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I am looking for a computer that can handle 6 virtual machines and about 80 chrome tabs open. I will be using Visual Studio as well. I'm asking about chipsets, RAM, and also generally what computer is good.

The operating systems installed on the VM will be: Win 10, Win 7, Win XP, Win XP_B, Debian, Ubuntu. I will allocate a minimum amount of resources to each of these.

As for the budget, a cheaper computer that can still handle the workload would be better.

I would like at least 32GB RAM because my current laptop is 16GB and I use 8GB of its RAM largely from just web browsing. What other specs should I be looking for in a computer that can handle the workload?

  • For that many VMs and other processes, it seems like you'll need a low-end workstation at the very least. – Adam Sep 10 '15 at 1:11
  • $1300 will possibly get you a workstation that could do such a thing, but the workstations would be very low end and would probably not be very reliable. Also, are you willing to put this computer together yourself? Otherwise, that needs to be factored into the price. Finally, does $1300 include the operating system? – Firepower0701 Sep 10 '15 at 1:49
  • @Firepower0701 yeah i'm willing to put it together myself. And the price doesn't include the OS – barlop Sep 10 '15 at 3:01
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    What are you doing in these VMs? Lots of computation? How much ram are you assigning to these VMs? Are the VMs all running at once? Likewise, will you have 80 chrome tabs open at once (I can't see how that could be useful from a productivity stand point)? – Red Shift Sep 10 '15 at 4:07
  • Not enough info provided. what operation system do VMs use? whats the operation system of the host? assuming that all of them are light linux disto then you would need to spend at least 3000$ for a low end system if you want to run all of them at the same time without even being able to do much computation. again the provided info is not enough. what are going to be in those tabs? Google chrome 45 has became a very efficient browser and you'll likely need at least 1 GB of RAM for all those 20 tabs unless you're running flash-based websites or games in them and then you'll need 1GB for each tab – user137 Sep 10 '15 at 8:41
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As a starting point, I'd recommend the Haswell-E i7 5820K. 6 cores on the X99 platform, similar to the Xeon E5 16xx v3s but cheaper, unlocked and without certain server features, it can currently be purchased at U$320 if you live near a microcenter, and U$390 if you don't. The clock speed can be increased, through you shouldn't expect much above 4.5 GHz.

Haswell-E does not pack a stock cooler, and it's recommend to spend a bit to get a big, tower air cooler. The Cryorig R1 Ultimate is U$90 at newegg, and is a decent performing 140mm cooler.

If you want a mid range motherboard and don't need any special features, the ASUS X99-A/USB 3.1 has a combo deal with the 5820K. Take a kit of CORSAIR Vengeance LPX 32GB (4 x 8GB), fairly low latency, and you can later drop another kit in for 64 GB.

The 2 TB Seagate Barracuda is a good low cost HDD for mass storage, and if you want, you can also get a SSD for fast boot times. I'd recommend the OCZ ARC 100, 240 GB if you just put the main OS (Hypervisor if type I) on it, 480 GB if you want your VMs' VHDs on it as well. The ARC 100 is a MLC SSD with decent performance for the price, though it is a bit slower than the 850 EVO, it's also cheaper, and the difference will likely be only around 4-5 seconds in boot time.

Since there isn't a big power hungry graphics card, a 550W PSU should be fine. My suggestion is the Fractal Design Edison M 550W. It's a Seasonic made, semi-modular, 80+ Gold PSU, with mostly Japanese capacitors. It is out of stock at the moment though.

Finally, the case, I'd recommend the Fractal Design Define R5, a reasonably spacy ATX Mid-Tower, that has good airflow while still being super quiet. You can get the windowed version for $10 extra, if you want to see inside your computer.

Total is about $1400 USD, from newegg.com, which is about the same price as the Motherboard (incl SoC) + RAM for the option by Journeyman Geek. The Haswell-E 6 core should be more than enough to keep all your VMs happy. If you want to overclock, 4 GHz isn't hard to achieve. Note that Broadwell-E should be out soon, and you can get that if you aren't in a hurry.

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32-64 GB of RAM definitely. Probably get a chipset that goes up to 64GB but get 32GB first leaving extra slots available to upgrade. VM RAM can fluctuate and is largely based on what your doing with it and how much you need to give it. I can run 3-4 VM's which I deem to be fairly average VM's + about 40-60 chrome tabs off of 32GB no problem. There's usually about 8GB free once everything loaded up and since background CPU usage is often pretty low, I can game on it while all this is open.

You'll also want to get a beastly CPU - more cores, higher clock, the better. A specific chipset isn't that relevant - newer costs more but often has performance & efficiency gains. Do what works for you and your budget.

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  • I'm not that familiar with what's out there at the moment, what kind of beastlymulti core CPUs do you have in mind? – barlop Sep 13 '15 at 11:02
  • Basically any intel i7 with 4+ cores and you'd be good. Personally I've always gone for AMD 6/8 cores but performance/watt is better on intels. – Enigma Sep 13 '15 at 21:03
  • you mean more performance less watts, on intels? so more performance for the cost of the electricity and for the noise of any fans – barlop Sep 13 '15 at 23:10
  • yeah performance per watt – Enigma Sep 14 '15 at 3:03
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Bit of an odd set of parts here, and you'd need to build it but... the X10SDV-8C+-LN2F would be a good start. Street prices seem to be around the 1000 usd range for the board. The xeon-d in general seems to be a great choice for this kind of workload, and this specific model seems best suited to stick inside a 'regular' desktop case since it has a cooler with a fan, as opposed to the passive cooling that the other models have.

You're like "what is this witchcraft?"

This is a motherboard that's specifically designed for low power virtualisation. It uses a SOC varient of the xeon processor sssentially you're getting a stripped down, low end xeon motherboard and processor

Its DDR4 based, and will take 64 gb of normal and 128gb of RDIMMs ram - and you need ram for VMs and that many chrome tabs. You could also stick a regular video card into this.

However while being a server board, you get shiny things like m2. You also get dual gigabit ethernet slots and out of band management through IPMI.

So why this over a regular motherboard?

  1. Corecount - It's probably pretty hard to get this many cores at this price point. Its also cheaper than the enthusiast models I believe

  2. Its mini itx, but has a load of sata ports, but not much else. If you need tons of expanston, go somewhere else. You can throw this into a mini itx box with decent cooling and have a ton of power for not much space.

  3. IPMI support can be useful

Drawbacks?

Wierd formfactor, not much room for upgrading, and availability isn't great, no analog audio out or HDMI

If I was building a system for the most bang for my buck, this is where I'd start.

I'd note if I do end up doing this, I'd probably look at whether there's a skylake based varient out on the xeon D. At the moment tho, this looks like what I'd go with.

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