Building My Lab Environment – Part I: The Hardware

In order to build and deploy STIG images for testing (which is the whole reason I started this blog) I need a lab environment to work in. This is the first part of a series that will cover how I set up my lab and the reasons for some of the choices I made.

This particular post will focus on the hardware I chose for my lab.

vSphere capable server

For quickly building and destroying machines, nothing beats going virtual. For this purpose I chose to go with the VMWare vSphere 5 hypervisor. I chose this for several reasons. One being that the limited version is free to use compared to Microsoft Hyper-V. Another compelling reason is I can create unlimited virtual machines with vSphere compared to the four that you can create with Windows Server 2008 R2 Enterprise running Hyper-V.

So, with my choice of hypervisor done, I needed hardware that would suit it. VMWare vSphere is known for its stringent requirements when it comes to what hardware you can install it on. The main stumbling block I’ve seen is the network interface card. After researching the VMWare hardware compatibility list and seeing what others have done over at, I chose to go with the following hardware.

Server Case:

SUPERMICRO CSE-822T-400LPB Black 2U Rackmount Server Case 400W Power Supply
I went with this case as I wanted a slim rackmount case to eventually put in an 8 or 12U rack.
Cost on Newegg: $259.99 US dollars


SUPERMICRO MBD-X8STE-O LGA 1366 Intel X58 ATX Intel Xeon Server Motherboard
As I am building this as a budget server I went with this motherboard due to its ability to use the cheaper Intel Core i7 processor as well as Xeon. Another positive is its use of onboard Intel NICs which is an important compatibility need for vSphere.
Cost on Newegg: $254.99 US dollars


Intel Core i7-960 Bloomfield 3.2GHz Quad-Core
I chose this processor for budget reasons and because virtual machines in a lab should not require the more powerful (and expensive) processors that a production environment requires.
Cost on Newegg: $299.99 US dollars


Kingston 12GB (3 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM ECC Unbuffered
I went with this RAM as again, because it’s cheap, and because it is on the motherboards hardware compatibility list. I bought two of these for a combined total of 24GB of RAM.
Cost on Newegg: $229.98 ($114.99 each) US dollars

System Drive:

SAMSUNG Spinpoint F4EG HD155UI 1.5TB 5400 RPM
I didn’t actually choose to purchase this. My original intent was to install to a USB thumb drive. This was attached to my order as part of an autoadd special by Newegg, but since they gave it away to me for free, I chose to use it as the system drive to hold the vSphere installation.
Cost on Newegg: $59.99 US dollars (Free for me)

Secondary Drives:

Western Digital RE4 WD2003FYYS 2TB 7200 RPM
I bought two of these drives for a dual purpose. In the interim, they are going to hold my virtual machines, but in the future they are going to be part of a NAS that I will buy. I chose these drives due to their being enterprise rated SATA drives, and they are on the NAS hardware compatibility list that I am planning on purchasing.
Cost on Newegg: $199.99 US dollars

Total cost: $1504.92 plus shipping.

Series Posts


Posted on October 7, 2011, in Lab, vSphere. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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