My home lab – Part 1

In my previous blogpost I wrote about what considerations you should go through before creating and investing in a home lab. If you haven’t read it you can find it here.
This post will cover my goal with the home lab that I created, what design choices were made, justifications and what tradeoffs I had to accept.


As a part of my job role, I need to be up to speed with a lot of VMware products. We do have access to labs and other training internally, but I like the possibility to spin up virtual machines, and then be able to work on them regularly and at any time suitable to me. And if you haven’t noticed, then let me tell you that VMware has so much to offer than traditional vSphere. As the subtitle of the site says – vSphere is the foundation of every Datacenter. All other products are implemented on top of it.  Many of our products also have cross integrations, resulting in a requirement of spinning up many virtual machines simultaneously.  So I needed to start with a reasonable amount of compute and storage with acceptable performance.


My requirements for the home lab:

  • No more building up computers from scratch – I am done doing that
  • WAF – this should be at a medium level
  • Low noise and power consumption
  • should not take up a lot of space
  • Easy reusable for other things than part of my lab
  • Easy to resell so that I can upgrade the lab occasionally
  • Able to scale out


My restraints:

  • A HP 1800-24G switch is already in place and are being used.
  • QNAP 4 bay NAS with 6 TB available storage which can be used as a iSCSI target.


So with these things in mind I started to think of what will meet my requirements? I could buy Mac Mini’s or the Intel NUC’s. Then it hit me with the idea of using my old Lenovo W510 Laptop i got from a previous employer. Its born with a Intel i7 quad core CPU and already installed with 16 GB of memory. Some thoughts run through my mind: is 16 GB of memory really enough, a maximum of one disk and does ESXi even install on the damn thing. I started with wiping the machine and installed ESXi 5.5 on it and worked perfectly out of the box. Okay, so what about the memory? the max supported memory on the machine is 16 GB. I searched for others having experience with this machine and if it is possible to add more than the 16 GB of memory. Turns out that, though it is not supported, you can actually fit 32 GB of memory in the laptop. Great – two checkmarks. Now the disk capacity. It can only have 1 disk or? Again a quick search lead to a harddisk bay for the laptop, replacing the DVD drive!

I realized that this was actually a killer machine! Besides my requirements being met, i got:

  • Built in display, keyboard and mouse
  • Can easily be moved without powersupply, as there is a battery in place.


So what was my tradeoffs?

  • No expansion cards fits into it.
  • Cant add more disks
  • Limited to 1 NIC
  • Hardware components, beside memory & disk are not easily replaceable.


I accepted the tradeoffs and started building on the Lenovo W510 that already was in my reach.
I purchased 4×8 GB of memory, harddisk bay for 2nd harddisk and a mini 16 GB USB stick that just sticks a half cm out of the USB port. Okay, so now I knew what was needed to scale out the lab. I did not invest in expanding the home lab before I needed the additional ressources. So over time I have expanded the home lab with 2 more laptops.

So my home lab is basicly set up like this.

Screen Shot 2014-06-16 at 19.04.27

However – I did some really important investments a few weeks ago, that changed my lab experience.
Stay tuned. In my next blogpost I will cover each component, prices – and the current state of the lab.



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