Home ‘Datacentre’ Specs

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Allow me to depart from the usual tutorial-style of post that this website has so far maintained and instead give you a tour of my home lab — make that my future home lab, I am in the process of consolidating file services to a single server.

Another thing that I should make a point of before I dive into the technical details is cost: This is by no means a ‘cost is not an issue’ type of lab. This is a home lab that has been pieced together over the span of nearly four years with old computer parts, used servers from eBay, and donations from the local school district. I am a first-year computer science student who recently quit his job to focus on school so, although some things detailed below may seem expensive, I can promise you that I did not pay a fortune for this setup.

Active Directory Domain Controller

On the inside, this machine — the heart of my Windows AD network — is an old gaming desktop that my younger brother outgrew. Here are some specs:

  • Processor: Tri-Core 3.3 GHz AMD Athlon II
  • RAM: 8 GB DDR3-1333
  • Boot Disk: 64 GB SanDisk 6 Gbps SSD
  • Storage: 1 TB HGST HDD
  • Network: 1 Gbps Ethernet
  • OS: Windows Server 2012 R2 Datacentre
  • Case: Lian-Li (I have not been able to track down the model number. It was used by my high school in 1997-2004 (for the single server that ran a school of 1000+ kids!) and then donated to me)
  • Price: Approx $600 CAD (in 2008 when bought as gaming PC)

iSCSI Target

This machine is a Lenovo ThinkCentre M55 desktop that was donated by my high school when they upgraded the lab computers to Dell Optiplex 960 SFFs. This machine was used with the below hypervisor when it ran VMware ESXi disklessly. It will soon be retired.

  • Processor: Dual-Core Intel Core 2 Duo E6400
  • RAM: 8 GB DDR2
  • Boot Disk: 80 GB HDD
  • Storage: 4 TB Western Digital HDD (serves as iSCSI target)
  • Network: 2 x 1 Gbps Ethernet
  • OS: Windows 7 Enterprise with Starwind Virtual SAN as iSCSI target
  • Price: Free


The beast of my lab: the Dell PowerEdge R900. This runs, on average, 8 server VMs at a given time and will soon also be the heart of my pooled-VM-based VDI deployment.

  • Processors: 4 x Intel Xeon Quad-Core 2.4 GHz (16 cores)
  • RAM: 128 GB DDR2-667
  • Boot Disk: 136 GB SAS HDD
  • Storage: 5 x 136 SAS HDD
  • Network: 12 x 1 Gbps Ethernet and 2 x 2 Gbps Fibre Channel
  • Rack Height: 4U
  • OS: Windows Server 2012 R2 with Hyper-V
  • Price: $1,500 CAD (used from eBay)

File Server/Web Server

The newest machine to enter my server collection: This one was previously running Windows 10 Enterprise as my main desktop and before that it ran Mac OS X 10.9 — hence all the parts being Hackintosh-compatible. This machine hosts all Windows user home directories with AD-Samba integration, hosts several HTTP mirrors for documents and the like, and provides a local repository for Linux NetInstall (updated four times daily with rsync and cron).

  • Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-Z87X-UD5H
  • Processor: Intel Core i7 4771 Quad-Core 3.5 GHz
  • RAM: 16 GB DDR3-1600 Crucial Ballistix Tactical
  • Boot Disk: 240 GB SanDisk 6 Gbps SSD
  • Storage: 15 TB RAID 6 Array (9 TB usable)
  • Network: 5 x 1 Gbps Ethernet
  • OS: CentOS 7 Minimal
  • Price: Approx. $2,200 (if I remember correctly)


An end-of-life 8e6 R3000 Enterprise Web Filter that has been re-purposed to function as a firewall between the Internet, my LAN, and my guest subnet.

  • Processor: Single core 3.2 GHz
  • RAM: 4 GB
  • Storage: 1 TB HDD (this capacity is primarily required for caching to enhance speed)
  • Network: 2 x 1 Gbps Ethernet
  • OS: pfSense 2.3
  • Price: $250

Though this is not technical per se, I thought it may be interesting to note that although pfSense does not have any NGFW (next-gen firewall) features like deep-packet inspection or Layer-7 filtering, I have managed to effectively block BitTorrent and Tor through geo-blocking, the Tor IP list at http://dan.me.uk/torlist, DNS poisoning, and port restrictions.


  • JKLM_HQ: SSID with 802.1x RADIUS security (integrates with Active Directory) for LAN (VLAN 100, yellow cable in photos)
  • JKLM_WiFi_Guest: open network for guests (yes, the firewall appropriately restricts egress traffic) (VLAN 150, blue cable in photos)

I’ve included a few photos below 🙂 Yes, that rack is handmade with 2×4, audio equipment rails, and a lot of screws. Enjoy!

file_003-min file_007-min file_005-min file_002-min file_001-min file_000-min

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