Having a lab environment was always important for me to have as an administrator. It’s necessary to have a place to tinker with new software and configuration without impacting your production environment. In my previous role, I used my company’s DR environment that consisted of a single server and an Equallogic PS5000E. Without access to this equipment, it was time for me to finally build a lab environment to continue to build and learn new things. More specifically, I need a lab to prepare for the VCAP-DCA.
Having been a part of the VMware community since 2009, I’ve seen numerous home lab builds on VMware communities, blogs, and Twitter. Not wanting to take any chances to screw things up (and a bit of laziness), I wanted to duplicate a build that someone was already successfully running. I also had a few requirements:
- 2 x onboard NICs
- Remote access
The build I chose to mirror was Chris Wahl’s Haswell build.
Why I Chose This Build
Chris did all the heavy lifting and shared his research and made it really easy to follow through with and provides great details about different options for the motherboards with IPMI and CPUs with or without HT, drivers needed for the NICs, etc.
I wanted remote access because all the servers I used as an admin had DRAC installed and I didn’t want to attach a monitor to my server to see what was going on and I wanted the ability to mount an ISO to install/upgrade ESXi in the future.
I really like the fanless power supply. I haven’t had a desktop computer in my office in years and I wasn’t digging the thought of hearing that constant, low hum 24×7. I also like the modular power cables and have always been annoyed by the mess of unused cables. This power supply has been worth it!
I did have to make a few exceptions to the build though. For one, I really liked the case Chris uses but didn’t like the price tag. Instead, I found a more economincal Micro-ATX case that fit the bill for about $30. I also had an 8 GB USB drive hanging around that I’m using to boot ESXi.
With that, I present my fork of the home lab:
- Memory: 2 x Crucial 16GB Kit (8GBx2) (PC3-12800) ECC UDIMM 240-Pin Server Memory CT2KIT102472BD160B
- Motherboard: 1 x Supermicro X10SLL-F-O
- CPU: 1 x Intel Xeon 1220 3.10 Ghz Quad Core (without HT)
- Power Supply: 1 x SeaSonic SS-400FL2 400W 80 PLUS Platinum Fanless Power Supply
- Case: 1 x Rosewill Micro-ATX Mini Tower Computer Case
- Router: Cisco 1841
- Switch: Cisco Small Business SF 302-08P 8-Port 10/100 PoE Managed Switch
For now, I’m only using internal storage but looking to purchase a Synology NAS sometime this year. I didn’t want to spend over $1,000 initially for the home lab and adding the NAS would have made that happen. I’m currently using OpenFiler for NFS and iSCSI connections to the host.
Inside this host I have:
- 1 x WD 1 TB 7200 RPM HDD (storage)
- 2 x PNY SSDs (1 for PernixData FVP and one for storage)
- Occasionally I use an Intel S3700 for performance testing with PernixData FVP
- PernixData FVP: Flash performance and latency while still using HDD as backend storage. Speed up that spinning rust!
- Zentyal Community Edition: excellent, easy to use, light weight alternative for Active Directory
- OpenFiler: for NFS and iSCSI
- TinyCore Linux: small VMs running on OpenFiler for nested ESXi. Testing vMotion, resource pools, HA/DRS, etc.
- HP StorVirtual: Just installed, looking to transition to using this instead of OpenFiler for iSCSI.
- Many of the goodies that are part of being a vExpert and VMUG EVALExperience.
To Do List
- Add 4 bay Synology NAS
- Add second host