Home lab expansion

For a while now I’ve been hitting the capacity limit of the single server in my home lab. This is the nature of running a lot of VMware’s more recent products on it. The plan had been to get another server, shared storage and a larger switch. This week I was able to bring it all together. There were some problems.

What I already had

The original setup I had included the following items:

  • 1 Dell R710 with a Samsung 970 Evo Plus M.2 SSD (in a M.2 to PCIe adapter), a 128GB SATA SDD and a 1TB SATA SSD
  • 1 5-port Gigabit switch
  • 1 5-outlet power board

The Second Server

For the second server, I tried to get something that was as close to my current one as possible. This meant another Dell R710 with a similar model of CPU and about 128GB of RAM. Fortunately I was able to easily find one for sale on ebay. It came with 4 x 300GB SAS drives. I ended up moving 2 of these to the original server and creating a RAID 1 on each server.

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Updating to vRealize Automation 7.6 Hotfix 7

I had been burned by updating vRealize Automation a little too quickly following a hotfix release. Chrome 75 caused some rendering issues in the deployment forms. These issues were resolved by Hotfix 1, which introduced some extra issues. The most visible one is the duplicate requests on an XAAS (Anything as a Service) blueprint. An example of this behaviour is shown below

Duplicate request
Duplicate request

The second issue that I’ve seen as cosmetic. It was resolved in Hotfix 2. In this issue, labels on an XAAS blueprint rendered correctly in the Designer but when requesting the blueprint via the catalog, the label text would wrap. An example of this is in the image below:

Designer vs Request rendering
Designer vs Request rendering

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Getting serious about a home lab – Part 2 (The hardware arrives)

With my new lab, I ended up deciding on a two server approach to address the issues mentioned in part one – one server will purely be the “brains”, performing the virtualisation functions, while the other server will provide storage.  In line with that, I ended up getting the following parts:

Virtualisation Server

  • 1 x Intel i7 3930K
  • 1 x Intel DX79SI motherboard
  • 8 x Kingston 8GB RAM (64GB total)
  • 1 x Corsair 120GB SSD
  • 2 x Intel gigabit NICs
  • 1 x Fractal Design Define XL case

Storage Server

  • 1 x Intel i7 3820
  • 1 x Gigabyte GA-X79-UD3 motherboard
  • 1 x Kingston 8GB RAM
  • 1 x Corsair 180GB SSD
  • 9 x Hitachi Ultrastar A7K3000 (2TB) HDD
  • 2 x Intel gigabit NICs
  • 1 x Fractcal Design Define XL case

I also bought a Netgear gigabit switch and put an Adaptec RAID controller into the storage server.  The 2 additional NICs in each server are for iSCSI traffic with their own IP range.

Getting serious about a home lab – Part 1 (The high concept)

Back in November I posted about the implementation of what was essentially version 2 of my home lab on the VMWare ESX platform, moving an i3 with 8GB of RAM to an i7 with 16GB and proper storage on a RAID controller.  The problem with that environment is it only really served the needs of my “production” virtual machines and hasn’t allowed me to expand further as about 14GB of the 16GB total is allocated out (even with the VMs being under-provisioned in terms of RAM).

Running in parallel with this is my desire to get some traction on my certifications and having a good virtualisation platform that I can quickly set-up lab environments on is an important part of this.  Thus begins the project, to implement version 3 of my home lab environment.  The broad hardware bits of the “high concept” are:

  • Capable of supporting my current virtual environment with better performance (essentially meaning I can allocate more correct amounts of RAM to my current VMs)
  • Capable of scaling up to support multiple simple lab environments or singular complex lab environments
  • Address the storage issues with v2 of the home lab

In terms of software or process, the outcome I’m hoping for is fairly high levels of automation leveraging the feature set available to me in my current available software pool.  Similarly, in the future I could use this model for a testing environment at work, which again means leveraging technologies that may be licensed with (ie. standard vSphere, SCCM, etc) as opposed to the best solutions possible that they may not be licensed for (some of the automation-heavy vmware products come to mind).

Going forward I hope to document the process I’ll be going through in making the home lab, including research and testing to get the end result.