Update to my Home Lab with VMware Workstation 8 – Part 1 Why

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Over the couple of years my home lab running VMware Workstation 7 has served me quite well.  I’ve been able to deploy VM’s as needed (Windows, ESX, etc) and attach it to my shared storage.

However as my role has changed to a TAM at VMware I’ve needed to depend on my lab to interface with my customers and keep my technical skills up.  VMware supplies labs and access to many of their products and this approach is a good one, however there is something said for building it yourself.

Before I just start setting up software, hardware, SAN’s, network, etc  I needed to reevaluate my current home lab and setup my new objectives / goals —

“To update a home lab one must look back to move forward” – Matt Mancini Smile

What were some of the objectives and goals I chose back then?

What do you want to accomplish by setting up a home lab or work test environment?
I wanted to setup a home lab with a couple of ESX servers and shared storage
I wanted to do this so I could testing basic ESX functions and new versions

What are the expectations for uptime and performance?
I’d like the system to perform well as a home PC and a test lab
I’d like to use it to do basic functions and run my lab quickly keeping delays to a minimum

What equipment do I have access to and what do would I need to purchase?
Have – High End PC, Home Network
Purchase – More RAM, Shared Storage, Workstation Software

I built the following environment based on my objectives and goals–

Hardware / Software –

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Network –

Internal networks to support vMotion and ESX Management Network

External Single NIC to support VM’s

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Storage —

iSCSI, NFS – To support ESX Hosts

CIFS Shares – for a Public Share

Single NIC from home lab to support connection to  IX4

500GB HD –  Boot OS and Some Workstation VM’s

300GB HD – For Workstation VM’s

160GB HD – For Workstation VM’s

Current VM’s –

Web Safe – XP VM’s used for surfing the web

Home VM – Used for Home / Personal Use

ESX 3.5 Cluster – built but rarely used

ESX 4.0 Cluster – Used but not fully configured

vCenter Server VM – Windows 2003 x32 running vCenter Server 4.0

image

Outcomes for 09/2011 –

Currently my home lab is struggling to keep up.  As my role has changed the demands on my home lab have increased.  The main constraint appears to be RAM, 8GB of RAM won’t cut it anymore. So now I’m faced with updating or replacing my home lab.

The Update Plan 10/2011 –

Generally the home lab is doing okay but it is struggling with local RAM.  If I run more then 3 VM’s (1 – vCenter Server, and 2 – ESX) there isn’t really much left and paging begins.

I start to look to update my current Mother board (MoBo) to 16GB of RAM, it’s MAX.  As I start to research 4 x 4GB DDR2, I find that DDR3 has consumed the market. and DDR2 is so far past its prime that updating it would cost about ~$250 for RAM.

It’s time for a major overhaul for my home lab – What are the new objectives and considerations?

What do you want to accomplish by setting up a home lab or work test environment?
I wanted to setup my home lab to be able to run One vCenter Server, 2 – ESX servers w/ shared storage iSCSI and NFS, maybe on other XP VM, at the same time with out paging to disk
I to test basic ESX functions, new versions, explore options for customers, work with beta code, etc

What are the expectations for uptime and performance?
I’d like the system to perform well as a home PC and a test lab
I’d like to use it to do basic functions and run my lab quickly keeping delays to a minimum

What equipment do I have access to and what do would I need to purchase?
Have – High End PC, Home Network, Shared Storage, Workstation Software

What newer hardware update should be considered?

i7 Core CPU, MoBo with 32GB support, USB 3.0, onboard mSATA, SSD Drives, SATA 6.0 Support

With these things in mind I decided on the following items…

image

Let chats a bit about the Buy items and reasons why I choose them…

Gigabyte GA-Z68XP-UD3 Mobo

Here are the key drivers why I choose this motherboard –

Price and options were my number one driver, I had looked at other MoBo’s but when I narrowed it down this one kept coming up…

4 x SATAIII – 6.0Gbs Support – Really the MoBo out there with this (Note – this MoBo uses 2 different Chipsets to achieve this (2 x on the Intel Z68 and 2 x on the Marvell chipset)

4 x SATAII – 3.0Gbs Support – Uses the Z68 Chipset

32GB RAM Max

USB 3.0 Support

Good PCI Support – PCI Express 2.0 x16 2 (x16, x8), PCI Express x1, 3 PCI Slots 2 (I did look at PCI Express 3.0 boards but at this point they are more of a fad then reality)

Here are the details on this board — http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813128512

60GB SSD SATAIII aka 6.0Gbs

The key driver for this product was Speed and Price.

I got the “Corsair Force Series 3 CSSD-F60GB3A-BK 2.5″ 60GB SATA III Internal Solid State Drive (SSD)”

I got this drive at Fry’s for $80 and it stated it could do 500MB/s Read and Write.

Come to find out it can only do 250MB/s RorW however if you buy the GT Model it will.

Don’t take my word for it read about it on the Corsair forums — http://forum.corsair.com/v3/forumdisplay.php?f=188

Other Caveats – Don’t use SSD for your boot drive, before you buy read reviews

I’m not happy about this but the drive still preforms well and I use it to boot VM’s it flys!

Here are the deailts on the SSD – http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820233223

16GB DDR3 RAM

Key driver here was Size and Price

Once again Frys had the best price and it got 16GB of RAM for $79

Here are the details on the RAM – http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820233143

With new hardware in hand, let the fun and rebuilding begin – I’m off to Part II of this blog “Update to my Home Lab with VMware Workstation 8 – Part 2 Fun with a Windows 7 Installer

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