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;
- Power consumption
- 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.
I purchased the following items with a view to build the unit my self in order to minimize the costs vs maximum performance;
- 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
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.
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.
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.
My initial setup includes the following VM’s.
|ESXI Host x 3||2||6GB||5GB||Thin|
|2008 R2 Srv||1||2GB||40GB||Thin|
- Windows 2008 R2
- ESXi Host A
- ESXi Host B
- ESXi Host c
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.