Updated: Apr 29
The best way to gain experience with any technology is by getting your hands dirty. Install, try, break, and do it all again. The way I enjoy doing this is by building and running my own #HomeLab. There are a variety of setups out there from the very small to the outrageous. Mine focuses on delivering lots of storage (no surprise if you know much about my experience) and like most is a perpetual work in progress.
I've seen a lot of different designs over the years. Some are a built on repurposed enterprise hardware scavenged from surplus while others rely on brand new consumer grade kit. I've never been a fan of running a full rack in my garage (it would take too much valuable space away from my beer brewing setup) so for me something compact enough to sit on my desk was preferred. There are certainly less expensive ways to get the same amount of power, but ultimately I opted to spend a little more for compact design and settled on the Intel NUC platform.
ESXi Host 1 (2018)
Intel NUC NUC8i7BEH $484
2x Crucial 16GB SODIMM CT16G4SFD824A $127 each
Western Digital WD Blue 2TB SATA SSD $230
Western Digital WD Black (2018) 500GB NVMe SSD $100
ESXi Host 2 (2020)
Intel NUC NUC8i7BEH $549 (Irritating how much the price went up since 2018)
2x Samsung 32GB* SODIMM M471A4G43MB1 $130 each
Western Digital WD Blue 1TB SATA SSD $120
Western Digital WD Black SN750 500GB NVMe SSD $100
* Technically not supported on this model of NUC but it works.
Synology DS916+ (8GB) with DX513 expansion cabinet $599 + $460
7x Western Digital WD Red Pro SATA HDD (RAID 6) $336 each
Western Digital WD Blue 2TB SATA SSD (Read Cache) $230
Intel NUC, memory, and Synology sourced through Amazon.com and Newegg.com.
Western Digital components sourced directly through Western Digital. At the time I was working for WD and taking advantage of their generous employee discount. I'm not sure of the rules of disclosing that price, so for the BOM I will list current MSRP as of the time I'm writing this.
VMware licenses sourced through my VMUG Advantage membership.
Veeam licenses are available for free through the Community Edition program.