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Computer for home lab advice


I would like to buy a computer that is powerful, well rounded and reasonably future proof enough to setup a home lab on.  For the purposes of running an actual test small medium business network environment.  IE I would like to run the following things on it...

1.  GNS3, with a bunch of Cisco based devices.  A few routers and ASAs, and some sort of non ASIC switches.
2.  A bunch of server and work station VMs that connect via created loop back interfaces to parts of the GNS3 topologies (if this is even possible, looks like it should be).

I have never done anything like this before, but I want to keep my skills fresh and sharp.  

Some of the computers I am considering so far are the following...

1.  Alienware X51 maxed out at 16 GB and i7 processor, with 256 SSD and 3 TB hard drive.   But it is small form factor, so probably not very future proof.
2.  The Dell XPS 8700 Special Edition, looks like it can handle much more memory but is massive and probably eats tremendous amounts of power.
3.  A used version of the Lenovo ThinkCenter line looks like it can handle dual socketed Xeons and up to 24 GB RAM
4.  And what do you think about the new MacPro?  Its really expensive, but the least expensive model maybe reasonable, or should I stay away from Macs as setting them up with the above scenario be too difficult and pricey?  It only uses 60 watts somehow!

Thanks for your feedback and ideas.
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3 Solutions
I would lean towards the MBP, if you have the capital for it.

Pros and cons to the approach. Some blogs that I found helpful, when I went looking were:

John HurstBusiness Consultant (Owner)Commented:
There are many approaches you can use.

I have a ThinkPad X230 with Windows 8.1 Pro 64-bit. It is small and lightweight and in the same size/weight category as a MAC Book Pro. It has good battery life (near 5 hours) and a sharp, bright crisp LED display (vastly better than LCD).

It has a 500 Gb hard drive, 8 Gb of memory (easily expandable to 16 Gb with one added module for the existing spare slot).

It runs VMware Workstation V10 and has all of the following:

Windows 7 Pro 64-bit
Windows Vista Business 64-bit
2 x Windows XP Pro
Windows 2000
Windows NT4 Workstation
Windows 98
Windows 95
DOS 6.3

All but DOS can network to the host machine and share files.

It will run Servers just as happily as workstation machines.

I like it because it goes where I go.

I have on order a Windows 8.1 Pro 64-bit Desktop Tower machine with 2 x 1 Tb disk drives and 8 Gb of memory. This will store more stuff (and is my backup machine) but has to stay put.

Lots of ways to do things. I suggest you do not buy a used machine if you want to future proof it. Also recognize that technology leaps ahead every year (possibly 2) so future proofing has its limits.

.... Thinkpads_User
Danny ChildIT ManagerCommented:
The Alienware will obviously be aimed at gamers - not for this role.  Like buying a Ferrari when you need an 18-wheeler.
And unless money is no object, avoid the Mac.  You're paying for the label.

I can't object to either of the other two.  What do you want to achieve with this lab setup?
Thanks for the grade. Good luck.

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