- Asus P5BP-E/4L motherboard
This motherboard supports an Intel S775 processor, has VGA and audio onboard and most importantly, the LAN controllers on this motherboard are ESX certified (Broadcom 57xx chipset).
- Intel Q6600 Quad Core processor (2.4 GHz) and 8 GB ECC RAM (4x 2GB)
Just to be sure I have enough CPU power and memory resource pools :)
- Dell Perc 5i Integrated SAS Controller
My colleagues advised me that storage was the biggest bottleneck in their ESX whiteboxes (based around the very nice Asus P5M2/SAS board). I decided to go for a dedicated hardware controller. I picked up the Dell Perc 5i controller, which is more or less a rebranded LSI Logic 8408 SAS controller on EBay with 256MB of RAM and a battery backup unit for about 175 EUR.
The main advantage of SAS controllers is that they also support the (cheaper) SATA consumer drives. A quick test confirmed this; I had absolutely no problems at all with this controller & even flashed the latest LSI Logic firmware to it :).
Maybe of interest for some: the later Dell firmwares and also the later LSI logic firmwares for this controller provide support for Write Back without a BBU present.
- SATA to SAS cables
The Dell Perc 5i has SFF-8484 SAS connectors on board, so I purchased two Adaptec SFF-8484 to 4xSATA cables from a nearby store to attach all the drives.
- 8 Seagate SATA harddisks (4x 1TB and 4x 200GB)
Space... loads of space.
The installation of ESX 3.5 was a piece of a cake & and I can confirm that the above hardware works like a charm. For those interested, I also noticed that ESX 3.5 supports the ICH7 SATA controllers (found on many consumer motherboards as well). I think -- but this has to be confirmed by someone else -- that you need to configure your ICH7 disks in a RAID before the ESX kernel will accept them as a storage pool.