Home Lab – Adding a Layer 3 Switch to my growing Home Lab

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Most recently I expanded my home lab to include a Layer 3 switch.

Why would I choose a Layer 3 switch and what/how would I use it is the topic of this blog post.

Here are my requirements for my home lab –

I would like to setup my home network to support multiple VLANs and control how they route.

This will enable me to control the network traffic and segment my network to allow for different types of testing.

I’d also like to be able to run all of these VM’s on Workstation 9, support remote access, and ESXi Hosts.

 

Frist thing I did was come up with a drawing of what I wanted. It included all my wants and needs…

This was my chance to brain storm a bit and I just wrote down everything I wanted or really needed.


From this drawing I came up with this list…

  1. Support Remote Access
  2. VLANS
  3. VLAN Routing
  4. VLAN Tagging
  5. ESXi Host with 5 NICs
  6. Workstation 9 Host with 5 NICs
  7. Support 5 Different VLANs
  8. Support Internet Access for VM’s
  9. Local Storage support for home files
  10. Printer / Scanner need to be on the network
  11. I’m going to need a switch with 24 Ports or better
  12. Design the network so that I can power down the test lab and allow home devices to print and access the Inet.

Second thing – What do I currently have to work with…

  1. Windows 7×64, Workstation 9, 32GB RAM, iCore 7, 2 x SATA3 2TB 6gbs HD, 2 x SATA3 SSD (60 & 120), 1 NIC
  2. IO Mega IX4 with Dual NICs
  3. Older Netgear 16 Port Gig Layer 2 Switch unmanaged
  4. Netgear N900 with Guest Network Support

Based on these lists I came up with my shopping list…

  1. I need a Layer 3 Switch to support all this
  2. I need some Multiport Giga Bit NICs

Let’s start with the switch…Here is what I looked for in a Switch –

Must Have –

  1. Layer 3 Routing
  2. VLANs
  3. VLAN Routing
  4. Managed
  5. Quiet – It is a must for home networking as I work from home and am frequently on calls.
  6. Cost effective – keep it below a few hundred

Nice to have –

  1. Quality Brand
  2. Support
  3. Community behind the product
  4. Non-Blocking Switch
  5. OSPF or RIP

Basically most good Layer 3 switches achieve the requirements for 1-4. However these switches usually run in a Data center or Networking closet and are quite loud

I did some looking around for different switches, mostly used Cisco and Extreme Networks. These are switches that I am familiar with and would fit my home lab. However I’ve seen my share of their innards, I know their fans are loud and cannot easily be replaced. When I was at VMworld 2012 I chatted quite a bit with the Netgear folk about their products and I remember talking with them about their products and how they fit SMB to Enterprise quite nicely. I started to look on Ebay and I found an affordable Netgear Switch. I did some research on line and found how others were modifying the fans to help them run more quietly.

My choice was the Netgear GSM7324. It is a 24 Port Layer 3 Managed Switch from 2008. It meets all my must have needs and it fulfilled all of the “Nice To haves”

I also bought the following to support this switch –

Startech Null Modem DB9 to USB to run the CLI on the Switch

Sunon MagLev HA40201V4-0000-C99, 40x20mm,Super Silent FAN for $10 apiece, they fit perfectly and they run the switch at a tolerable noise level

TIP – And this is important… I had to move the PIN outs on these fans to meet the PIN outs on the Switch. If I didn’t it could have damaged the switch…

Next I started looking for Multi-Port Gigabit NICS…

What do I have to work with?

I’m using the Gigabyte Z68XP-UD3 for Workstation 9 and MSI Z68MA-G45B3 for my ESXi 5.x Host.

What are the Must haves for the NIC’s?

  1. Dual Gigabit
  2. VLAN support
  3. Jumbo Frames
  4. Support for ESXi and Windows 7×64
  5. I need about 4 of these cards

I choose the SYBA SY-PEX24028. It’s a Dual NIC Gigabit card that meets my requirements. I found it for $39 on Newegg .

Tip – When choosing a network card I needed to ensure the card will fit into my motherboards, not all x1 PCIe slots are the same and when looking at Dual Gigabit NICs most only work in server class hardware.

 

Summary –

I achieved what I was looking to accomplish and with some good design work I should have a top notch home lab. All in all I spent about ~$400 to upgrade my home lab. Which is not a bad deal considering most Layer 3 switches cost $400+. All my toys have now come in and I’m off to rework my lab…. But that my friend is a different blog post…


 

4 thoughts on “Home Lab – Adding a Layer 3 Switch to my growing Home Lab

    Doug Dimick (@dougdimick) said:
    November 13, 2012 at 8:16 pm

    Hi Matt, can you verify the Syba SY-PEX24028 does 9k MTU jumbo on ESXi 5.1?

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      mattman555 said:
      November 16, 2012 at 7:15 pm

      Hey Doug – At this time I cannot confirm ESXi 5.1 supports or works with this NIC. However I will be using this card in my home lab with a new freenas server I spun up recently. At that time I will include a Jumbo frames write up. I do know the card uses the RealTek 8111e chipset, and this chipset supports Jumboframes.

      Like

    Home Lab – More updates to my design « vmexplorer said:
    November 21, 2012 at 3:41 am

    […] recently I posted about adding a Layer 3 switch to my growing home lab. The Netgear Layer 3 switch I added (GSM7324) is preforming quite well in my home lab. In fact […]

    Like

    […] Networking – Netgear GSM7324 with several VLAN and Routing setup […]

    Like

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