Building the ultimate white box ESXi server for under $2000! Can it be done? Darren and Matt grab the company credit card and answer that question.
We carefully selects ESXi supported components based on reliability and value. If this were the ultimate $3000 white box server we might have picked a server board with dual Xeon's and ECC memory, but to keep it under that magic $2000 price point we went with beefy "desktop" components such as the Intel Core i7 920, the ASUS P6T Deluxe, and 12 GB of Corsair XMS3 memory.
Drive wise you can't go wrong with the 3ware 9650SE-4LPML. It supports four SATA II drives in RAID 0, 1, 5, 10 or JBOD. It's bigger brother the 9650SE-16ML sixteen channel SATA II controller is hot too -- just at three times the price. The 9650SE isn't supported out of the box by ESXi, however 3ware provides a knowledge base article and drivers necessary to add support for the card after your ESXi box is built.
Drive wise we picked up four Western Digital Caviar Black 1TB drives since they're cheap and reliable.
To make things easy when installing all these components in our Rosewill RSV-Z4000 4U rackmount case we picked up a 4 Drive trayless how swap sata backplane from StarTech. IcyDock makes one too. This was the only $100 spent for convenience over performance/value, but anyone who has dealt with 5.25" to 3.5" mounting brackets will agree it's worth every penny.
Rather than installing ESXi on the RAID, we used a 4GB USB drive from Patriot. The Xporter XT. It boasts really fast read/write times. I'm sure any old 1gb or larget USB drive would have done but they're so cheap, why not?