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Hardware requirements for a private home Lab

Posted on 2014-02-12
Last Modified: 2016-11-23

I’m a junior System Engineer and new to this job. The most of my friends have a Lab (but now old Hardware). Now I have also decided to build my own Lab. I want to build a VMware vCenter / Cluster and a Software iSCSI, FcoE or SANs.
Then I want to install 2003 - 2012 R2 Server’s so that I have some Domain controllers, File Servers and Exchange (2007 - 2013) Servers. Then I want to experiment with Failover clusters, Network clusters and other Windows Server stuff like DFS etc.

So now to my main question. Which Hardware should I buy for my purpose?  What is the latest cheapest solution for me? I heard Dell has the cheapest Server Hardware. Do you have a similar Lab at home? If no how are you testing and experimenting? We don’t have time in the company. I have VirtualBox but this is not enough for my needs.

Many thanks in advance
Question by:*** Hopeleonie ***
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LVL 119

Accepted Solution

Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2) earned 214 total points
ID: 39853789
Yes, we have lots of Labs, but we are now moving them to the Cloud, because Electricity is expensive, to have labs running 24x7.

So we now use Bare Metal Cloud


You do not get charged for storage, so once you have completed with your Lab, turn it off, your lab is stored, and when you need it again turn it on, and you only get charged for usage.

It saves

1. electricity costs
2. hardware costs

You could also use Lab Slcice


But you could use a large Desktop PC, with 32GB of RAM, VMware Workstation and AutoLab

vSphere 5.0 AutoLab by Alastair Cooke

I would also recommend looking at vSphere 5.0 AutoLabby fellow vExpert - Alastair Cooke
What is the AutoLab?

The AutoLab is a quick easy way to build a vSphere environment for  testing and learning using a single desktop or laptop PC and VMware  Workstation, Fusion or ESXi. The whole lab runs in VMs on that one PC,  even ESXi runs in a VM and can then run it’s own VMs.

 Take a look over at ProfessionalVMware for details of how to get started with building your own vSphere 5 AutoLab.

Assisted Solution

sysrams earned 72 total points
ID: 39853794
For home LAB, better go for two servers with Intel I5 processor with 8GB Ram and 1TB hdd is fine. And Vmware workstation 9.0 will be enough to check most of the features. For storage you will get used small HP arrays from the market to use it. But if you want to cut cost, install a VM with filer to remove the cost of storage.

In my home i have a lab setup with two I5 servers (8gb Ram) and two 1TB external HDD. it worked fine for me. Hope these info will be enough. Still if you have any questions please respond.

Ofcourse you need esxi servers to test all features but it will be very costly.
LVL 18

Assisted Solution

suriyaehnop earned 72 total points
ID: 39853844
For me, i just run VM Workstation on HP Laptop I5 with 8 Gb RAM. With this laptop i can run 2 Exchange 2010 server and 1 Windows 2008 R2 without no issue.

However, to Windows 2012 Datacenter with Exchange 2013, it quite painful :)

I'm looking for desktop with 32GB RAM but still lack of money :)
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LVL 19

Author Comment

by:*** Hopeleonie ***
ID: 39853963
Hi Friends thanks for all solutions


Bare Metal Cloud looks very interesting.
So now my question is. If I buy this configuration

and use it only 10h per month I will only pay 9.9$? Can I install AutoLab on that Server? As I saw with AutoLab I have only trial versions. So can I reinstall the Server after the test period is over?
LVL 57

Assisted Solution

by:Cliff Galiher
Cliff Galiher earned 142 total points
ID: 39854213
The one peice I haven't seen addressed in the previous solutions, and that I don't think a cloud provider can give you (based on my limited browsing of the websites mentioned) is getting a feel for how clustering works. Since that requires shared storage, it is just tough to do in a cloud scenario and most cloud providers don't support running iSCSI over their virtual networks because of SLAs they have to meet.

So given one of the goals for your lab was to test clustering, I think the cheapest would be to get two inexpensive servers and a SAS enclosure that supports simultaneous connections to multiple servers.

Something like 2 HP Gen8 Microservers with SAS HBAs installed and SAS JBOD enclosure with dual connectors (not all SAS JBODs have dual connectors!) for the shared storage. Alternatively you could run a 3rd server as an iSCSI target or even an SMB fileserver for shared storage for your cluster. Using a fileshare as the shared storage backend is only supported on Hyper-V 2012 R2, so no earlier OSes and no VMWare...so this may not be ideal.  Personally I'd go the SAS JBOD route just to get an idea of how larger SANs would work in production.

Overall cost would be a little over a $1k in hardware when it is said and done, for a test lab only.
LVL 119

Assisted Solution

by:Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)
Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2) earned 214 total points
ID: 39854256
That is correct, you will only pay for what you use whilst the server is powered up.

We also use HP ProLiant MicroServers, in fact we have 20 of them, in 4 x 5 Server Clusters, which actually use Oracle Sun ZFS server to act as NFS and iSCSI SAN.

In the UK, we use the Microservers, because we get £100 cash back on them. We do not use the Gen8, we use the N30L, N40L and N54L models.
LVL 19

Author Comment

by:*** Hopeleonie ***
ID: 39855317
@ Cliff and Andrew
If I use a Software like StarWind for iSCSI , hope this will work?

@ Andrew
Can I install AutoLab on that Bare Metal Cloud Server? As I saw, with AutoLab I have only trial versions. So can I reinstall the Server every time after the test period is over?
LVL 57

Assisted Solution

by:Cliff Galiher
Cliff Galiher earned 142 total points
ID: 39855323
Starwind will work, as will the native Microsoft iSCSI target. You just need a machine to run it on.
LVL 119

Assisted Solution

by:Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)
Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2) earned 214 total points
ID: 39855508
Yes, Starwind iSCSI SAN, is good software for FREE, and you casn install AutoLab in the Cloud, at Bare Metal Cloud.

I did a video blog here of uisng Starwind....for EE Members

Video Tutorial - Adding iSCSI storage to a VMware vSphere ESX/ESXi 4.x host server

Video Tutorial - Eazy Peezy Lemon Squeezy iSCSI Storage by StarWind iSCSI SAN Software

No audio tracks, and also applicanle to vSphere 5.x.
LVL 19

Author Closing Comment

by:*** Hopeleonie ***
ID: 39855615
Thanks to all will try Bare Metal Cloud

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