My home lab consists of several tower systems that take up a lot of space in my home office. I was looking for ways to reduce the footprint, and one way was to get a couple of Mac mini. I’ve also been hearing a lot about the Intel NUC’s lately and thought I would explore the tech specs on them.
I know several people that have a Mac mini setup and running vSphere successfully, but a couple of things turned me off right away. One was the 16GB RAM limit on the Mac mini – I was hoping to get 32GB. I know 16GB is good, but I would like that extra room to experiment with different setups.
Another item that turned me off was the limit of one NIC; I was hoping for a minimum of two, one for management and one for VM traffic. Not a show stopper but something I wanted.
Lots of power in the Intel NUC
I continued to pursue the small form factor unit and came across the Intel NUC series of devices. These systems seem to pack a lot of punch in such a small form factor.
Intel recently announced the Intel NUC Products Powered by 6th Generation Intel Core Processors, which turn out to support 32GB RAM – cool. The previous generations with the 5th Generation Intel Core Processors would only support 16GB – so this is an improvement.
As far as NICs, there is one Ethernet port and a wireless NIC – no expansion ports, this might just be a fact of life with these units, but I am interested in checking one out. Pricing is not available at this time, as the Intel site says coming soon.
Keep in mind that the 5th generation may go down in price with the new 6th generation released so keep your eyes open, especially if you don’t need the additional RAM.
Gigabyte has two NICs but still 16GB of RAM
I recently received a Gigabyte H97N-WiFi / M350 Mini-ITX PC System for testing. This is a nice addition to the home lab. It’s a neat little unit, small form factor, lots of storage capacity and compute – and two NICs. The one drawback, and maybe it’s with all systems of this size and shape – 16GB maximum.
I haven’t connected or powered the unit up yet, but the specs do impress. I will have a follow-up post when I have the unit running. One thing to consider don’t let the size of the unit fool you into thinking that it is substantially cheaper than other options. The systems can get pricey.
What kind of home lab do you have? Are you considering an upgrade for 2016? Let me know on Twitter and thanks for reading.