Towards the end of 2022, I came to learn about a really fascinating mini PC called the R1, that is manufactured by a company called iKOOLCORE, which is based out of China. iKOOLCORE is described as specializing in open source firewall applications and the R1 adds some interesting networking possibilities as you will see shortly.
What really makes the R1 standout is that it comes equipped with four built-in ethernet adapters that is packaged into a super compact form factor with a pretty elegant design. In fact, the R1 might actually be the worlds smallest x86 system that literally fits in the palm of your hand! 😎
With the compact design and flexibility in networking, the R1 can certainly enable a number of interesting use cases for VMware Homelabs like running infrastructure systems (vCenter Server Appliance, VMware Cloud Builder, Active Directory, etc.) to networking services (DNS, DHCP, Firewall, VPN, etc). The R1 can also make for a great portable homelab that you can bring anywhere and not have to worry about space or noise and is powered simply through USB-PD (Power Delivery) which makes it even more friendly to travel with.
The only thing left was to get my hands on the R1 and thanks to the creator and designer of the R1, who goes by the name of Jackeroo, I was able to give the R1 a spin and explore it from a VMware Homelab perspective.