Is the new Mac mini 2019 suited for VMware vSphere/ESXi home labs?
sorangutan last edited by
This article is a work-in-progress, first published during the keynote.
These features:From the Oct 30 2018 Apple Event.
- Desktop 8th-generation 3.2GHz Intel Core Processor
- Thunderbolt 3 / USB C expansion
- NVMe based SSD storage running at full speeds
- up to 6 cores
- up to 64GB of RAM (SODIMMs)
- up to 10GbE networking
could make these new Mac mini 2019 models far more interesting as possible home lab systems than any prior generation Mac mini, especially for those seeking low noise over low cost. While not quite up to the Xeon D-1500 series that offered 10GbE, free web-based console, and up to 16 cores of CPU grunt way back in 2016, they're intruiging nonetheless. Kind of riding that IoT/Edge computing wave of small-but-powerful. Not their intended use, of course. Then again, see the screenshot of the keynote, above.Cool thermal dissipation animation.
There's a lot we don't know yet, such as the likelihood of these systems ever appearing onto the VMware vSphere Compatibility Guide, and even more of a long-shot, the VMware Compatibility Guide - vSAN. then there's the open question of whether they'll even work with VMware ESXi 6.7 Update 1, as is, or after tweaks to the BIOS such as those needed for certain Intel NUC models, and/or tweaks to the bootable ESXi install ISO. No idea whether the optional 10GbE will have ESXi drivers available natively or optionally, I suspect the consumer-only 1.0/2.5/5.0/10.0 GbE based on Aquantia will be used. Side-stepping all that by using supported external Thunderbolt 3 devices for networking could be pricey.
It's likely you can replace the included macOS, or dual-boot away from it, but as with any secure boot system, you'll be needing to tweak the UEFI BIOS, likely having to disable secure boot.
We also don't know yet how many seconds max CPU Turbo speed of 4.6GHz can be actually used in such a small design, given the thermal constraints of any compact air-cooled design. Prohibitive pricing on high capacity SODIMM modules could also make 64GB unrealistic for most folks.
Admittedly conjecture, but I do believe the hard work by William Lam at virtuallyGhetto featuring Mac mini and Mac Pro along with the Thunderbolt Enabled VMware ESXi work by folks like Eric Garrison at ATTO Technology will make some level of support more of a possibility, formal or informal. Only time will tell for sure. Whatever happens with the inevitable Mac mini home lab enthusiast niche market, it will be interesting to see it unfold!
As for me personally, I prefer purpose built servers with easy headless operation via IPMI, without a watt-burning GPU and uneeded audio. Since I generally don't dual-boot or repurpose my virtualization servers, such consumer features offer very little value to me, for my particular use cases.
As for dipping my toe into the macOS world though starting at just $799, a new Mac mini running VMware Fusion, and for tinkering with Boot Camp, could be interesting. It would be good to replace our family's aging Mac mini. Every time we went and did some surgery on it, I was impressed with the quality of the design, inside and out. It's just not a priority or financial possibility right now.Available 6 core CPU.
- 10G networking for your Laptop - Promise SANLink3 T1 NBaseT Adapter blesses your Thunderbolt 3/USB-C desktop or laptop with 1.0/2.5/5.0/10GbE speeds
Jul 30 2017
- Apple and home labs - Because you know it's all about that USB-C, 'Bout that USB-C, no Lightning
Mar 10 2015
- Google search results for "Mac mini" 2019 specifications (filtered to only show results from Oct 30 2018 or later).
- Apple (AAPL) Gives Mac mini a Massive Increase in Performance
Oct 30 2018 at StreetInsider.com
- Virtualizing a MacPro and creating MacOS virtual machines
Oct 23 2017 by Eric Garrison at They Made Me Blog
- Apple and ATTO Technology
Thunderbolt™ Enabled VMware ESXi™
- ESXi 6.0 works OOTB for Apple Mac Mini & Mac Pro
Feb 06 2015 by William Lam at virtuallyGhetto
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