Installing Umbrel on virtualized hardware

By Dullo | Another Blog | 24 May 2021

A few weeks ago I searched for easy and beginner-friendly possibilities to run a Bitcoin Full Node. I came across Umbrel and RaspiBlitz. I decided to go with Umbrel, because the installation on my non-RPI hardware is much easier with Umbrel.

I had some old hardware laying around and wanted to give it a second life and not throw it away (besides I really enjoy building PC's and trying new things out). The old i5-4570 got a new H81MHV3-Mainboard (with 2x SATA 6Gbps ports) from Biostar, I added 8 GB RAM and bought a new 1 TB MX500 from Crucial. I work with vSphere, thus I installed a custom ESXi 6.7U3 image (and added a free license key) with whom I have experience and some flexibility (i disregard the overhead coming from ESXi, because it is negligible low).

The next step is to deploy a VM with a Linux distribution of choice. I wanted to give DietPi a try, because it is lightweight and the project provides an preconfigured VM image (which needs some adjustments for ESXi). Regarding the official installation requirements for Umbrel, I configured the VM with 2 vCPUs, 2GB RAM and a 700GB disk.

DietPi runs and got some customization. The required software (Docker, Python, etc...) is installed and I made a new directory, where i downloaded umbrel v0.3.10. The next step is to run the start script and that's it. I did all these steps with the default dietpi-user, which has the required User ID. The inital umbrel build takes a few moments, but everything is set up automatically. After the initial setup, I can go to my browser of choice and visit the IP of my DietPi. Then, I have to write my name, note down my 24-words seed phrase, set a password for the Web GUI and can copy the url of my node in the tor network. After that, I get redirected to the dashboard of Umbrel, which looks modern and fresh.

quick view

As soon as I was finished with the setup, the node starts to synchronize the blockchain via Tor. According to the official site, it needs a few days to fully synchronize on a SSD (for HDD's even weeks). I got a VDSL 60Mbps connection, which is not the fastest in Germany. At night, the mean download rate is 44Mbps, which is quite good. At day, the rate drops due to me and my girlfriend working from home to an average of 27 Mbps. The network fluctuation is approx. +/-10Mbps, but the connection is always stable. After 12 hours, the blockchain was nearly 43% synchronized. In my case, it should take about a day and a few hours to have it fully synchronous and fortunately not days or weeks (just let it synchronize for the weekend and do something fun and come back

After the Blockchain is synchronized, the size of the umbrel filesystem is 480GB without any apps from the built-in app store. I understand, why the developers are requiring a minimum of 600GB. As the blockchain grows and additional services are added in the app-store, 500GB would simply not be enough space. In addition, you should leave at least 10 percent of the SSD free, otherwise you will suffer performance losses.

The first look of Umbrel really got me and I am really hyped to play with every little feature the developers got into it. The installation is really easy and simple and I love that I can manage my fullnode via a modern-looking Webserver. Umbrel runs on my old hardware pretty well so far. It may not be as small and power consumption-friendly as a Raspberry Pi, but it shows that it can simply be added to any homelab out there. Umbrel does not need much CPU or RAM, but I would always use a fast and large SSD. Currently, there are no downsides for me why I should not run an Umbrel node.

I hope that you enjoyed my first experience with Umbrel and thank you very much for reading!

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