VMware vExpert Session: Home Labs A Definitive Guide June-2022

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I have presented my HOME LABS: A DEFINITIVE GUIDE to various groups. However, in this session I present it to my fellow vExperts. During these sessions I go into detail around VMware Home lab design considerations, which is something we usually don’t think of when building a home lab.

If you are looking for the links in the video simply download the slides via this link:

HOME LAB: Guide / Info

I do hope you find this information very useful. Please feel free to ask any questions or post comments…

Thanks — Enjoy!

 

3 Interesting DIY PC / Server Case Options for Home Labs

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I’ve been building White box PCs since the early 90’s and if you seen my home lab blogs and videos its a passion that has continued on for so many years.  When I look for a case, I’m usually looking for practicality and usability as it relates to the indented design. As a DIY home lab builder, using commodity cases is normal but unique cases for home labs are not always easy to find. When I do look for unique Home Lab case ideas, I usually run into lists of the gamer builds that are not so much meant for Home Labs. In this blog I wanted to compile a list of cases that are a bit more unique but someone might want to use for a home lab.  For each case, I listed out some of my thoughts around home lab use cases.  Of course, deeper research will be needed to determine if they fit your indented use.

#1 – Cryorig TAKU, The PC Monitor Stand Mini ITX PC Case

USE CASE: Could be used for a stackable home lab or workstations

PROS:

  • ~1U Formfactor | ++ Coolness factor | Portability | Light Weight | Low Noise
  • The slide out system tray makes for easy access to internal components, especially when stacked

CONS:

  • Tight form factor limiting options
  • Sometimes limited SFX Power Supplies Options
  • ITX Standard might be hard for Home Lab deployments
  • Limited to 3 Drives

Other Links:

#2 – Fractal Design Define 7

USE CASE: Sure this may look like a standard PC Case, but what’s unique about this case is the MANY ways it can be configured and re-configured. Because of this unique flexibility it would work well as a Workstation or ESXi Host.

PROS:

  • MANY case configurations options
  • Want even more space? Look at the Define 7 XL
  • Supports ATX and some E-ATX configurations
  • Clean case design with 3 Color Options
  • Horizontal and vertical PCI Slots
  • Wire management
  • Air Filters
  • 9 Fan Connections
  • Lots of Disk space

CONS:

  • No 5.25″ disk bays
  • No front facing USB or external ports (all on top)
  • It’s big and the XL even bigger
  • Some options sold separately

Other Links:

#3 – JONSBO N1 Mini-ITX NAS Chassis

USE CASE: With so many disk options could see this case being used for FreeNAS or even a vSAN cluster

PROS:

  • LOTS of disk space 5 x 3.5 and 1 2.5
  • MINI-ITX / Small form factor
  • PCI Low Profile slot
  • Upright or Lie-down configurations
  • Check out the manufacture site for more and similar case designs

CONS:

  • Does require SFX power supply
  • The size may limit flexibility
  • Only one PCI slot
  • No 5.25″ disk bays

Other Links:

 

 

Home Lab Generation 7: Migration to ALL Flash vSAN

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In this video I review and show how I migrated my vSAN Hybrid deployment to All Flash vSAN.

Video Highlights:

  • I cover some of my goals and reasons why I have made this investment
  • Review the changes required
  • Talk about how I Backed Up and Migration of my current data using the LOCKERSTOR 10 and Synology 1621+
  • The way I decommission vSAN with only 3-nodes
  • I then build a new vSAN Cluster and migrated the data.
  • Wrapping it up I review Parts List and show how I built the new vSAN Cluster.

NOTE: This is a non-production and non-supported home lab. Products used in this environment are in no way intended for production systems.

See helpful links and additional photos below.

Helpful Links:

Photos not in the video:

Pre-Migration Host

Post Migration Host (Much cleaner)

Home Lab Generation 7: VM Migrate Greyed out KB 1029926

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In this quick video I show how to enable VM Migration after a failed or incomplete Synology Active Backup.

Links in this Video:
Migration options for a virtual machine are greyed out though vMotion is licensed (1029926) https://kb.vmware.com/s/article/1029926

Storage vMotion migration fails with the error: The method is disabled by ‘SYMC-INCR dd-mm-yyyy hh:mm’ (2008957) https://kb.vmware.com/s/article/2008957

10Gb Switch Options for VMware Home Lab

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With so many 10Gbe Switch options out there for VMware Home Labs I thought I would take some time to create a list of some of the more common options.

Where did I get this data?

William Lam started the VMware Community Homelab project a few years ago. It allows Home Lab users to enter their information around their Home lab. To date the VMware Home Lab community have entered over 125 different VMware Home Labs. When a user registers they provide a URL link which leads to their home lab build-of-materials (BOM) or a description of the users home lab. Its a great resource when you are looking to see what others are doing. This was my primary data source for the results below.

On to the Results!

Over this past weekend, I took some time to review all VMware Community Homelab project links and specifically documented all the folks that noted their 10Gb Switch. I found where 25 users listed the use of a 10Gbe Switch. As I went to each link I documented the switch, its 10Gb Port count, who made it, the model, a current price, and a helpful link.

Here are the TOP 3 most popular and a curious switch:

#1 – With a user count of 7 the Ubiquity Unifi US-16-XG was the most used switch by a single model. Additionally, I noticed many of their other products in users home labs.

#2 – MikroTik with a user count of 8 across 4 different models. Their products are know to be very cost effective for 10Gbe so its no wonder they are in the top 3.

#3 – Our surprise result with a user count of 4 across 2 models is Netgear. But, its no surprise that Netgear has been making great home lab products for decades and they seem to be a bit popular in this 10Gbe arena.

Lastly, a curious switch I noted was the Brocade Communications BR-VDX6720-24-R VDX 6720. With 24 Ports of SFP+ 10Gbe its got me curious why you can find these on Ebay for ~$150. This is one switch I’ll have to look into.

This table contains to total results and extra information :

Count10Gb PortsPortsManufactureProductUSD Cost (05/2022)LinkNotes
71612 x 10G SFP+ ports | 4 x 10Gbe RJ45UbiquityUniFi US-16-XG 10G$600-800https://store.ui.com/collections/unifi-network-switching/products/unifi-switch-16-xg
488 x 10 Gb SFP+ | 1 x 1Gbe RJ45MikroTikCRS309-1G-8S+IN$269https://mikrotik.com/product/crs309_1g_8s_in
288 x 10Gbe RJ45 | 2 RJ45/SFP+ Combo PortsNetgearProsafe XS708T$850https://www.netgear.com/business/wired/switches/smart/xs708t/
21616 x 10 Gb SFP+ | 1 x 1Gbe RJ45MikroTikCRS317-1G-16S+RM$400https://mikrotik.com/product/crs317_1g_16s_rm
288 x 10Gbe RJ45 | 1 x 10GB RJ45/SFP+ Combo PortsNetgearXS708EEOLhttps://www.netgear.com/support/product/XS708E.aspxEOL
1128 x 10Gbe RJ45| 4 x Combo (TP and SFP+) | 1 10/100Gbe RJ45MikroTikCRS312-4C+8XG-RM$625https://mikrotik.com/product/crs312_4c_8xg_rm
188 x 10Gbe RJ45BuffaloBS-XP20EOLhttps://www.buffalotech.com/resources/bs-mp20-10gbe-multi-gigabit-switch-replaces-the-bs-xp20-10gbe-switchEOL
12424 x 10 Gb SFP+LenovoRackSwitch G8124EEOLhttps://lenovopress.lenovo.com/tips0787
12424 x 10 Gb SFP+Brocade CommunicationsBR-VDX6720-24-R VDX 6720EOL $150-400https://www.andovercg.com/datasheets/brocade-vdx-6720-switch-datasheet.pdfHard to find information on this switch
1See Note48 x 1Gbe RG45 | 4 x QSFP+ 40GBCiscoN3K-C3064PQ-10GX Nexus 3064$1,200https://www.cisco.com/c/en/us/products/collateral/switches/nexus-3000-series-switches/data_sheet_c78-651097.htmlLooks like the 4 x 40GB QSFP+ can be spilt into mutiple 10Gb SFP
144 x 10Gb SFP+MikroTikCRS305-1G-4S+IN$140https://mikrotik.com/product/crs305_1g_4s_in
144 x 10GB SFP+ | 24 x 1Gbe RJ45Cisco3750-24P w/ Cisco C3KX-NM-10G 3K-X Network Modulehttps://www.cisco.com/c/en/us/products/collateral/switches/catalyst-3560-x-series-switches/data_sheet_c78-584733.html
184 x 10GB SFP+ | 4 x 10Gb RJ45/SFP+ Combo PortsQnapQSW-804-4C$500https://www.qnap.com/en-us/product/qsw-804-4c

Update: Here are a few switches that folks mentioned to me in their comments but were not part of the VMware Community HomeLab listing:

It was a bit of a surprise the the following switch vendors were not mentioned by users: Linksys, Aruba (now HPE), Juniper, and Extreme Networks.

For a really good list of Network Switch and Router vendors check out this wiki page.

Lastly, it should be noted, there is a another way for Home lab users to enter their BOMs. Most recently a VMware fling known as Solution Designer is allowing Home lab users to enter their data. Here is a quick description of the new service:

The Solution Designer Fling provides a platform to manage custom VMware solutions. Building a custom VMware solution involves many challenging tasks. One of the most difficult is continuous manual verifications: checking the interoperability of multiple VMware products and performing compatible hardware validations. Solution Designer seeks to resolve these issues by automating repetitive manual steps and collecting scattered resources in a single platform.

Note: The only downside to this fling is you can only see your data and not others.

To sum it up, I’m sure this table is less then 100% accurate when it comes to VMware Home Labs. In viewing the listings on the VMware Community Home lab project, I found many dead user links and incomplete BOMs. The list above is more about how many folks are using which switch vs. the specifics of the switch. The specifics are something you might want to review at a deeper level. However, its a good start and the table above should come in handy if you are looking to compare some common 10Gbe switches for your home lab.

Thanks for reading and if I missed your switch, please do comment below and I’ll be glad to add it!

How I passed VCAP-DCV Deploy 2022 – Notes and thoughts

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This past weekend I passed my VCAP-DCV Deploy 2022 test.  For me the VCAP-DCV Deploy 2022 test was the third test I took in 2022.  By completing it, the VCP-DCV 2022 and the VCAP-DCV Design 2022 I’ve now earned the badge of VCIX-DCV 2022.  This now qualifies me to apply for the VMware Certified Design Expert (VCDX)  In this blog post I’m going to review some my tips around my testing process.

**Update – Further below, I’ve added a video commentary**

Cloud Management and Automation Design 2022

What is the VCAP-DCV Deploy 2022 test?

  • Advanced Deploy VMware vSphere 7.x (3V0-22.21N) is a 205 minute live lab with 17 Questions and costs $450 USD.
  • The live lab is very similar to the way VMware HOL labs work.
  • Currently, you can take the VCAP Deploy online via a remote proctored exam or in person at a test facility.
  • More information about this exam check out this URL

Test Taking Tips:

  1. Online Proctor Tips
    • The process to take a remote proctored test was pretty simple and convenient.  Even before COVID I’ve been taking remote proctored tests with great success.
    • After I registered for the exam, I got an email from OnVue with 2 key links.  One tested my environment to make sure I met certain standards (Audio, video, and microphone) and the other was the link for the day of the exam.
    • Be familiar with the OnVue Online proctoring technical requirements. They can be a bit strict about this, so make sure you are ready to go.
    • Only one monitor is permitted.  All other monitors will need to be disconnected.  If using a laptop with remote monitor the laptop lid will need to be all the way down.  I’d recommend using a monitor you are most familiar with and meets the requirements.
    • One requirement is to have a very clean desktop.  I have a large desk with many things to move.  The requirement is, desktop items need to be at a arms distance away.  So I only clear my desk to that requirement.  Reminding the proctor of this arms length requirement might be necessary. However, don’t argue too much as you may they may find you system doesn’t meet requirements and reschedule your exam.
  2. Be VERY familiar with VMware HOL
    • Make sure you have a good idea on how to resize the Windows display screen and the change the zoom in your browser to a level that is easy for you to read.  I had a hard time seeing the lab text, and after resizing I found where I made errors.  This may seem like basic tasks, but the HOL visibility is a bit different. Going into this test with an idea of what settings work best for you can prove to be helpful.
    • Knowing how to properly COPY, CUT, and PASTE content within the Lab OS and from the Manual into the Lab OS is key – Practice this in HOL.  Mastery of this skill is vital as it will save you time and typos.
  3. The Exam Lab Environment
    • Before I got into the exam lab environment I was presented with a Welcome Screen.  It had information around the exam, lab, passwords, and the lab layout.  I read it all and made sure I understood before I started the lab.  This did not count against my time to complete.
    • Next, I was presented with a ‘Starting the lab’ screen, as soon as I clicked next the clock started and my lab started to deploy.  Almost instantly the manual was made available on the right as the lab started to “spin up”.  The manual explained the various lab details and items at my disposal.  I took time to read and understand this. It was very similar to VMware HOL.
    • Very soon after, my exam lab OS was deployed and ready.  The lab OS was based on Windows.
    • The Windows OS had pre-installed programs and tools.  Additionally, there is a Student folder that is created.  Inside it contained locally readable and select vSphere documentation, KB’s, and important files.  As I went through my exam, I used most of them to complete tasks.
      • NOTE: The exam doesn’t give you internet access so use the tools and documents they provide to you.  Not every document or written procedure you need will be in this folder.  Some tasks you just have to know how to do it.  Don’t forget about time management, if you find yourself deeply reading the documentation it may be a waste of time if you don’t complete the question. You may want to come back to these questions if you have enough time at the end.
    • Next I moved on to the questions and completed my lab
  4. Multi-Tasked Questions:
    • A better way to describe the exam questions would be calling them multi-tasked.  I say multi-tasked as each succinct question could include multiple tasks.
    • For each question, some of the tasks go together and some of them are have no bearing on the others
    • Some questions are very short and some are very long.
    • Some take a lot of time to complete and some do not.
    • Questions or Tasks do not tell you how to do something, they simply state the task(s) it wants you to complete.
    • In reading the welcome screen, it stated something like – “the questions are mostly independent of one another” and I don’t recall any that were dependent on the exam.
    • As I progressed through the exam, I took time to read those questions/tasks closely. If you are only reading part of the question OR didn’t read it thoroughly you might easily miss something.
    • The entire question/task can task you to do something, don’t expect it to be specifically listed out in a list.  Any part of the question is fair game, read it all.
    • You don’t have to wait for a task to complete, let it run and come back to it.
    • Track the status of your questions. Since questions are multi-tasked you might start tasks but have to move on.  By the time you come back to it, you might have completed or started several other tasks.  It’s really easy to miss something when you are multi-tasking. My tip — Use the built-in white board or notepad to track your progress.  Before I started the test, I opened the white board, listed out the 17 numbers.  As I progressed through the test I marked each one complete, needs work, or a quick note.  This way when I return to the question or am doing a final review, I know exactly where I left off.  The PIC below is an example of my list, it was not actually from my test.
    • Don’t waste time — If you don’t know the answer to the question/task, mark it in your list, move on, and if time permits come back to it.  Just try to get as many questions/tasks completed as possible.

Study TIPS:

  1. ANY vSphere concept is fair game, even items that have been around since the beginning.
  2. READ the exam guide. Review all its links, content, and come up with a study plan.
  3. Search for labs, documents, or videos labeled something like, “What’s New in…”, take it, read it, practice it, and know it well.  Chances are if you don’t understand or know some of the latest and greatest concepts you’ll need to practice them thoroughly.
  4. Take all the VMware HOL Odyssey Labs.  They are free training or test simulation resource that will task you and keep you under a clock.
  5. For me, having a Home lab to practice on was instrumental in passing this test.

Video Commentary:

Wrap up:

I really enjoyed taking the Deploy exam.  It was interesting and challenged me technically.  Some of those questions really worked the brain cells and others I knew right away.  If  a person wants to pass this test, then I suggest study hard and lots of practice plus experience should help align them for success.  Best of luck on your certification journey!

Home Lab Generation 7: Upgrading and Replacing a vSAN 7 Cache Disk

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In this video I go over some of the rational and the steps I took to replace the vSAN 7 2 x 200GB SSD SAS cache disks with a 512GB NVMe flash device.

 

*Products in this video*
Sabrent 512 Rocket – https://www.sabrent.com/product/SB-ROCKET-512/512gb-rocket-nvme-pcie-m-2-2280-internal-ssd-high-performance-solid-state-drive/#description

Dual M.2 PCIe Adapter Card for NVMe/SATA – https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08MZGN1C5

Quick NAS Topics: Serial USB Server with the LOCKERSTOR 10

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In this Quick NAS Topic video I go over how to install VirutalHere USB Server on the LOCKERSTOR 10 and its client on my Windows 10 PC. This enables the client to establish a link to the a USB NULL Model Cable which is connected directly into the NAS.  Once established I’m able to use putty to create a serial SSH connection.

** Products in this Video **

10Gbe NAS Home Lab Part 7: Network testing with iperf3 on containers

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In Part 7 I go over how I used iperf3 to test between my different NAS devices and Windows PCs. Each NAS device are running Docker and had a ubuntu container with iperf3 installed. If you want more information on how I setup the container check out my other post here. 

 

 

Quick NAS Topics: Create your own iperf3 Docker Container

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In this Quick NAS Topic video and the steps further below, I use docker to create a ubuntu container with Linux tools and iperf3.

This video is a supplement for the 10Gbe Home NAS Lab Part 7. In Part 7 I show how to use these containers to network performance test the 3 NAS devices I have.  

Notes:

Docker Ubuntu/iperf3 Basic Steps:  Items in-between [ ] and the brackets should be removed

  • On the NAS:
    • Ensure devices can access the inet OR not covered in this blog, you’ll need to manually import and export images, etc. 
    • Ensure Docker-ce and if needed Shell-in-a-box and portainer are installed and basic configuration is done.  The Synology didn’t need shell in a box or portainter
    • Test Docker Install
      • docker -v << Shows the version
      • docker images << Show the images that are available
      • docker ps  << Shows the running containers
    • Elevate local privileges to run docker commands
      • It may be necessary to use ‘sudo’ in front of docker commands to get them to execute, followed by the admin/root password.  Example:  sudo docker ps
    • Download and run Ubuntu
      • docker pull ubuntu   << Image is located here https://hub.docker.com/_/ubuntu
      • docker run -it ubuntu bash  << Creates an instance of this image for us to modify and opens up the terminal
    • Update the Ubuntu running container
      • apt-get -y update
      • apt-get install iproute2
      • apt-get install net-tools
      • apt-get install iputils
      • apt-get install iputils-ping
      • apt-get install -y iperf3
      • Test with ping and iperf3 -v
      • Do not exit
    • Commit and push the new image
      • docker ps -l  << Check for the latest running container, and note the Container ID of the container that was just updated with these steps
      • docker commit  [Container ID]  [repository name]/[insert-container-name] 
      • docker images  << will validate that the image is now there
      • docker push [repository name]/[Container you want to push] 
  • Testing Steps
    • Check basic ping between all devices
    • Put one device in server mode iperf3 -s
    • On the other device start the test iperf3 -c [Target IP]