Small footprint homelab – Lenovo M93p Tiny

Oh hi, it’s me again. I have a few posts pending some final touch-ups that I will release shortly but I have a new-ish exciting project to write about!

My HP ML150 G6 with its dual E5540 and 96GB of memory is a great server but one thing I can’t do with it is cluster it. Why can’t I cluster it? For the simple reason of power consumption and heat generation. Add a spash of fan noise (15 fans total for 3 ML150’s). I have been on the hunt for a low power server to install VMware on and play with some advanced features. I came across VMwares VMUG Advantage license and after some light reading I’m willing to pay the $200.00 USD dollars for it as I know it will benefit me in the long run.

VMUG Advantage membership would allow me to have a few 365 day long licenses of a few VMware platforms, identified in the link here.
I’m after vCenter and vSAN for the time being. I want the abilities of vCenter and to play with many of it’s features, including clustering.

I’ve seen multiple small footprint and low power homelabs posted and many of them utilize the Intel NUCs. As great as they are (Intel NUCs), they cost a premium, especially for the units that some users purchase.

At my place of employment, I work with a large amount of Lenovo systems and one model that has caught my attention is the Lenovo ThinkCentre M93p Tiny.

These little beasts run almost 24×7 without breaking a sweat in our workplace. Our environment sees operations working around the clock and very often many of them hum along for weeks on end until we can reboot them.

So what has caught my eye with these Lenovo M93p Tiny units?

A few things:

  • Small form factor and low power consumption.
  • Decent amount of USB 3 ports.
  • Removable CPU
  • 2 Memory slots. Lenovo states a max of 16GB but I will try to push it and test 32GB (16gb x 2)
  • VGA and HDMI or DisplayPort Out
  • 2.5″ Hard Drive
  • M.2 Slot (I believe)

One of the cons is that the unit has one Ethernet port and no space for an addon cards. Not entirely a con since the Intel NUCs typically have one NIC also and don’t have space for addon cards as well.

With what I want to do, virtualized NICs will work fine and I don’t see this as a big challenge, at least not now.

I received my M93p Tiny units today in the mail. I paid $70.00 CAD for each unit and I purchased 3 of them. Normally they will sell for $140-200 CAD each. The ones I purchased were perfect because I didn’t want the hard drive or the memory. They came as ‘bare bones’. The hard drive in each unit will be an SSD for local storage(ISOs) and the memory will at least be bumped up to 16gb in each M93p. When all said and done with the cluster, I should have 48gb of memory to play with. Plenty for a small homelab.

Upon receiving the units, I tossed in some preliminary hardware, plugged in a Sandisk Cruzer 16gb USB Flash drive (Where ESXi will reside) and began the VMware instillation.

Everything when smoothly and VMware 6.7 is installed and operating on my first Lenovo M93p Tiny. The installation was straightforward and did not present any issues. The only message I received was regarding the disabled VT-x, which I remedied by enabling it in the BIOS.

Navigating around in VMware, the interface is nice and snappy. I haven’t had a chance to create any VMs yet but all in due time.

That’s about it for my first basic configuration. I’m going to spend some time and purchase the VMUG license and setup the other two hosts.

I’m really excited because I think this will be a fantastic option for low cost homelab builds, especially when it comes to power consumption and heat generation.

Stay tuned for more updates!

15 thoughts on “Small footprint homelab – Lenovo M93p Tiny

  1. Hi,
    I saw that you want to put 32GB of Ram inside the M93p β€œ 2 Memory slots. Lenovo states a max of 16GB but I will try to push it and test 32GB (16gb x 2)” Works?
    I want to buy this PC and use for testing with 2VM windows 6gb ram in total and 2 Linux 4gb ram in total of every time up with Esxi 6.7.

    You think it’s possible?

    Best regards

    Valerio

    Reply

    1. Hey Valerio,

      I haven’t purchased the required memory (16gb x 2) for each ESXi host, operating on the Lenovo M93p.

      I do believe it should work because Lenovo will certify this model for what they tested but I’ve installed more memory on computer hardware before that exceeded what the manufacturer identified. A perfect example is the HP ML150 G6 that I’ve written about. Mine has about 96gb of memory when HP rated it for 48gb.

      Reply

        1. Hey there, not yet. The price of 32GB is quite high ($370 CAD) at this time. I’ve missed the mark when the memory was in the mid/high 200’s.

          I set up alerts from camelcamelcamel in hopes of catching the RAM at a lower price. My plan is to buy one pair of 32gb and test it and if it works, I’ll order two more kits.

          Reply

  2. Would you care to share where you sourced these computers from? What were the specs? I’m in Toronto and I’m looking for a couple of these as an entry into home labbing. I hope to hear about you testing out 32GB of RAM. You’re right in that it is so pricy at this time. You can email me if you prefer not to answer the question publically.

    Reply

    1. Hey there!

      I sourced my M93p units from eBay. There is a vendor called Bauer Systems Group in the GTA that might be able to help you. I would just compare pricing and try to get the best bang for the buck.

      The 32GB didn’t pan out unfortunately, so instead I added a 4th M93p tiny into my cluster. This gives me more usable memory and 3 active units at all times.

      Reply

      1. Hi. I love my m93p tiny that I use as a NAS and Plex server. I may want to play around with VMs too. What was the max ram you were able to install? I have 2ea 4GB sodimms and want to increase to 2ea 8GB for a total of 16GB. Do you think that will work?
        Apparently the 16GB sodimms didn’t work?
        Thanks!

        Reply

        1. I have 2x8gb installed in each of my M93p Tiny stations. 16GB is enough and works just fine. SODIMM DDR3/L memory has dropped in price and is affordable so upgrading the ram isn’t a deal breaker these days.

          Reply

  3. Great posts regarding this Lenovo Tiny.
    Unfortunately, haven’t seen anyone successfully got it to work with 32GB ram (or maybe i suck in google search), but a pretty expensive way to test it out tho.
    Btw, I am new to ESXi, and wondering having multiple device as a cluster, would it be able to do load-balancing or sharing the CPU/Memory resources across?
    or the cluster is just used for redundancy when host are down?

    Reply

    1. Hey, thank you and welcome!

      Having a cluster allows for multiple forms of redundancy and protection. Some hypervisors, such as VMware ESXi can be configured with DRS (Distributed Resource Scheduler), which allows Virtual Machines to operate within a safe threshold and the hypervisor will balance the virtual machines based on the DRS rules.

      If you have two hosts in a cluster and host #1 contains most of the virtual machines and its resources are limited, DRS, if enabled can balance the virtual machines between both hosts.

      This is just another additional feature to keeping a high up-time within the hypervisor and keep servers running.

      I plan to do some VMware labs and write about them here in the next few weeks. Do some reading if you are interested, it’s fantastic stuff.

      Reply

  4. Hi

    Do you think the thinkcenter m75q-1 tiny will support ESXi.
    It has AMD Ryzen 5 Pro 3400GE CPU.

    Reply

  5. Hi,

    Please could you tell how noisy they are?
    Planing to have one near the tv.
    Thanks

    Reply

    1. The M93p Tiny units are very quiet. The default BIOS setting is for noise reduction and they perform properly all while staying quiet.

      I would recommend this if you want a small footprint with low heat generation and barely any noise.

      Reply

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