Virtualization Home Lab: Setting up VMware ESXi on the Gigabyte Brix

2013-09-23 00:27: Added information about ESXi 5.5 not including RTL8111E support
2013-09-23 22:23: Added a link to installing ESXi 5.5 with RTL8111E support

In my last post, I covered my journey of finding a small, quiet, low-power virtualisation lab computer that can run nested virtualisation.

The final system

To summarise, here’s the system I ended up with, after much consideration:

  • Gigabyte Brix, Core i5 barebones kit (GB-XM11-3337) [Buy in the UK]
  • 16GB (2x8GB) SO-DIMM Crucial RAM
  • Plextor M5M 256GB SSD [Buy in the UK]

brix vs xbox controller

Virtualization Home Lab: Choosing a suitable computer (quiet, low power with nested virtualization support)

Recently, after about 2 years away, I’ve started to get back into Virtualisation. As part of that, like any true geek, I wanted to build a Home Lab.

I had some criteria for the homelab computer:

  1. Must be quiet
  2. Should be power-efficient/low power. Energy in the UK is expensive!
  3. CPU must support Intel VT-x with EPT, and VT-d virtualisation technologies
  4. Under £600 (roughly $1,000)
  5. System must be powerful enough to run nested hypervisors (enough RAM, CPU and Storage capacities)
  6. Minimal self-build. I don’t have the inclination to build a white-box solution. If you do, check out Chris Wahl’s awesome resources.

And some nice-to-haves:

  1. Compact physical footprint
  2. Preferably run VMware ESXi without any installer ISO hacks or driver mods
  3. It should have enough Storage capacity to host AutoLab and some Hyper-V instances, too.

How do you explain Virtualisation?


I was just reading “Cisco’s Billion-Dollar Server Guy Has Left“, over at Business Insider, and it explains Virtualisation as:


“virtualization software tricks applications into thinking they are on their own servers, even though they are sharing one with many others”


Which is an interesting take; although I think the use of “tricks” makes it sound a lot more hacky/dodgy than it really is.


As a Virtualisation enthusiast, explaining Virtualisation to a non-technical audience has always been an interesting conundrum for me.


How do you explain Virtualisation “in a nutshell” to non-techies?

Farewell RemoteFX


I’ve spent the last few months playing with RemoteFX, including a fair amount of educated guesswork and hardware hacking to get a functioning system as – at the time – Microsoft’s documentation was a bit sporadic, and supported systems were just way too expensive for an exploration project. Mind you, even now they’re pricey; but RemoteFX isn’t aimed at the mainstream just yet.

It’s being retired now, so I figured I’d take a farewell photo of the AMD FirePro V5800 I managed to squeeze into a Dell R710 server.

Good luck RemoteFX – with some performance tweaks and a version 2.0, you’ll be awesome for VDI 🙂

How to run vCenter Converter from vSphere Client

Yet another “not entirely obvious” VMware thing 🙂

If you want to use the VMware vCenter Converter from within the vSphere Client you need to:

  1. Install vCenter Converter on the vSphere vCenter Server (It’s an option on the vSphere vCenter installer)
  2. Now log onto your vSphere Client and go to:
    1. Plugins > Manage Plugins > Install vCenter Converter Client
  3. Once installed, right click on any ESX host, or ESX Cluster and choose “Import Machine…” from the bottom of the context menu.
  4. That’s it. The vCenter Converter wizard will then pop up 🙂

Note: This is tested and working on VMware vSphere 4.1. Let us know how you get on with other versions of vSphere! 🙂