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To virtualize or not to virtualize Unraid under ESXi... that is the question ;p

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So I purchased a Threadripper 3970x and I am almost ready to start building this monster machine. It is replacing two machines.

 

One is my dedicated Unraid workhorse that houses a 7980xe with an Nvidia Quadro P2000. The Quadro is used for transcoding. It has 9 drives with 25 Tb of usable space and 32 Gb of RAM. I use my Unraid server for my media, virtualization labs (building Microsoft domains for testing) and I heavily utilize Eve-NG and GNS3. For the most part the space is used to hold my media. 

 

The other machine is my daily, everyday machine that is used for gaming and all other things. It is a first-gen 1920x Threadripper, has 32 Gb RAM, two Samsung NVME drives as the main drives and a Nvidia 2080 TI GPU. 

 

My plan is to consolidate the nine drives and two graphic cards into the new build with 64 Gb RAM and two new larger NVME drives. My issue is not knowing which direction to go and whether or not to re-install my Unraid build within ESXi or to make Unraid my base OS. Since I already have VM's running within Unraid I am leaning in that direction, but I know how VMware works and the ease of deploying on that hypervisor. My only concern is that passthrough of my GPU's will not work quite as well within ESXi versus Unraid. I want to make sure I don't have a huge impact on my gaming situation, however lite I game, I still want to be able to do that. 

 

What has your experience been with GPU Passthrough in ESXi and how has that impacted gaming? I'd also need to passthrough the P2000 into Unraid for transcoding which means I'd need one additional GPU for ESXi. 

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Minor related question, can you not simply upgrade your client media players so you dont need to transcode for media playback?

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34 minutes ago, BRiT said:

Minor related question, can you not simply upgrade your client media players so you dont need to transcode for media playback?

No. Not necessarily. I have a mix of devices and also I share my library with family and they have a tendency to use whatever flavor box/tv that supports Plex, hence the need for the P2000 card for transcoding. Also I find the P2000 helps tremendously with transcoding the UHD/4K media I have and that continues to grow in selection. If all I was dealing with was 720p/1080p media then yes I could possibly just tell my family to upgrade to a slightly better device, but for them to be able to support 4K they would need to be on my network and 4K conversions need a dedicated GPU to assist with that workload versus offloading to a few cores on the CPU. 

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I would use unraid as your base and virtualize your gaming machine in unraid. I'm doing a lite version of your build with a 3900x and very pleased with the performance.

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You can test out pass-through by plugging your 2080 Ti to the current Unraid server and play with it. (hint 1: it has 4 devices that will all need to be passed through together + you will need a vbios rom so watch SpaceInvader One guide on youtube on vfio stubbing and vbios dumping).

 

Given you have a dedicated GPU for Unraid, you should have a relatively smoother path passing through the 2080 Ti.  (hint 2: get a Gigabyte motherboard  - Gigabyte BIOS allows you to pick any of the 4 PCIe x16 slot for initial display i.e. what Unraid boots with - flexibility in terms of which GPU is plugged into which slot).

Edited by testdasi

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