Lenovo TS200 Server Review – Part 2: Running vSphere

In my recent blog post on the Lenovo TS200 I gave an overview of this entry level server offering from Lenovo, and on appearance  and from using it for a good month or so now I can confirm that it makes for being a robust entry level server, ideal for the SMB space or a virtualization home lab.  For me I am using it for the latter to supplement my existing HP Proliant ML110 and ML115 entry servers that have proved excellent lab work-horses over the past 18 months.

So in the next few sections I will share my experience in implementing the TS200 as a vSphere virtualization host.

vSphere Installation

Lenovo TS200The process of installing ESXi 4.0 U1 onto the TS200 proved to be a smooth and event free process.  The CD/DVD drive was detected as was the PCIe based M1015 ServeRAID controller with a single SATA 7200rpm disk attached, intended to run ESXi from.

From the vSphere Client you can see (screenshots below) that the CPU, memory, disk controller and dual port onboard NIC are detected without any problem. So within minutes you can have your own basic vSphere environment up and running.  The M1015 ServeRAID controller certainly provides sufficient potential for adding extra SATA or SAS based disks to the server from which to run your VMs from.  In my home vSphere lab I use an iomega IX4-200d over NFS to serve my VMs from.  Part of the reason I use the iomega is that historically my home lab, as mentioned above, consisted of  HP Proliant ML110 and ML115s whose onboard RAID controllers weren’t particularly good and most importantly don’t in fact work with ESX/ESXi as they are partially software based and require a driver that isn’t included in the ESX/ESXi list of drivers.

From the screen shot below taken within the vSphere Client you will notice that I am running 6GB in the server.  By default the model of TS200 I purchased came with a single 2GB DDR3 DIMM which I then added to a pair of 2GB DDR3 DIMMs to.  As you can also see I am getting a little tight on physical memory with the 5 VMs I was running on the server consuming the majority of the host’s physical memory.  Even with the memory ballooning and transparent page sharing (TPS) found in ESX/ESXi I could ideally do with another 2GB or so.

Lenovo TS200 vSphere Client 1

The model of Lenovo TS200 that came with the offer I purchased had a Intel Xeon X3430 with four cores running at 2.4GHz, sufficient for the vast majority of my vSphere lab requirements. The next model of CPU up from the X3430, being the X3440 comes with hyper-threading that can potentially provide a moderate performance improvement.  Although this would be nice I wouldn’t really need this extra processor horse power for my VMs as I generally don’t run intensive CPU workloads through them.  The Xeon X3430 does however come with some of the on-die features you’d expect to find on a modern enterprise level CPU, such as Enhanced SpeedStep and PowerManagment (which you can use with the DPM feature in ESX/ESXi)..

 

Lenovo TS200 vsphere CPU[6]

The onboard SATA ports found on the TS200’s system board show up within the vSphere Client as Ibex controller ports and the PCIe based M1015 ServeRAID controller which has the internal SATA disk attached to as as a MegaRAID SAS Skinny Controller.

 M1015 ServeRAID Controller

The dual port Intel based 82574L gigabit network adapter is successfully discovered and presented for use within ESX/ESXi (below).

Lenovo TS200 NIC

With the TS200 there is also the ability to use the device pass-through feature.  This allows you to provide a VM with direct access to underlying physical hardware found in the ESX/ESXi.  This is definitely a fun feature to play around with in the lab.

Lenovo TS200 ESX PassThrough

 

Summary

I’ve found the Lenovo TS200 to make for a good vSphere lab server, sure it has a larger form-factor than the HP Proliant ML110 and ML115 servers that I am used to but as mentioned in my earlier review of the TS200 it’s ability to take up to a theoretical 32GB of memory, a dedicated PCIe hardware based array controller and the decent price I bought it for makes it something of a bargain in my opinion.  It also runs very quietly so is ideal for the home office and draws an economical amount of power – see my previous post here for details on these two areas.

 

So if your looking for a vSphere lab server or a server for an SMB environment then it would certainly be worth your while checking out the Lenovo TS200 – obviously at the right price.  🙂

 

About Simon Seagrave 706 Articles
Simon is a UK based Virtualization, Cloud & IT Technology Evangelist working as a Senior Technology Consultant and vSpecialist for EMC. He loves working in the ever changing IT industry & spends most of his time working with Virtualization, Cloud & other Enterprise IT based technologies, in particular VMware, EMC and HP products. As well as on this site, you can find him on Twitter and Google+

7 Comments

  1. Interesting, although they’re not so cheap now. Do you know if ESX supports the SATA controller in the ML110 G6?

    Serversplus are offering them for £175 + VAT with a Pentium G6950 which seems to support VT etc, so could be usable, and is very reasonably priced.

    • Hi Ric,

      I had a demo ML110 G6 Xeon CPU unit a while ago and experienced an issue where by the CD/DVD drive wasn’t detected during the ESXi installation process onto the local disk. This may be fixed now though I had to get around the issue by installing ESXi from a portable USB CD/DVD drive. I am hoping to save up for my own ML110 G6 where I can then test a little more thoroughly.

      The non-Xeon CPU based ML110 G6 appears to offer good value and the type of CPU used still have Intel VT-x and 64 bit functionality which should be it a contender as a good vSphere lab server – assuming the SATA CD/DVD issue is resolved during install.

      Thanks for reading TechHead.

      Cheers,

      Si

    • I would have to say the Lenovo TS200 – the reason being that for a similar price you get a proper hardware based array controller card, two NICs and it takes DDR3 memory (DDR2 memory is becoming more expensive over time as it is no longer the ‘standard’).

      Both great small servers and offer great value for money.

      Hope this helps.

      Cheers,

      Simon

  2. The TS200 looks good, especially at the discounted price – thanks for the Hot Deal.

    As it has space for 4 drives what is the best configuration for local storage. RAID 5 (with feature card) and no HotSpare, potentially 6TB if using 2TB drives, or just RAID 10 (avoid cost of feature card) to give 4TB. I need a solution that at least gives 3TB although that could involve a NAS if that is a better route.

    I’ll be testing the server and then deciding how real memory needs and storage needs.

    It will be a shame to see my ML115 become a back-up server but the TS200 will allow a move to ESXi.

    • Hi Ian,

      My pleasure – hope this Hot Deal comes in useful 🙂

      How many VMs are you intending to run from the TS200 and how much space and compute resource will they potentially require? Are you just looking a using it purely as a SAN/NAS appliance running a Virtual Storage Appliance (VSA)?

      Cheers,

      Si

      • I intend the TS200 sitting next to me now will replace my ML115 which is a home linux server 2TB disk space (currently 3x1TB disks with SW RAID 5) and only 0.5G memory. Then additionally moving 4 VMs from my workstation VMWare Server, they only need ~1G memory and 12G disk in total. (They are small linux test servers). I typically have ~20 VMs but only up to 4 active concurrently due to the given testing ongoing.

        So from a numbers point of view an external NAS of 3-4TB would take care of storage and leave the TS200 to handle 5VMs with ~2GB memory and <100GB disk.

        However increasing the local storage of the TS200 to use 4x2TB disks in RAID 10 or RAID 5 with the feature card would minimise the number of boxes, the cost? the power consumption, noise? and maybe give a higher performance.

        So maybe the question is really:
        When there is a need to provide a *home* network with 3-4TB of data (mainly media) is it better to add an additional VM acting as a NAS or add a dedicated NAS. I stress home network as this implies noise, space & cost are factors, however ultimate performance is not.

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