized reseller.
      • Integrated graphics for the server itself.
      • Hot plug hard drives are pretty much "standard".
      • RAID controller is cheap and easily available.
      • Should be rock solid.
    • Disadvantages of this solution;
      • GPU is power limited to 30 watts which means nothing more powerful than Quaddro P400.
      • Cost.
  • Dell T7920 or T7910 or HP Z840 workstation.
    • Advantages;
      • Near server class hardware.
      • More flexibility for GPU choices and other peripherals since it is aimed at desktop use.
      • Slightly more affordable than similar server boxes.
    • Disadvantages;
      • No onboard GPU so I believe I'd need two GPUs, one for VMWare pass through and another for actual operation of the workstation.
      • No hot plug hardware other than power supplies.
      • Not sure if I can easily run a server class PERC or similar hardware RAID controller for ESXi.
      • Technically not "ESXi" supported. So instead of running a fully compatible Dell provided ESXi image I would have to run vanilla ESXi which occasionally results in some driver/stability issues.