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To help others as others have helped me

New Home Test Lab Help

I am currently in the market for a new test lab and as always I don’t want to spend a fortune. My budget for the lab is £600.

I will be using the lab to help pass the VMware VCAP5-DCA and VCAP5-DCD exams so I will need the lab environment to study all elements of the exam blueprint.

I require the following from the test lab;

  • Be able to run 2+ instances of ESXi
  • Utalise SSD’s and SATA hard drives
  • Simulate network attached storage
  • Can use vMotion and HA
  • Be able to use FT (this is more of a wish)

My Options

Option 1

Option 1 is a single server running on which I would install ESXi (or Win7 and VMware workstation) and then install multiple nested instances of ESXi to create a cluster or clusters. I would also install on the root ESXi instance a storage appliance such as Openfiler or Nexenta to provide NFS and iSCSI storage to my nested ESXi instances.

The specification on the PC would be the following

  • Intel i7 3770 Quad Core at 3.4GHz
  • 240 Agility 3 SSD
  • 2TB SATA
  • 32GB or RAM

With this specification I think i could run between 2-4 nested ESXi instances with 1-2 Win 2003/2008 VM’s. I wouldn’t be able to run FT but I could utalise HA and vMotion. I also think I could simulate DRS and storage DRS as well as Storage IO control.

The total cost for this solution is about £525. This is lower than the norm as I already have the SSD.

Option 2

Option 2 is for two servers on which I would install ESXi on each to create a cluster. I could create two nested ESXi instances to form a cluster on each host. I could install on the root ESXi instances a storage appliance such as Openfiler or Nexenta to provide NFS and iSCSI storage to my nested ESXi instances. I might even install the VMware Virtual Storage Appliance.

The specification on the PC would be the following

  • Intel Core i5 Quad core @ 3.1GHz
  • 240 Agility 3 SSD (in one unit)
  • 2TB SATA (in one unit)
  • 16GB or RAM

With this specification I think i could run between 2 nested ESXi instances on each host with 1-2 Win 2003/2008 VM’s. I wouldn’t be able to run FT but I could utalise HA and vMotion. I also think i could simulate DRS and storage DRS as well as Storage IO control.

The total cost for this solution is about £600. This is lower than the norm as I already have the SSD.

Which would you choose or would you recommended something else?

Thanks

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3 thoughts on “New Home Test Lab Help

  • Sorry, meant to get time to reply to this before. For me it depends on a couple of factors.

    1. Is noise a consideration? I currently run most of my lab environment in a single box with low noise fans, a 92% efficient PSU, a silences case (Fractal Design Define R3 – awesome case) etc, which all combined make my workstation quieter than my laptop! The single server option obviously cuts down on noise, and power. When I want to run a few extra VMs or need some more shared storage, I power up my HP Microserver (which is still quiet, but not uber quiet).

    2. Do you want your lab to be able to run 24/7 and will you have any remote services (e.g. running a public webserver on it – I run tekhead.org off my home bb), if so, two boxes would give you redundancy.

    Also I am quite liking the SanDisk 240GB SSDs at the moment. I had a couple of Crucial M4s but I have found them to be a little unreliable, where the SANDisk ones seem to be pretty decent, and a very low price.

    On the CPU front, you should definitely go for an FT capable CPU if you dont mind the extra few quid. Chris Wahl’s article (http://wahlnetwork.com/2012/03/13/building-esxi-5-whitebox-home-lab-servers/) recommended the Intel Xeon E3-1230, which has all the features you want for ~£180.

  • Hi Alex,

    I am not to worried about the noise as it will be out of ear shot.

    The lab will be on 24/7 but i have no need to run anything over than the lab.

    I currently have a 240 and 120 Agility 3 SSD which are very quick and will use them to run the VMs from.

    I did have a look at the Xeon E3-1230 and although the cost of the CPU isnt to bad it soon bumps up the price because of the motherboard required and RAM.

    I have some production servers I can use for some FT testing for when i need to.

    Jeremy

    • In that case if it were me I would probably go the single box fully virtualised route. You can cut down on costs for hardware and power, and cram as much RAM in there as you can. My setup has 24GB in my main machine and another 8 in my Microserver and I can do most things with that much. If you can get a mobo with 6 mem slots that gives you even more options, going up to 48GB which would give extra headroom for doing virtual multi-sites, SRM, VCD etc..

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