Network core switch Cisco Nexus 3064PQ

Here is my new network core switch for the Home Datacenter, a Cisco Nexus 3064PQ-10GE.

Cisco Nexus 3064PQ-10GE (48x SFP+ & 4x QSFP+)

Cisco Nexus 3064PQ-10GE (48x SFP+ & 4x QSFP+)

But before I speak more about the Cisco Nexus 3064PQ-10GE, let me just bring you back in time… Two years ago, I purchased a Cisco SG500XG-8F8T 16-port 10-Gigabit Stackable Managed Switch. This was first described in my Homelab 2014 build. This was my most expensive networking investment I ever did. During the past two years, as the lab grew, I used the SG500XG and two SG500X-24 for my networking stack. This stack is still running on the firmware.


During these past two years, I have learned the hard way that network chipsets for 10GbE using RJ-45 cabling was outputting so much more heat than the SFP+ chipset. My initial Virtual SAN Hybrid implementation using a cluster of three ESXi host with Supermicro X9SRH-7TF (Network chipset is Intel X540-AT2) crashed more than once, when the network chipset became so hot that I lost my 10G connectivity, but the ESXi host kept on running. Only a powerdown & cool off of the motherboard, would allow my host to restart with the 10G connectivity. This also lead me to expand the VSAN Hybrid cluster from three to four hosts and to have a closer look at the heating issues when running 10G over RJ45.

Small business network switches with 10GBase-T connectivity are more expensive than the more enterprise oriented SFP+ switch, but they also output so much more heat (Measured in BTU/hr). Sure once the 10GBase-T switch is purchased, the cost of Category 6A cables is cheaper than getting the Passive Copper cables, who are limited to 7 meters.

The Cisco SG500XG-8F8T is a great switch as it allows me to connect using both RJ-45 and SFP+ cables.

As the lab expanded, I started to ensure that my new hosts have either no 10GBase-T adapters on the motherboard, or use the SFP+ adapter (Like my recent X10SDV-4C-7TP4F ESXi host). I have started using the Intel X710 Dual SFP+ adapters on some of my host. I like this Intel network adapter, as the network chipset gives out less heat than previous generations chipset, and has a firmware update function that can done from the command prompt inside of vSphere 6.0.

This brings me to the fact that I was starting to run out of SFP+ ports as the labs expands. I have found on ebay some older Cisco Nexus switch, and the one that caught my eye for it’s amount of ports, it price and it’s capabilities is the Cisco Nexus 3064PQ-10GE. These babies are going for about $1200-$1500 on ebay now.


The switch comes with 48-ports SFP+ and 4-ports in QSFP+ format. These four ports can be configured in either 16x10G using fan-out cables or 4x40G. This is a software command that can be put on the switch to change from one mode to the other.

Here is my switch with the interface output. I’m using a Get-Console Airconsole to extend the console port to my iPad over Bluetooth.


My vSphere 6.0 host is now connected to the switch using an Intel XL710-QDA2 40GbE network adapter and a QSFP+ copper cable.


I’m going to use the four QSFP+ connectors on the Cisco Nexus 3064PQ-10GE to connect my Compute cluster with NSX and VSAN All-Flash.



The switch came with NX-OS 5.0(3)U5(1f).



Concerning the heat output of the Cisco Nexus 3064PQ-10GE (datasheet) I was pleasantly surprised to note that it’s output is rather small at 488 BTU/hr when all 48 SFP+ are used. I also noted that the noise level of the fans was linked to the fan speed and the charge of the switch. Going from 59 dBA at 40% duty cycle to 66 dBA at 60% duty cycle to 71 dBA when at 100% duty cycle.

Here is the back of the Cisco Nexus 3064PQ-10GE. I did purchase the switch with a DC power (top of switch to the right), because the switch I wanted had both the LAN_BASE_SERVICES and the LAN_ENTERPRISE_SERVICES license. I sourced two N2200-PAC-400W-B power supply from another place.


Link to the Cisco Nexus 3064PQ Architecture.


Speed testing 40G Ethernet in the Homelab

In my previous post, I described the building of two Linux virtual machines to benchmark the network. Here are the results.



The first blip, is running iperf to the maximum speed between the two Linux VMs at 1Gbps, on separate hosts using Intel I350-T2 adapters.

The second spike (or vmnic0), is running iperf to the maximum speed between two Linux VMs at 10Gbps. The two ESXi hosts are using Intel X540-T2 adapters.

The third mountain (or vmnic4) and most impressive result is running iperf between the Linux VMs using 40Gb Ethernet. The two ESXi hosts are using Mellanox ConnectX-3 VPI adapters.

The Homelab 2014 ESXi hosts, uses a Supermicro X9SRH-7TF come with an embedded Intel X540-T2. We can more closely see the  results of the iperf test at 10Gbps in the following picture.


I also got last summer from Ebay, a set of Mellanox ConnectX-3 VPI Dual Adapters for $300. These cards support InfiniBand 40Gb/s and 56Gb/s, and Ethernet at 10Gb/s and 40Gb/s. By default, vSphere 5.5 recognizes these adapters as 40Gb Ethernet adapters. And I really wanted to test these adapters at 40Gb Ethernet… and the results are great. I can push upto 37.3 Gbits/sec thru a single 40Gb Ethernet link, or 4299 MBytes/sec. Just have a peak at the following screenshot.


I guess having 40Gb Ethernet for vMotion is too fast…  The vMotion of a 12GB VM takes 15-16 seconds, of which only 3 seconds are used for the memory transfer, the rest is the memory snapshot, processes freeze, cpu register cloning and the rest.

All the test run at 10Gb Ethernet and 40Gb Ethernet where done with Jumbo Frames. For 40Gb Ethernet it makes real (x 2.5) difference in bandwidth.

This was a fun piece to lab in the homelab.

Homelab 2014 upgrade

I’ve been looking for a while for a new more powerful homelab (for home), that scales and passes the limits I currently have. I had a great success last year with the Supermicro X9SRL-F motherboard for the Home NAS (Running NexentaStor 3.1.5), so I know I loved the Supermicro X9 Single LGA2011 series. Because of the Intel C600 series of chipset, you can break the barrier of the 32GB you find on most motherboards (Otherwise the X79 chipset allows you upto 64GB).

As time passes, and you see product solutions coming out (vCOPS, Horizon View, vCAC, DeepSecurity, ProtectV, Veeam VBR, Zerto) with memory requirements just exploding. You need more and more memory. I’m done with the homelab, where you really need to upgrade just because you can’t upgrade the top limit of the memory. So bye bye the current cluster of four Shuttle XH61v with 16GB.

With the Supermicro X9SRH-7TF (link) you can go to 128GB easy (8x16GB) for now. It’s really just a $$$ choice. 256GB (8x32GB) is still out of reach for now, but that might change in 2 years.

I have attempted to install PernixData FVP 1.5 on my Homelab 2013 Shuttle XH61v, but the combo of the motherboard/AHCI/Realtek R8168 makes for an unstable ESXi 5.5. Sometimes the PernixData FVP Management Server sees the SSD on my host, then it looses it. I did work with PernixData engineers (and Satyam Vaghani), but my homelab is just not stable. Having been invited to the PernixPro program, doesn’t give me the right to use hours and hours of PernixData engineers time to solve my homelab issues. This has made the choice for my two X9SRH-7TF boxes much easier.

The Motherboard choice of the Supermicro X9SRH-7TF (link) is great because of the integrated management, the F in the X9SRH-7TF. Its a must these day. Having the Dual X540 Intel 10GbE Network Card on the motherboard will allow me to start using the network with a dual gigabit link,  and when I have the budget for a Netgear XS708E or XS712T it will scale to dual 10Gbase-T. In the meantime I can also have a single point-to-point 10GbE link between the two X9SRH-7TF boxes for vMotion and the PernixData data synchronization. The third component that comes on the X9SRH-7TF is the integrated LSI Storage SAS HBA, the LSI 2308 SAS2 HBA. This will allow me to build a great VSAN cluster, once I go from two to three serverss at a later date. Its very important to ensure you have a good storage adapter for VSAN. I have been using the LSI adapters for a few years and I trust them. Purchasing a motherboard, then adding the Dual X540 10GbE NIC and a LSI HBA would have cost a lot more than the X9SRH-7TF.

For the CPU, Frank Denneman (@FrankDenneman) and me came to the same conclusion, the Intel Xeon E5-1650 v2 is the perfect choice between number of cores, cache and speed. Here is an another description of the Intel Xeon E5-1650 v2 launch (CPUworld).

For the Case, I have gone just like Frank Denneman’s vSphere 5.5 home lab choice with the Fractal Design Define R4 (Black). I used a Fractal Design Arc Midi R2 for my Home NAS last summer, and I really liked the case’s flexibility, the interior design, the two SSD slots below the motherboard. I removed the default two Fractal Design Silent R2 12cm cooling fans in the case and replaced with two Noctua NH-A14 FLX fans that are even quieter, and are connected using rubber holders so they vibrate even less. It’s all about having a quiet system. The Home NAS is in the guest room, and people sleep next to it without noticing it. Also the Define R4 case is just short of 47cm in height, meaning you can lie it down in a 19″ rack if there is such a need/opportunity.

For the CPU Cooler, I ordered two Noctua NH-U12DX i4 coolers which support the Narrow ILM socket. Its a bit bigger than the NH-U9DX i4 that Frank ordered, so we will be able to compare. I burned myself last year with the Narrow ILM socket. I puchased a water cooling solution for the Home NAS and it just couldn’t fit it on the Narrow ILM socket. That was before I found out the difference between a normal square LGA2011 socket and the Narrow ILM sockets used on some of the Supermicro boards. Here is a great article that explains the differences Narrow ILM vs Square ILM LGA 2011 Heatsink Differences (

For the Power supply, I invested last year in an Enermax Platimax 750W for the Home NAS. This time the selection is the Enermax Revolution X’t 530W power supply. This is a very efficient 80 Gold Plus PSU. which supports ATX 12V v2.4 (can drop to 0.5W on standby) and uses the same modular connectors of my other power supplies. These smaller 500W power supplies are very efficient when they run at 20% to 50% charge. This should also be a very quiet PSU.

I made some quick calculations yesterday for the Power Consumption, I expect the max power that can be consumed by this new X9SRH-7TF build should be around 180-200W, but it should be running around the 100-120W on a normal basis. At normal usage, I should hit the 20% of the power supply load, so my Efficiency of the PSU should be at around 87%, a bit lower than Frank’s choice of the Corsair RM550. This is the reason why I attempt to take a smaller PSU rather than some of the large 800W or even 1000W PSU. 


For the Memory, I’m going to reuse what I purchased last year for my Home NAS. So each box will receive 4x16GB Kingston 1600Mhz ECC for now.

My current SSDs that I will use in this rig are the Intel SSD S3700 100GB enterprise SSD and some Samsung 840 Pro 512GB. What is crucial for me in the the Intel S3700 is that its Endurance design is 10 drive writes per day for 5 years. For the 100GB, it means that its designed to write 1TB each day. This is very important for solutions like PernixData or VSAN.  Just to compare, the latest Intel Enthusiast SSD, the SSD 730 240GB that I purchased for my wife’s computer, its endurance design is set to 50GB per day for 5 years (70GB for the 480GB model). The Intel SSD 730 just like it’s Enterprise cousins (S3500 and S3700) come with a Enhanced power-loss data protection using power capacitors. The second crucial design in an Enterprise SSD, is its Sustained IOPs rating.

I’m also adding a Intel Ethernet Server Adapter I350-T2 Network Card for the vSphere Console management. I’m used to have a dedicated Console Management vNIC on my ESXi hosts. These will be configured in the old but trusty vSwitch Standard.

Another piece of equipment that I already own and that I will plug on the new X9SRH-7TF are the Mellanox ConnectX-3 Dual FDR 56Gb/s  InfiniBand Adapters I purchased last year. This will allow me to test and play with a point-to-point 56Gb/s link between the two ESXi hosts. Some interesting possibilities here…  I currently don’t have a QDR or FDR InfiniBand switch, and these switches are also very noisy, so that is something I will look at in Q3 this year.

I live in Switzerland, so my pricing will be a bit more expensive than what you find in other European countries. I’m purchasing my equipment with a large distribor in switzerland, . Even if the Supermicro X9SRH-7TF is not on their pricing list, they are able to order them for me. The price I got for the X9SRH-7TF is at 670 Swiss Francs, and the Intel E5-1650v2 at 630 Swiss Francs. As you see the Cost of one of these server is closing in the 1800-1900 Euro price range. I realize it’s Not Cheap. And it’s the reason of my previous article on the increase costs for a dedicated homelab, the Homelab shift…

Last but not least, in my Homelab 2013 I focus a lot on the Wife Acceptance Factor (WAF). I aimed for Small, Quiet, Efficence. This time, the only part that I will not be able to keep, is the Small. This design is still a Quiet and Efficient configuration. Lets hope I won’t get into too much problems with the wife.

I also need to thank Frank Denneman (@FrankDenneman) as we discussed extensively this home lab topic over the past 10 days, fine tuning the design on some of the choice going into this design. My prior design for the homelab 2014 might have gone with the Supermicro A1SAM-2750F without his input. A nifty little motherboard with Quad Gigabit, 64GB memory support, but lacking on the CPU performance. Thanks Frank.