EXPTA Gen7 Home Lab Server Builds and Parts Lists

Monday, May 16, 2016
Build your own blistering fast 64GB Windows Hyper-V lab server starting for under $1000!
UPDATE: My new Gen7 server builds are out, where you can build a 128GB server with the latest 6th Generation Intel processor for $920!!! The latest EXPTA server builds are always available at http://www.expta.com/server.
I'm very pleased to provide you my latest EXPTA Gen7 home lab server builds. Advances in hardware and virtualization technology have made it possible for IT Pros to build sophisticated systems that host more VMs than ever before. Now you can build a 64GB quad-core i5 server with lightening fast SSDs for under $1,000!! That's twice the RAM and a newer Skylake processor for the same price as my 32GB Gen6 server!

I'm providing three different server builds:
  •  Intel Core i5 quad-core, 64GB RAM, SSD, small form-factor for $920.  Super-fast lab server with name-brand quality! This makes it super-easy for IT Pros to build a blistering fast Windows Hyper-V server that can run lots of VMs.
  •  Intel Xeon-D quad-core, 128GB RAM, SSD, small form-factor for $1,750.  This new Gen7 build is geared toward those who need more VM density with outstanding performance. Super reliable server-class hardware with ECC RAM. You can chose to go with 64GB for now and upgrade to 128GB later for only $1375!!!
  •  Intel Xeon E5 eight-core, 128GB RAM, SSD, ATX form-factor for $1,915.  Double the cores and double the RAM for outstanding performance. Build your own private cloud in a box! This new build also uses true server hardware and ECC RAM for the ultimate in reliability and scalability.
Each of my three Gen7 server builds use components from the vendors' hardware compatibility lists to ensure the utmost in reliability and performance. They will all run Windows Server 2012 R2 and should be "future-proof" to run the upcoming release of Windows Server 2016.

All three Gen7 builds uses the same storage format -- a 250GB SSD for the OS, a 500GB or 1TB SSD for regularly running high performance VMs, and a 2TB high performance spinning hard drive for storing ISOs, software applications, and base images. Each server utilizes SATA III 6Gb/s drives and USB 3.0 ports for fast I/O performance.

If you need help setting this gear up, take a look at my previous Gen4 and Gen5 server build articles for assistance. Building these servers takes about an hour and it's fun!

As usual, I link to Amazon for components and prices. Amazon does a very good job of maintaining stock, has an excellent return policy, and most of these items are eligible for free two-day shipping via Amazon Prime. If you don't have Prime, you can sign up for a free Amazon Prime trial here and cancel after you order the equipment if you want. Please note that it's normal for Amazon prices to fluctuate (usually down) over time.

Gen7 Build #1 -- Intel Core i5 Quad-Core, 64GB RAM, SSD, Small Form-Factor Micro-ATX, 211W for $920
Component Description
 
Intel Boxed Core I5-6600 FC-LGA14C 3.30 Ghz 6 M Processor Cache 4 LGA 1151 BX80662I56600
This is a 6th generation Intel LGA1151 Skylake processor and includes Intel HD Graphics 530, so no discrete video card is required. Intel Turbo Boost up to 3.9 GHz and runs at only 65W! Includes Intel aluminum heatsink with thermal compound and a large silent CPU fan. 3 year limited warranty.
 
CRUCIAL TECHNOLOGY 64GB Kit (16GBx4) DDR4 2133 MT/s (CT4K16G4DFD8213)
1.2V 288-pin quad channel 2133MHz DDR4 SDRAM. Low CL15 latency. Great RAM at a great price. Each package contains 4x 16GB DIMMs (64GB). Lifetime warranty.
 
Gigabyte GA-B150M-D3H Micro ATX LGA1151 Motherboard
I chose this socket 1151 Micro ATX motherboard because it supports up to 64GB quad-channel DDR4 RAM and has 6x SATA III 6Gb/s connectors. It uses the Intel B150 Express chipset, has 1 x PCI Express x16 slot running at x16, 1 x PCI Express x16 running at 4x, HDMI/DVI/VGA outputs, 6 USB 3.0 and 6 USB 2.0 ports, and an Intel GbE LAN chip (see important note below). It also has a great UEFI BIOS. 3 year limited warranty.
 
Samsung 850 EVO 250GB 2.5-Inch SATA III Internal SSD (MZ-75E250B/AM)
256GB SATA III 6Gb/s SSD used for the Windows Server operating system. Legendary Samsung quality. Delivers up to 100,000 IOPS 4KB random read / 90,000 IOPS 4KB random write speed. 3 year warranty.
 
Samsung 850 EVO 500GB 2.5-Inch SATA III Internal SSD (MZ-75E500B/AM)
500GB SATA III 6Gb/s SSD used for active VMs (the VMs I normally have running, like a Domain Controller, Exchange servers, Skype/Lync servers, etc.). Enabling Windows Server disk deduplication provides even more storage capacity! Delivers up to 98K IOPS 4KB random read / 90K IOPS 4KB random write speed. Mwahaha!! 3 year limited warranty.
 
Western Digital Black 2TB Performance Desktop Hard Disk Drive - 7200 RPM SATA 6 Gb/s 64MB Cache 3.5 Inch - WD2003FZEX
Best selling high performance 2TB WD Caviar Black SATA III 6Gb/s drive. Used for storing ISOs, software packages, seldom used VMs, base images, etc. I usually configure this drive to sleep after 10 minutes to save even more power. 5 year warranty.
 
Lite-On 24X SATA Internal DVD+/-RW Drive Optical Drive IHAS124-14
Great quality SATA III 24x ±RW DVD burner. It's cheap, too. As much as I think I can get away from having a DVD drive, I still find I need one once in a while.1 year limited warranty.
  Xion Performance Meshed mATX USB 3.0 Tower Case XON-560_WT White
Unique hybrid mesh high performance mid-tower micro-ATX case with removable drive bay cages for easy access. Pimped out with blue LEDs, which you can choose not to use. 1x external 5.25" drive bay and 2x internal 3.5" drive bays. Includes front USB 3.0 and 2.0 and audio ports. Great build quality and cable management.
  Corsair CX Series, CX430M, 430 Watt (430W), Semi Modular Power Supply, 80+ Bronze Certified
430 watt modular PSU with super quiet 80mm cooling fan system. Up to 85% energy efficiency means less heat generation and lower energy bills. Modular, so you only use the cables you need and keep it neat.

Build #1 is pretty straight forward. Make sure you have everything you need and enough space to work. Most builds take about an hour and always seem to go smoother with a cold refreshing adult beverage nearby. Assemble the drives first, then install the PSU, motherboard, CPU and RAM to button it up. I always update the BIOS from the Internet before installing the OS. The Gigabyte BIOS allows you to do this directly from the BIOS. Nice! Once you install the OS, install and/or upgrade the drivers (especially the NIC) from the manufacturers' websites. Then install the Hyper-V role and you're off to the races!
Important Note: The Gigabyte GA-B150M-D3H motherboard uses an integrated Intel gigabit NIC. I love this motherboard, but unfortunately Intel cripples their NIC drivers so they cannot be used with Windows Server operating systems. I detailed how to overcome this in my Gen5 server build (look toward the end of the article), There's another very good article here that also covers it. You'll need to go through these steps to install and/or upgrade the Intel NIC drivers for Builds #1 or #3.
You can host quite a few VMs on this system. As an example, my Gen6 32GB version of this server runs Windows Server 2012 R2 with the Exchange 2013 Edge Transport role and the Hyper-V host server role. This server has been running 24x7 for over a year with the following virtual machines:
  • 1x Domain Controller (2GB dynamic RAM)
  • 2x Exchange 2016 servers in a DAG (4-6GB each)
  • 1x Exchange 2013 server (4GB)
  • 1x Exchange 2010 server (4GB)
  • 1x Lync 2013 server (4GB)
  • 1x Application server (2GB)
I run these VMs off the 500GB SSD with Windows Server 2012 R2 disk deduplication enabled for Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI). This allows me to put 669GB of data on this 500GB drive and I still have 145GB free space left! See Windows Server 2012 Deduplication is Amazing! for information about configuring this.


Gen7 Build #2 -- Intel Xeon-D Quad-Core, 128GB RAM, SSD, Small Form-Factor Mini-ITX for $1,375
Component Description
 
SuperMicro X10SDV-4C-TLN2F-O Intel Xeon D-1520 DDR4 SATA3&USB3.0 V&2GbE Mini-ITX Motherboard & CPU Cooler
Intel Xeon D-1520 processor with System on a Chip design; Supports up to 45W TDP (quad-core). Supports up to 128GB ECC/REG Memory. 1x PCI-Express 3.0 x16 Slot; 1x M.2 Slot (M key for SSD, 2242/2280, PCI-Express 3.0 x4). 6x SATA3 Ports. Aspeed AST2400 integrated graphics. Dual-Port 10-Gigabit Ethernet Controller, 1x Realtek RTL8201N PHY (dedicated IPMI). 2x USB 3.0 Ports, 4x USB 2.0 Ports (via headers), 2x RJ45 10GBase-T Ports, 1x RJ45 Dedicated IPMI LAN Port, 1x VGA Port.
 
Crucial 64GB Kit (32GBx2) DDR4 2133 MT/s (PC4-2133) CL15 DR x4 ECC Registered DIMM 288pin Server Memory
You will need two of these kits for 128GB. Each kit contains two sticks of 32GB ECC RDIMMs (64GB total). The SuperMicro Xeon-D motherboard supports up to four DIMMs, so order one kit for 64GB or two kits for 128GB. 100% tested and comes with a lifetime warranty.
 
Samsung 850 EVO 250GB 2.5-Inch SATA III Internal SSD (MZ-75E250B/AM)
256GB SATA III 6Gb/s SSD used for the Windows Server operating system. Legendary Samsung quality. Delivers up to 100,000 IOPS 4KB random read / 90,000 IOPS 4KB random write speed. 3 year warranty.
 
Samsung 850 EVO 500GB 2.5-Inch SATA III Internal SSD (MZ-75E500B/AM)
500GB SATA III 6Gb/s SSD used for active VMs (the VMs I normally have running, like a Domain Controller, Exchange servers, Skype/Lync servers, etc.). Enabling Windows Server 2012 R2 disk deduplication provides even more storage capacity! Delivers up to 98K IOPS 4KB random read / 90K IOPS 4KB random write speed. Mwahaha!! If you're building with 128GB RAM you might consider upgrading to the 1TB Samsung drive. 3 year limited warranty.
 
Western Digital Black 2TB Performance Desktop Hard Disk Drive - 7200 RPM SATA 6 Gb/s 64MB Cache 3.5 Inch - WD2003FZEX
Best selling high performance 2TB WD Caviar Black SATA III 6Gb/s drive. Used for storing ISOs, software packages, seldom used VMs, base images, etc. I usually configure this drive to sleep after 10 minutes to save even more power. 5 year warranty.
 
Lite-On 24X SATA Internal DVD+/-RW Drive Optical Drive IHAS124-14
Great quality SATA III 24x ±RW DVD burner. It's cheap, too. As much as I think I can get away from having a DVD drive, I still find I need one once in a while.1 year limited warranty.
  Thermaltake Core V1 Mini ITX Cube Gaming Computer Case CA-1B8-00S1WN-00
Beautiful Mini-ITX cube with 2x USB 3.0, 1x Headphone, 1x Mic front ports. Internal bay holds 2x 3.5", 2x 2.5" drives. 1x 200mm fan to keep everything nice and cool. Interchangeable side panels. Extreme air/liquid cooling configuration options and dual modular drive rack design with advance ventilation. Great Thermaltake quality.
  EVGA 430 W1 80+, 430W Continuous Power, 3 Year Warranty Power Supply 100-W1-0430-KR
430 watt PSU with super quiet 120mm cooling fan system. Up to 85% energy efficiency means less heat generation and lower energy bills. If you'd rather go with a modular PSU, use the Corsair CX430M PSU used in Gen7 Build #1.

This versatile Xeon-D 1520 build is a fantastic value! It offers screaming performance and true server reliability with ECC registered RAM in a tiny 10.9" x 12.4" x 10.2" package. This build was cost prohibitive just 6 months ago. You can start with 64GB RAM now and upgrade later to 128GB if you want. FTW!

Since this motherboard doesn't use Intel NICs, you won't need to do the Intel driver workaround required on the other builds.


Gen7 Build #3 -- Intel Xeon E5 Eight-Core, 128GB RAM, SSD, ATX Form-Factor for $1,915
Component Description
 
Intel Xeon E5-2609 Octa-Core V4 1.7 GHz 20MB L3 Cache LGA 2011 85W BX80660E52609V4 Server Processor
Intel Xeon 8-core 14 nm CPU architecture; 20MB L3 Cache; Only 85W. Terrific performance and reliability. 3 year limited warranty.
Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO - CPU Cooler with 120mm PWM Fan (RR-212E-20PK-R2)
4 Direct Contact heat pipes with the patented CDC (Continuous Direct Contact) technology - creating a perfect, sleek surface for heat conduction. Silent 120mm cooling fan.
 
Kingston Savage 128GB (8 x 16GB) DDR4-2666 ECC Registered Server Memory
8x16GB = 128GB; 2666MHz DDR4; CL15 latency; ECC registered DIMMs. Built-in heat spreaders. 100% tested and comes with a lifetime warranty.
 
ASRock X99X KILLER LGA2011-v3/ Intel X99/ DDR4/ Quad CrossFireX & Quad SLI/ SATA3&USB3.0/ M.2/ A&2GbE/ ATX Motherboard
I chose this LGA 2011-v3 ATX motherboard because it has the Intel X99 chipset and supports up to 128GB RAM. It has 10x SATA III 6Gb/s connectors and 6x USB 3.0 Ports (4 rear, 2 via header); 8x USB 2.0 Ports (4 rear, 4 via headers). It has 3x PCI-Express 3.0 x16 Slots (one runs at x8), 1x PCI-Express 2.0 x16 Slot (runs at x4), and 1x PCI-Express 2.0 x1 Slot. Dual Intel I218V Gigabit Ethernet Controllers (see important note below). It also has a great UEFI BIOS. Includes 4x SATA cables. 3 year limited warranty..
EVGA GeForce 8400 GS Passive 1024 MB DDR3 PCI Express 2.0 Graphics Card DVI/HDMI/VGA, 01G-P3-1303-KR
Unlike Core i5 CPUs, Intel Core i7 and Xeon CPUs do not feature integrated graphics. This fan-less 1GB GeForce 210 video card features DVI-I, D-Sub, and HDMI outputs. Perfect for servers.
 
Samsung 850 EVO 250GB 2.5-Inch SATA III Internal SSD (MZ-75E250B/AM)
256GB SATA III 6Gb/s SSD used for the Windows Server operating system. Legendary Samsung quality. Delivers up to 100,000 IOPS 4KB random read / 90,000 IOPS 4KB random write speed. 3 year warranty./td>
 
Samsung 850 EVO 1 TB 2.5-Inch SATA III Internal SSD (MZ-75E1T0B/AM)
1TB SATA III 6Gb/s SSD used for active VMs (the VMs I normally have running, like a Domain Controller, Exchange servers, Skype/Lync servers, etc.). Enabling Windows Server 2012 R2 disk deduplication provides even more storage capacity! Delivers up to 98K IOPS 4KB random read / 90K IOPS 4KB random write speed. Mwahaha!! 3 year limited warranty.
 
Western Digital Black 2TB Performance Desktop Hard Disk Drive - 7200 RPM SATA 6 Gb/s 64MB Cache 3.5 Inch - WD2003FZEX
Best selling high performance 2TB WD Caviar Black SATA III 6Gb/s drive. Used for storing ISOs, software packages, seldom used VMs, base images, etc. I usually configure this drive to sleep after 10 minutes to save even more power. 5 year warranty.
 
Lite-On 24X SATA Internal DVD+/-RW Drive Optical Drive IHAS124-14
Great quality SATA III 24x ±RW DVD burner. It's cheap, too. As much as I think I can get away from having a DVD drive, I still find I need one once in a while.1 year limited warranty..
  Cooler Master HAF XB II EVO ATX HTPC Case RC-902XB-KKN2
ATX mid tower case; Removable drive cages; 2x Front 120mm fans to keep everything nice and cool. 2 x USB 3.0 Ports, 1 x e-SATA, audio in/out (HD) ports, and power/reset buttons in front. Great Cooler Master quality and roomy enough to take that big Cooler Master CPU cooler.
  EVGA 430 W1 80+, 430W Continuous Power, 3 Year Warranty Power Supply 100-W1-0430-KR
430 watt PSU with super quiet 120mm cooling fan system. Up to 85% energy efficiency means less heat generation and lower energy bills. If you'd rather go with a modular PSU, use the Corsair CX430M PSU used in Gen7 Build #1.

Gen7 Build #3 delivers the ultimate in scalability and reliability. With a Xeon E5 eight-core processor and 128GB this server is a beast. It utilizes a 1TB SSD drive for active VMs. With disk deduplication enabled I sincerely believe you can place all your active VMs there with no problem. This is truly a private cloud in a box.
Important Note: The ASROCK X99X KILLER motherboard uses an integrated Intel I218V gigabit NIC. I love this motherboard, but unfortunately Intel cripples their NIC drivers so they cannot be used with Windows Server operating systems. I detailed how to overcome this in my Gen5 server build (look toward the end of the article), There's another very good article here that also covers it. You'll need to go through these steps to install and/or upgrade the Intel NIC drivers for Gen7 builds #1 or #3.


There are a number of options you can add to each of these Gen7 builds. Here are some recommendations:

Server Build Optional Components
Component Description
 
TP-LINK TG-3468 10/100/1000Mbps Gigabit PCI Express Network Adapter
This PCI-e NIC will work in any of the three builds. The best practice for Hyper-V servers is to use a dedicated NIC for server management. This inexpensive option lets you do just that. You may also decide to use this NIC instead of monkeying around with the Intel NIC drivers on builds #1 and #3.
 
Samsung 850 Pro 256GB 2.5-Inch SATA III Internal SSD (MZ-7KE256BW)
Upgrade your 256GB SATA III 6Gb/s SSD to the 850 Pro version with 3D VNAND technology. Delivers up to 100,000 IOPS 4KB random read / 90,000 IOPS 4KB random write speed. 10 year warranty.
 
Samsung 850 Pro 1 TB 2.5-Inch SATA III Internal SSD (MZ-7KE1T0BW)
Upgrade your 1TB SATA III 6Gb/s SSD used for active VMs to the 850 Pro. Delivers up to 90K IOPS 4KB random read / 100K IOPS 4KB random write speed. 10 year limited warranty.
Sabrent 74-In-1 3.5-Inch Internal Flash Media Card Reader/Writer with USB Port (CR-USNT)
Adds another USB 2.0 port to the front of the server. Supports 74 different types of memory cards. The 6 card reader slots include all formats of the following flash media types: M2, XD, SD/SDHC/SDXC/MMC, Micro SD/SDHC/SDXC (T-flash) CF/MD, MS
 
Rosewill RDCR-11003 74-In-1 USB 3.0 3.5-Inch Internal Card Reader with USB Port (RDCR-11003)
This is the same type of card reader, but includes a USB 3.0 port instead of USB 2.0 and is better quality than the Sabrent reader.
 
Cable Matters SuperSpeed USB 3.0 Type A Male to Female Extension Cable in Black - 10 Feet
I strongly recommend getting one of these for every build. Plug the male end into a USB 3.0 port on the back of the server and feed the female end up to your work space for a super-convenient USB 3.0 port where you need it.

I hope these builds give you the confidence to build your own Hyper-V home lab server. I'm interested to hear your experiences in the comments section below. Happy building!
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