Supermicro M11SDV-8C-LN4F build/Proxmox. Do nothing VMs for everyone

aletab

New Member
Jun 12, 2020
5
5
3
Bay Area
Build’s Name: Yala, Mera, Kala
Operating System: Proxmox
CPU: AMD EPYC 3251
Motherboard: Supermicro M11SDV-8C-LN4F build
Chassis: NZXT H210 mini-itx
Drives: Toshiba 1TB NVMe M.2 80mm
RAM: 64GB DDR4 ECC
Power Supply: Various
Other Bits: High-end wire ties suspending direct CPU cooling fan

New to the forum. I know there was some interest in the Supermicro M11SDV-8C-LN4F and I just built 3 of theses. Pretty neat system and I'm really liking it so far.

For background, I run a small nonprofit workforce development program for people with disabilities. I suspended our in-person services on March 10th due to Covid. Since I did not want to leave our people hanging with nothing to do and any gap in services, for any student that is a really bad thing, so we rapidly converted to VTC/Zoom. Since we did a lot of hands-on work in our Computer Technician Training, it has been an interesting process (I've literally worked every day since late March except 1) figuring out what we are doing, while we were doing it.

In any case, we rely on remote access now for staff and students - we use a lot of virtualization to practice networking, drive imaging and all that good stuff. I have private access to our facility and we had an existing dedicated gb ISP so I basically turned our school into a data center. Unfortunately, I discovered that our collection of circa 2013 gear does not put up with the demands of that at all.

I needed systems that could support a fair number of VMs that mainly do not do any actual work and do it fairly cheaply. Something fairly quiet, low power consumption, easy to handle. In searching for some answers, I came across some builds based on this Supermicro board and that led me to STH's review. These boards seemed to be disappearing from Amazon and I needed to move quickly, so I picked up 3 and here we are now. I can't say my decision-making was impeccable (ha) but anyway, seems like it's working out. You're probably thinking that a used server would have been a better bet and maybe that would be true but I've been down that road I've never been quite happy. I have a rack actually but I would potentially be encountering other people to use it and I can't tell you how paranoid I am about that.

This is the first time I have used a proper IPMI, virtual KVM and I'm in love with that.

One thing I really like to do is show the students our IT infrastructure and the things that I do to maintain it. So I put together this quick Google Slides presentation to show them. So if you are interested you can check it out.

 
  • Like
Reactions: Marsh

Marsh

Moderator
May 12, 2013
2,291
1,105
113
we use a lot of virtualization to practice networking, drive imaging and all that good stuff.
Teaching people with disabilities , working with non-profit has a special place in my heart.
I like to know more about your organization if you have a link.

I like to know more how you teach student to do above tasks.
What is the os software used ?
What type of VMs ?
 

aletab

New Member
Jun 12, 2020
5
5
3
Bay Area
Since I am new to the forum I was not sure if it would be cool to make the real-life connection. Here's our website, not really kept up to date, unfortunately: Computer Technologies Program

Students can use whatever computer they have at home. We give them IPSec VPN access via our Netgate SG-5100. Love that box but it did eat 2 of my weekends (whatever weekend means now). As one of their first labs, they experiment with RDP, VNC, Teamviewer etc to learn how to do remote access in a variety of ways. We're providing a virtual classroom environment, instructor lead, small classes. We demonstrated everything, give 1-on-1 assistance. They have to try it themselves first but there is always help if they can't get it.

Subsequent labs involve creating virtual networks in VirtualBox, virt-manager and Proxmox. We use pfSense as a virtual router, Some advance to creating a second internal layer with an additional router. Experiment with access across NAT etc. Proxmox runs on the servers in this thread. They also get a dedicated machine assigned to them for VirtualBox and virt-manager. That runs on a Lenovo m92 with (X)Ubuntu installed, 8GB with 240GB SSD. Those are next to replace.

This week's lab has them creating and re-imaging VMs from a FreeNAS box. Using a variety of imaging tools. If they conquer that, they move on to setting up XigmaNAS and using that for image storage. If they conquer that they move on to try setting up some sort of remote storage on AWS.

Each lab gets a "minimum requirement" lab, and advanced lab and a Further Exploration, so they can go as far as they can go.

The disability angle I could go on at length but suffice to say we treat each individual as an individual (shocker) and I would say our org provides a profound level of accommodation for each unique student. Its really not as dramatic as it may sound, its just that most schools (and jobs) treat people like exchangeable cogs, which we are not. It's amazing what people can do if you just don't tell them they are stupid and helpless (by words or actions, directly or indirectly). Some just need the opportunity to prove themselves, others need some encouragement to try it, some need some specific guidance or feedback - people have incredible capacity if you get it right with them.

Anyway, if you'd like to know more specifics let me know. :)
 
  • Like
Reactions: Lix, Evan and Marsh

JBrickley

New Member
Jul 8, 2020
2
0
1
Very nice, excellent work on accomplishing so much on such a small budget. Love what you do to help people who are differently-abled to get their inner nerd on! Not to mention the extremely valuable real world job skills you are teaching.

Might I suggest the Supermicro M11SDV-8C+=LN4F model where the + is an integrated cooler. This is the model I purchased and it's the same except for the heatsink/fan combo. Norco ITX-S4 and ITX-S8 will fit these boards and offer four or eight 3.5" HDD hot swappable drive bays with two SAS connectors off the backplane which can go directly into a PCIe LSI RAID HBA other RAID card. Ah the joys of not needing to run 8 SATA cables! I run in JBOD mode and use ZFS. It would make for a nifty FreeNAS or any other number of operating systems. You could add another system down the line to offer additional storage and you'd have room to run some more VMs or containers.

QTY: 2 - Mini SAS 36-Pin SFF-8087 Male to Mini SAS 36-Pin SFF-8087 Male cables
FLEX ATX Power Supply
Internal mount for a 2.5" SSD (ZFS ZIL/ZLOG cache)
 

aletab

New Member
Jun 12, 2020
5
5
3
Bay Area
@JBrickley thanks for your kind words and idea on the model with the direct CPU cooling. If I had to do it over again or in the future, I will look into that. My make-shift solution seems to be holding up just fine and the systems, in general, have been great. I really like Proxmox and now that students are beginning to use the servers, I feel like a proud father. Well, just a little anyway.

Right now I'm using a spare Lenovo m92 i5 desktop circa 2013 with a few spare SSDs as our fileserver and based on my pre-existing m92 fleet I expect it to die a horrible death at any time. They have been great machines for what they are actually. They have served us incredibly well but they are not up to the rigor/reliability of this use-case at their current age. Our storage needs are really modest. I've been tinkering with XigmaNAS since we really only need SMB. But I have to invent a new VoIP lab this weekend for next week's classes, so I'm handling one emergency at a time :)
 
Last edited: