My VMware blog

To help others as others have helped me

VMware Home Lab Setup

My recent VMware VCAP studying has left me needing a fully functional VMware Home Lab. I first started to go down the route of a physical setup using 2 old HP DL360 G5 and a HP N40L to act as a NAS and has all the equipment in my house but I started to get put off by the;

Cable Jungle

The sheer number of cables can drive you bonkers

  • Power consumption
  • Noise
  • The sheer number of cables

I then started to think that this wasn’t the best idea and started to think how I could avoid these issues so I decided I would build a PC which would be able to serve all my needs but not have the same issues as a fully physical setup.

The Hardware

I purchased the following items with a view to build the unit my self in order to minimize the costs vs maximum performance;

 i7-3770 Intel CPU

i7-3770 Intel CPU

  • Intel i7-3770 (Quad Core, with HT @ 3.4Ghz)
  • 32GB of RAM
  • MSI Z77MA-G45
  • 1 x 120GB Agility 3 SSD
  • 1 x 240GB Agility 3 SSD
  • 1 x 1TB SATA

 

 

 

I was fortunate to have all the hard drives to hand so I didn’t need to buy them but the motherboard, CPU, RAM and a cheap case cost £550. I purchased all items from www.scan.co.uk

The benefits of this type of setup include;

  • Quick and easy deployment of VM’s for your labs. I can build a 3 node ESXi cluster with a DC, vMA, vCenter from scratch within an hour.
  • Limited amount of noise
  • Space friendly
  • Useable for other tasks such as Downloading, Media Storage, Media Conversion

The Setup

General

Windows 7 Start Screen

Good old reliable Windows 7

I installed Windows 7 x64 (x64 to ensure you can utilize more than 4GB of RAM) and a few apps that are useful such as a Download Manager and chipset drivers.

On top of the OS I have installed VMware Workstation 9.0.3 which I received when I passed my VCP (Thanks VMware). I will use Workstation to run all my VM’s including ESXi which I will nest within. For a how to install ESXi within a Workstation VM please view this article here.

Storage

The 120GB SSD is being used as the PC’s boot partition. The 240GB SSD is being used to run all the VM’s and the 1TB disk is used for VM backups, templates and ISO files.

OCZ SSD

OCZ SSD

Networking

A major benefit for me came from the network and not having to purchase an additional switch along with all the cables that come with it.

I created two virtual networks. The first is connected via NAT to my home network and the other is utilizing LAN-Segments. In the future I could have many more depending on the setup needed.

The first network I created was implemented to bridge my VM network to my home network. This was so I could RDP or SSH into my lap VMs. This also enables VM’s to talk directly with the internet. Not all VM’s will be connected to this network and to begin with just one will be.

The second network will be used to isolate the VM’s from my home network This is being done using LAN Segments on a VMware WorkStation Virtual Switch. You can create multiply LAN segmants per Virtual Switch which is ideal to avoid running out of them.

Although I have only setup 2 Virtual Networks initially I can create many more to meet my needs as and when I need them.

Virtual Machines

My initial setup includes the following VM’s.

VM vCPU RAM Storage Storage Type
ESXI Host x 3 2 6GB 5GB Thin
vCSA 1 1GB 5GB Thin
vMA 1 .1GB 1GB Thin
FreeNAS 1 2GB 100GB Thin
2008 R2 Srv 1 2GB 40GB Thin

Boot Sequence

  1. vCSA
  2. Windows 2008 R2
  3. FreeNAS
  4. vMA
  5. ESXi Host A
  6. ESXi Host B
  7. ESXi Host c

The Performance

I must admit I was surprised at the performance of all of the VM’s. Initially performance was the reason why I chose to go for two physical hosts and an NFS storage system however in this lap setup I can boot all the VM’s to a usable state within 4 minutes and even though I have assigned over 20GB amount of RAM due to the power of VMware memory utilization it is only using 10GB. If I start to place any real load on the system this will obviously increase accordingly.

Below is a list of boot times for the various virtual machines in use on my lab.

VM Nested @ Boot Time
Windows 7 Host > 0m 15s
2008 R2 Server > Workstation 0m 30s
2008 R2 Server > Workstation > ESXi Host tbc
ESXi > Workstation 1m 15s
FreeNAS > Workstation 1m 30s
vCSA > Workstation 1m 45s
vMA > Workstation 0m 30s

*There VMs are all vanilla builds with no customization to improve performance.

The next part in this series will focus on the build of the LAB.

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2 thoughts on “VMware Home Lab Setup

  • word says:

    Great Article! I am working on building my lab here soon as well. You mentioned 3 host but only stated you brought hardware for one PC? Or did you buy 3 PCs? I plan on buying 2 bare bones kit one for VMware and the other Hype-V.

  • Rodger Bruce says:

    Just debating concerning setting up test lab for 5.5 vcd certification. I have a windows 8.1 8gb ram ddr3 and 8 cores @4ghz amd fx8120. I know I would need more ram. Or would older dell servers with 2 quadcore cpus work better?they are running at 2ghz and memory on server ddr2.

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