Home lab extension with an Intel NUC 6th generation

For my home lab I bought a 6th generation Intel NUC. The Intel NUC has following specifications:

  • Intel NUC6i3SYH
  • Intel i3-6100u (Skylake) 2.3 GHz Dual Core, 3 MB cache, 15W TDP
  • 2 memory slots for DDR4-2133 SODIMM memory, maximum is 32 GB memory
  • Intel HD Graphics 520 GPU
  • Intel I219-V Gigabit network adapter and Intel Wireless-AC 8260 WIFI adapter
  • Option to install a 2.5″ HDD/SDD and a M.2 SSD card (2242 or 2280)
  • 4 USB 3.0 ports (2 in the front and 2 on the rear)
  • SD card reader (SDXC cards)
  • Case and a 19V AC-DC adapter

IMG_9206 IMG_9209

The Intel NUC will be used as management server for my Software Defined DataCenter (SDDC) home lab environment. The Intel NUC will host VMs such as:

  • Domain Controller + DNS
  • vCenter Server Appliance
  • Virtual SAN witness appliance
  • Veeam backup
  • Etc.

The VMs are stored on a Synology NAS. The Intel NUC will use a NFS connection to the Synology NAS.  The NUC will not have any disks. It will boot ESXi from the USB stick

Processor

The 6th generation Intel NUC leaves two choices for choosing a CPU:

  • Intel I3 Skylake available on the NUC6i3SYH model
  • Intel I5 Skylake available on the NUC6i5SYH model

Both CPUs have 2 cores and support hypertreading. The table below gives a quick comparison between both processors:

Intel

For this configuration the Intel NUC with the I3-6100u processor is sufficient and saves 100 euro. The I3 has 2 cores and hypertreading, so 4 logical processors are displayed in the hypervisor.

cpu

Other advanced technologies such as VT-x, VT-d, EPT are fully supported.

Memory

The Intel NUC has 2 memory slots and support up to 32 GB DDR4 2133 MHz SODIMM memory. I added  2 Crucial 16 GB DDR4-2133(CT16G4SFD8213) modules which makes a total of 32 GB memory.

IMG_9186 IMG_9190

I use the same memory as suggested by the blog “virten.net” link.

Network card

The Intel NUC has an Intel I219-V Gigabit network adapter and a wireless network card. Only the Intel I219-V can be used with VMware ESXi.

Storage

The NUC has a M.2 (PCIe Gen 3 x4) slot and a Intel AHCI SATA-600 controller. It is possible to install a 2.5″ SDD or harddisk in the drive cage.

IMG_9210

The VMs are on a Synology NAS. So the NUC will not have any disks other than a USB drive for booting VMware ESXi.

VMware ESXi

An USB 3 stick is used to boot VMWare ESXi. On the USB stick is VMware ESXi 6.0 U1b (VMware-VMvisor-Installer-201601001 3380124.x86_64) installed. For creating a USB stick with ESXi 6 you can use the blogpost here. Only step 1 till 3 are needed.

There is no need to add extra drivers to the ESXI image because the network and storage adapter are recognized by default.

LAN Storage

Passthrough is supported by the CPU and motherboard.

passthru

Nesting such as VMware in VMware and Hyper-V in VMware is possible. Below is an screenshot of a Hyper-V Server with a VM hosted on ESXi.

hv

Power consumption

The average power consumption of the NUC is between 20 and 30 watt with a couple of VMs active.

Costs

 Component Amount Total
Intel NUC NUC6i3SYH 1 € 299,00
Crucial 16 GB DDR4-2133 2 € 235,80
 USB3 Stick 16 GB 1  € 10,00
Total € 544,80

Conclusion

The 6th generation Intel NUC is an great and easy option for creating a small ESXi home lab. I use the Intel NUC as management server with a couple of VMs. Another use case is creating a 2/3- node hybrid Virtual SAN (VSAN) cluster. Put a Samsung 950 PRO in the M.2 slot for caching and a 2.5″ HDD as capacity tier. Easy.

Pros and cons

Pros:

  • All in-one-package including a motherboard, processor, enclosure and power adapter.
  • Supports up to 32 GB of memory
  • Easy to install
  • Small Form Factor
  • Low noise & power consumption

Cons:

  • The hardware is not on the VMware HCL
  • Need a converter to connect to a DVI or VGA monitor
  • Only 2 cores available
  • No expansion possibilities such as adding an extra netwerk card
  • No remote management

9 thoughts on “Home lab extension with an Intel NUC 6th generation”

  1. Thanks for article. Just a quick question: what do you recommend between this NUC and ASRock C2750D4I or ASRock C2550D4I for a homelab running 8-10 virtual machines for tests/learning purposes?

  2. i wonder if you can stick 32gb*2 ram in it though officially only 32gb is supported.

    but when they say 16gb max for nuc5i we all know by know you can prop it up to 32gb.

  3. I have the NUC6i3SYN setup running vSphere. Spinning up a Windows 2012 server and can’t find a storage driver that works. What are you guys using to get through the 2012 installation wizard? Tech preview of Server 2016 works out of the box.

    I have tried all the storage drivers I could find with no luck. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

  4. How much do you paid for the VMware License? To use VSAN Technologie you need a license for 4000 $ and more.
    Only the Hypervisor is free to download.
    Or do you know something i don´t know? It would be pretty cool to get these things for free.

Leave a Comment