(This is an old draft that was not posted sequentially with the related post.)
After many problems and what felt like shoveling cash into a fire I’ve finally finished the NAS v2 build. I’ve been running it about a month and it’s been great. The final motherboard I bought has good support in ESXi although the second LAN chipset (Intel 82579LM) isn’t supported natively. Running ESXi has allowed me to retire my old WRT54Gv2 router to wireless AP duties only which has upped my download burst rate significantly, run an Ubuntu server that connects to a VPN for safely sharing on BitTorrent, run a VM web server appliance for development, also an instance of Solaris 11 Express for my storage behemoth, and lastly a basic install of Windows 7 so I can configure ESXi with vSphere, hacky I know.
There are however a few things I would change if I were to do it again. Firstly I would buy a slightly different motherboard; one with two Intel 82574L LAN chipsets. The other chipset (Intel 82579LM) isn’t supported natively by ESXi. Although I have used the PCI pass-through option in ESXi to directly pass it to several OSes none have seemed to recognize it. One thing to note with this CPU socket/chipset (LGA 1155) is it can only address 32GB of RAM through 4 slots. This means you either have to buy 8GB sticks which are very costly or settle on 4GB sticks for a total of 16GB. On home server isn’t a problem at all, I still have some RAM in reserve even though I have 5 VMs running. Also these particular motherboards from SuperMicro require the RAM be ECC but unbuffered which is a hard to come by flavor.
I’d also buy a different case as I originally planned not to use a RAID or HBA card. After attempting to using a port multiplier I realized the potential for errors was too high and I would just have to drop the cash for a HBA. I’d buy this case as it has SFF-8087 backplanes which would help with the airflow internally rather than using breakout cables.
Other than those two, you live and then you learn, observations this server has been a tank. It’s been rock solid despite running several VMs who thrash the ESXi hypervisor.