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home lab

Home Lab Update Late 2023: New Switches, Mini PCs, Upgraded Lighting and More!

I am hoping to make this a regular series each year as the home lab undergoes changes and upgrades and as I introduce new things. The home lab for me has come a long way. It is great to be able to share with you guys my personal home lab journey as I get great ideas from you guys and get good feedback and recommendations.

Changes to the home lab late 2023

So, what changes has my home lab undergone as of late 2023? Well, I have introduced quite a few new things for me in the home lab this year. Let me detail what has been added:

Moving from a 1 gig core to 2.5 GbE

It really seems we have turned a corner with 2.5 GbE. Not only is it found in most mini PCs. It is also becoming more common in many of the switches coming out as of late. Since I wanted to change out my aging 1 GbE core switch, a Cisco SG350X-28 (very good switch) with something denser and with 2.5 GbE, I went with the Unifi Enterprise Switch 48 port with 2.5 GbE all the way around.

So far, I have been impressed by this switch. It was easy to setup and love the information provided by the switch in the Unifi controller.

Unifi 48 enterprise 2.5 gbe switch
Unifi 48 enterprise 2.5 gbe switch

Below is a look at the port manager in the controller after lighting up a few ports.

Network port manager in unifi controller
Network port manager in unifi controller

In addition, as mentioned and as I had showcased in a previous blog post here, I also added a Microtik CRS310-8G+2S+IN to my switch collection. The bummer about this switch is no PoE. However, it is a great 2.5 GbE switch otherwise, if you are looking for an 8 port switch with tons of features.

Mounting the microtik crs310 8g2sin in the rack
Mikrotik CRS310 2.5 mounted in the network rack

An army of mini PCs

I have been testing and playing around with tons of mini PCs as of late. This space is extremely exciting with the amount of features, processing power, and potential for home lab enthusiasts. I have held off purchasing new enterprise server gear, hoping to settle on a mini PC model that I want to go with moving forward. However, I am holding out for a few specs I want to see come through.

Below is the GMKtek Nucbox K10. This is a great little mini PC for a home server. This little box has an Intel 2.5 GbE network adapter. It has the Ryzen 5800U 16 thread processor. I installed 64 GB of RAM. If you are looking for a mini PC for ESXi this box packs a punch.

Looking at the back ports configuration for the k10
Looking at the back ports configuration for the k10

The AD15 is an Intel Core i7 mini PC with a 1 GbE network adapter that is great for running Proxmox.

Right side view of the ad15
Right side view of the ad15

Below is the Acemagic S1 that has a cool LCD display on the front.

Unboxed and plastic removed
Unboxed and plastic removed on the Acemagic S1

The Acepc Picobox is an extremely small footprint mini PC that I loaded with Proxmox and vSphere and both ran fine. You will need a USB network adapter for ESXi though.

Network ports
Acemagic Picobox mini PC

Hypervisor changes

There have been a lot of upgraded releases from the hypervisor side of things with the release of VMware vSphere 8.0 Update 2 and also the very recent release of Proxmox 8.1 which I have covered just recently with a couple of blog posts.

Vmware vsphere 8.0 update 2
Vmware vsphere 8.0 update 2

Take a look at the new features and upgrade process posts here:

Proxmox 8.1.3
Proxmox 8.1.3

Home lab lighting upgrades

As mentioned, I rerouted much of the lighting in the home server rack. The light strips are now much better positioned on the inside lip of the rack, giving much better ambient lighting from the front and within the rack.

Below is a shot of the cool green lights front view.

Green lights front view
Green lights front view

Red lights front view of the server rack.

Red lights front view
Red lights front view

Purple lights front view of the server rack.

Purple lights front view
Purple lights front view

Below is a dark mode view of the front of the switch with the lights out.

Dark mode on with white lights
Dark mode on with white lights

Closeup view of the front of the rack with the 48 port Unifi Enterprise 2.5 GbE switch.

Dark mode front of the server rack with a view of the unifi 48 port switch
Dark mode front of the server rack with a view of the unifi 48 port switch

Looking at 2024

I have lots of goals and ideas about 2024, from more networking gear to continuing to look at mini PCs that may be viable options for replacing some of my other server gear. However, I am still waffling back and forth on the direction I want to take there.

If you are looking at home lab ideas for 2024, take a look at my blog post here for some ideas:

Top Home Server Ideas for 2024: Projects to Start

Brandon Lee

Brandon Lee is the Senior Writer, Engineer and owner at Virtualizationhowto.com and has over two decades of experience in Information Technology. Having worked for numerous Fortune 500 companies as well as in various industries, Brandon has extensive experience in various IT segments and is a strong advocate for open source technologies. Brandon holds many industry certifications, loves the outdoors and spending time with family.

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