My Home Lab – Physical Overview

Everyone who want to start playing with VMware need some hardware. It can be personal laptop or PC.
First, we start with install VMware Workstation (for Windows) or VMware Fusion (for Mac). This is software to create virtual machines. If you like VirtualBox, you can use it too.
Next, download ESXi ISO image from official VMware website. Use this imge to install hypervisor working like virtual machine using VMware Workstation or Fusion.

In smaller environments, if you only need simple testing it’s ok. You can install one or two ESXi VMs, few linux servers and here we go. But, what if you want install more things like VMware vCenter, vRealize Operations, Horizon or NSX-T ? It’s a big appliances and deploy it on 16 GB or 32 GB machine is a nightmare…

I really recommend to get some dedicated machine(s) if you think seriously about this. At below there are specification of my home lab.

1. Server

For a long time I use one Dell Precision T7600. It has 2x Intel Xeon CPU E5-26880 2.70GHz, 128 GB of RAM, 2x network cards with 1 GB Ethernet NICs and PERC H710P storage adapter. At this moment is installed ESXi 7.0 U2.
It’s a great machine and can handle many running virtual machines with quite heavy load.
The reason why I choose this one is support to Xeon CPUs, easy and cheap way to expand RAM. Plus it’s not expensive, big, heavy and noisy like standard rack server.
The advantege of phisical machine unlike virtual one (ESXi installed on laptop) is you can really touch, connect the cables and feel ‘real’ hardware.

2. Storage

You need some space to store your virtual machine files and all other stuff. I am using 4-bay
Synology NAS DS918+
with 2x 1 Gigabit Ethernet ports. There are to 2 disk pools.
First is a pool with 2x HDD WD RED 4 TB disks with better performance. It’s mapped to the Dell ESXi through iSCSI protocol. This is a great set to easily store virtual machines data with good resposivnes. A lot bettter than store it on NFS with this NAS and 1 GB NICs.
Second pool is slower, less critical and has 2x HDD Seagate 1,5 TB disks.
This pool is mapped to ESXi through NFS protocol. I store there ISO images, templates, things that are less frequently used.

3. Network – Part 1

Ubiquiti UniFi Dream Machine Pro combine router, switch and firewall in one box. Easy to setup and use.
It has 8x 1 Gigabit Ethernet ports, dual WAN ports and 2x 10 Gigabit SFP+ ports.
It’s a great option if you need device that is reasonable, have multiple configuration options like VPN, VLANs,  port forwarding, static routes, DHCP or edit firewall rules. You can mange your network inventory (only Unify devices) from one place. It’s very convinient. Saves more time if you want to build wide, secure and manageable home network.

4. Network – Part 2

Ubiquiti US-8-150W this is a small, simply switch with 8x 1 Gigabit Ethernet ports and 2x SFP ports. It’s connected to UDM-PRO. To both devices I have connected all my lab inventory. No problems with configuration, support ESXi 6.7 and above, works good. Of course bigger swtich with more ports would helpful, but at this moment, for the lab purposes is just great.

Summary
 
This is my configuration. Not complicated but simple to setup and maintain. Also with many possibilities to expand and configure in the future. You really don’t need an expensive machines to testing and learning technology. Probably this setup will change a bit in near future…
 
Be aware, sometimes easy process can be tricky and you can spend a lot of time on troubleshooting;)

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Hi, I’m Mateusz Romaniuk and welcome to my blog dedicated to virtualization technology. I work in T-Mobile Poland as a VMware/Private Cloud Administrator. My mainly responsibilites are to manage and develop virtual enterprise infrastructure.

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