So I have had my lab hosts for about a year. I have to say that they have done pretty well. Because of the cost I configured these hosts with 16GB of RAM each. At the time I built them, 8GB sticks of RAM were about $250 a piece, which was a little bit out of my price range. I recently found some 8GB Kingston memory that wasn’t going to break the bank, and give me the ability to do more than I have been able to.
The initial configuration included the following components, and cost around $1,650 ($825/host) not counting shipping/etc.
A year later some prices have changed, some additional processors are support on my boards, larger memory is a little cheaper, and SSD prices have declined.
Before I had access to a lab, it was difficult to test nested vSphere configurations due the performance.
With vSphere 4.1, I could run nested ESXi hosts on VMware Workstation, but there was always one bottleneck. Much like many enterprise environments, I was constrained by my storage.
Running VMware Workstation on top of Windows 7 was fine, despite the fact that my workstation only had 8GB of physical RAM. I started out using the Starwind iSCSI SAN solution after talking to Zorian Rotenberg, who at the time, worked for Starwind Software (he now works for Veeam). I was running Starwind native on my Windows 7 installation. I had several disks in my workstation, so it was easy to put different iSCSI LUNs on different physical hard disks. Still I didn’t get the best performance. In addition to my desktop having 8GB of RAM, my laptop had 8GB of RAM.
I’m not going to rehash how to leverage the Starwind iSCSI software, as there are many posts out there how to do this.
Flexible between laptop & desktop
How could I leverage something that I could easily use between both my desktop and laptop? I wasn’t really worried about being able to use them at the same time, and with the right solution, I could bring it with me to work if I wanted to share some of the configurations I had worked on at home. What could I use to do this?
I’ve had the lab running for a couple of weeks and I have made a few observations in relation to the configuration of each host.
As mentioned in my previous post Home Lab Hosts – Just in time for vSphere 5, I used server class motherboards, requiring ECC RAM, with iKVM, etc. Here are a couple things I noticed that stood out:
I chose the Intel Xeon E3-1230 processors because I wanted to be able to have quad cores with Hyperthreading, as well as support for VMDirectPath. In running 20 or so VMs my CPU utilization has been less than high. I haven’t had the opportunity to leverage VMDirectPath as of yet, but I am still happy I have the ability to.
If VMDirectPath support isn’t a big deal for you, an Intel i3-2100T (i3-2100 isn’t on the board HCL) should suffice to run most workloads. The i3-2100 series processors have dual cores and Hyperthreading. These processors retailed about $100 less each on NewEgg than the E3-1230 processors did. Alternatively if you aren’t nesting as many ESXi hosts (I have 8 right now), you could also look at the Intel Pentium G620 which is similar to the i3-2100 series, but without Hyperthreading. Those retail for about $77 each.
I’ve been looking at what type of hardware for a home lab for quite a while.
Several people have setup some pretty decent/usable home labs… Here are a few to point out:
As I mentioned in a previous post, picking hosts can be a daunting task. The process of picking hosts includes taking a few things into account. I looked at desktop configurations that would support vSphere and server configurations that vSphere supports.
A lab environment is a very effective tool to keep up with technology, without having to worry about messing something up in a production environment. Several of the places I have worked have development/test/demo environments setup for the purpose of exactly that, development/test/demo work. I really couldn’t imagine testing new code, application or OS updates, or “what if” type scenarios in a production environment. But those environments weren’t really “lab” environments.
From my experience, lab environments are often comprised of whatever equipment that can be found. They often are found under a cubicle desk, a staging area, or some closet. In a previous position, my ESX hosts were simply HP/Compaq D510′s with Pentium 4 (without Hyper-Threading) processors, 2GB of RAM, and 40GB local disks. Those are terribly slow by today’s standards, and to be honest, they weren’t stellar then either.
As a virtualization tech guy that is looking to build a home vSphere lab, there are a couple things that I need to take into account: Read more…