Lab

yoyoclouds



WHY?.. WHAT?.. HOW?.. 
Considerations when building your own Virtualized Lab


I thought I’d put a post together to discuss what I have learnt whilst running a virtualization lab along with any hints or tips I thought may be of use to others considering building their own.

First of all here’s a couple of pictures of my virtualization lab.  As you can see it is definitely a "working" (aka messy) lab which gets used on a daily basis.



Why?
When considering building your own home lab first ask yourself, as is the case with many decisions, why?  There are many reasons why someone would want to buy their own home virtualization lab but here are some of the more common ones:

  - Exam Study: To provide yourself with an environment where you can build a mock production environment to follow examples in any study material you may have and to also confirm to yourself that what you have read actually works as described.

- Hand On Learning: Probably the most common reason for putting together your own virtualization lab is to jump onto the kit, wrestle and get your hands dirty with it – breaking it, fixing it and then breaking it again in the process.  This is my preferred option for learning about a product or new item of technology, though obviously you do need the luxury of time.  Very few of us in IT have the opportunity or access to the necessary non-production hardware during the working day to spend any meaningful length of time in doing this.

And finally…

- Because It’s There (ie: Why Not?): Some of you, like myself, are probably just total tech junkies and like playing with new technology even if it doesn’t have direct application to your personal or work life. A visualized home lab provides an excellent platform from which to do this from.

What?
So what do you need to kick off your own virtualization lab? 

The good news is that you don’t actually need much to start with.  A home lab can consist of anything from a single machine through to a rack of servers humming away in your basement or garage (along with a rather large power bill !).

Your actual hardware from which you run your hypervisor could be a laptop running VMware Workstation which in turn is running VMware ESXi with nested VMs or it could be some old server kit that you ‘liberated’ when your work was performing their recent server hardware refresh and was going to end up in the skip.

The Shopping List – What Do I Need?
Still like the sound of building your own lab but are not sure what you need?

Before taking the plunge and parting with your hard-earned money do a little homework to ensure the hardware your looking at purchasing will actually work with the Virtualization platform you want to run.

NOTE: VMware ESXi is not supported on few Hardware, so its necessary that you go through the VMware HCL (Hardware Compatibility List) before actually buying the Server Hardware, or you could even build your own custom ESXi with custom drivers as how I did it for my HP Servers.

Below is the Hardware specification of my Lab, however you can use your imagination and expand on it as you want.

Hardware Specs 

Servers

I have 2 HP servers that I use as my Virtualization platform. You can easily swap the hypervisor on these servers with that of your choice. 

I use 1 of my Dell server's as a host for my AD, DNS, DHCP, File Server and the other Dell Server as a modified Storage Server.

NOTE: Its recommended that you use a Server that has VT (Virtualization Technology) present in it. If you want to check whether your Hardware supports VT or not, click HERE.

2 x {Virtualization Platform} Servers



HP Compaq 8200 Elite Small Form Factor PC (LK135PA) - Specifications
Item
Description
Processors
Intel Core™ i5-2500 (3.30 GHz, 6 MB cache, 4 cores)
Intel Core™ i5 with vPro technology
Intel Q67 Express Chipset
VT Enabled
Small Form Factor
Memory
Standard 4 GB 1333 MHz DDR3 SDRAM
4 DIMM Slots
NETWORK CARD
Integrated Intel 82579LM Gigabit Ethernet
HARD DRIVE
500 GB 7200 rpm SATA 6.0 Gb/s NCQ, Smart IV
OPTICAL DRIVE
SATA SuperMulti DVD writer
POWER
240W standard power supply - active PFC


1 x Client PC and 1 x Storage Server



Dell OptiPlex 745 Desktop Form Factor - Specifications
Item
Description
Processors
Intel® Core™ 2 Duo 1066MHz Dual Core technology
Intel® Core™ i5 with vPro technology
Intel Q965 (ICH8) Express Chipset
VT Enabled
Small Form Factor
Memory
3 GB Dual channel shared DDR2 SDRAM system memory
4 DIMM Slots
NETWORK CARD
Broadcom 5754 Gigabit Ethernet LAN solution 10/100/1000 Ethernet with Full ASF 2.0 and PXE support
HARD DRIVE
250 GB 7200RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s
OPTICAL DRIVE
CD Reader


1 x Switch


D-Link DES 3624i Switch - Specifications
Item
Description
DEVICE TYPE
Switch - 22.0 ports - Yes - Stackable
ENCLOSURE TYPE
Rack-mountable - Desktop
PORTS
22.0 x 10/100 + 1.0 x 10/100
COMPLIANT STANDARDS
IEEE 802.1D, IEEE 802.3x, IEEE 802.1Q, IEEE 802.1p, IEEE 802.3, IEEE 802.3u
INTERFACES
22.0 x Ethernet 10Base-T/100Base-TX - RJ-45 - 1.0 - Management,
1.0 x Ethernet 10Base-T/100Base-TX - 9 pin D-Sub (DB-9) - 1.0, 1.0 x RS-232 - RJ-45 - 22.0
RMON SUPPORT
groups 1,2,3, & 9
CONSOLE PORT
RS-232 DB9


How?

Once you have decided to build your own home lab and what hardware to use the next step is to figure out how to put it all together so that (A) it works and (B) it is configured correctly so that you get maximum benefit out of it.

Logical Setup Diagram

The following diagram depicts the logical setup of my Lab. The main benefit of such a setup is that its simple to run and maintain and most of all its reusable. You can just swap the hypervisor with your choice without any major changes in the environment's design.





What runs on what?

Below is the layout of the internals of the Lab. Now since i don't have the luxury for alot of RAM or CPU, I had to cramp up few applications pretty nicely :-) But if you have adequate RAM and CPU then I would suggest use it well. Plan your Application stacks along with hardware consumption in mind and you should do just fine.

Here is a view of my HP server (ESXi1) and what all software runs on it. 

As you can see, I have dedicated this server to run all VMware stuff, for management purposes. I am also running a FreeNAS server on this as a VM that will act as my Storage Server.




I followed a sort of similar approach with my second HP Server (ESXi2) however as you can see, I now have some RAM and Compute capacity to run additional (PoC) applications, so these can be swapped out with whatever you want to run on this setup.




And finally, come to the most important aspect of any Lab, the DNS, DHCP etc etc.. For that, I am using one of my Dell Servers (viclient). This alone hosts my labs Active Directory, DNS (cloud.lab), DHCP, as well as Windows Deployment Service (a PXE Boot for Windows only). But since this was going to be available only for Windows, I integrated the WDS with a really cool utility called Syslinux

SYSLINUX is a boot loader for the Linux operating system which runs on an MS-DOS/Windows FAT filesystem. It is intended to simplify first-time installation of Linux, and for creation of rescue and other special purpose boot disks.I will be writing up a post for to describe how I setup this really cool PXE Boot environment in my Lab soon.




The last Dell Server is actually kind of a low end one, so I generally use that for testing/ storage purposes.

Well, there you have it! A perfectly good and easy to use Lab!

I hope in you found this post of use whether you already run your own home VMware lab or have just started thinking about it.  Running your own home lab is a lot of fun and there is a great supportive community around it.  Why not give it a go? 

PS: Just a word of advice.. do try to keep your Lab a clean and organized place !! Most people do forget that with all the ooh and excitement around !!


Take a look at my other related posts


Want to get started with ESXis and FreeNAS as your Storage, then check my page on VMware ESXi

If you want to create your own custom ESXi Image (as I have done for my Lab due to Hardware incompatibility issues!!), check out my post HERE

For a complete and in-depth info on VMware vCenter Server how-to-guides, check out my page on the same HERE

For any Windows related guides, like setting up a AD, DNS, DHCP, Sql Server etc, check out my page on the same HERE



And last but not the least, don't forget to have some fun !!




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