I picked up a Dell 690 from an e-recycler for $11. I picked it out knowing that I can kit-it-out with 64GB of slow DDR2 FBDIMM RAM for about $80 and I can replace the CPUs to get to 8 threads for another $30ish. I somewhat foolishly assumed VMware ESXi 6.5 would just run on this rig. I was wrong, kind of.
Annoyingly, this motherboard seems fully electrically compatible with CPUs that are both dirt-cheap and supported by ESXi, however after a fair search of the internet, I found that the bios does not support such CPUs. The most conclusive findings I encountered were these.
I considered modifying ESXi itself, but it appears it legitimately needs something not supported by the CPUs compatible with the 690’s board. I think I read somewhere that Live Migration depends on a certain CPU feature. I got extra annoyed since I never use Live Migration (as I live on free VMware Licenses in my home lab).
The “solution” that seems to be working perfectly fine was to simply install ESXi on another machine and put the OS drive on the 690 afterwards. I’ve done this and I can report that it boots fine and I created a quick Photon OS VM to confirm it works at all. I half-way expect to find something important doesn’t work, but the Web UI functions fine (which is why I’m pushing for 6.5, else 6.0 would have been okay) and VMs appear functional. So.. Mission Accomplished? This garbage rig is already better than a Quad Core rig I’ve used and depended upon for years.
I’m feeling good. I may upgrade the CPUs to lower TDP ones and get myself to 8 CPU threads along the way. I think I’ll go for 64GB of slower FBDIMM memory first. I couldn’t care less that it’s “slow”. It’s way faster than swap/page files. 😉
Now to get back to my actual project. Murah ha ha ha ha.