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