07 Apr

Provisioning Nested vSphere Hosts with PowerCLI

A few weeks ago I decided I wanted to start automating a bit more of the provisioning I did for my test beds. One of the main requirements I had was to reduce the amount of interaction that was involved from me to spin up a set number of hosts. I didn’t necessarily care how long it took (within reason) but wanted to tell something to generate me a certain number of hosts and take care of as much as possible.

The following script accomplishes most of what I wanted to and in full disclosure I am no where near a PowerShell expert and relied a lot on the community to figure out how to do many of the things in this script. If you have suggestions for improvement please do send them along! There is very little error checking currently in the script as it stands today.

For starters there is quite a bit of input required ahead of time as the script will help do many things for you. For starters, it assumes you have a nested vSphere template available which has been prepared to be used for cloning. See here for further details on doing so.

Secondly it assumes you will input all kinds of VMware parameters including cluster names, prefixes, IP subnets, etc. This is because it will take that template and create clones for you, create a DHCP reservation, add DNS records, and then join these new hosts to a specified datacenter and cluster, enabling HA and DRS in the process. Anything else I’m accomplishing through host profiles at this point but look to continue to improve upon this script in the near future.

Check it out below

#Specify vCenter Credentials
$vCenter=”vCENTER NAME HERE “
$vCenterUser=”vCENTER USER HERE“
$vCenterUserPassword=”vCENTER PW HERE“

# Specify vSphere Host Credentials
$root_user = "root"
$root_pw = "PW HERE"

$template = “TEMPLATE NAME HERE“          # Specify the VM you want to clone
$ds = “DATSTORE NAME HERE“     # Specify the datastore got placement

$Folder = “vCENTER FOLDER HERE“                                #vCenter Folder location
$datacenter_name = "DC HERE"                #vCenter Datacenter Name
$cluster_name = "CLUSTER For NESTED Hosts"                  #vCenter Cluster Name for Nested
$cluster = "CLUSTER TO PLACE VMs IN"                          #vCenter Cluster where VMs Reside
$VM_prefix = “vvSphere-“                     #Virtual Machine Prefix
$dhcp_server = "DHCP Server Name Here"      # DHCP Server
$scope_id = "DHCP Scope Here"                #DHCP Scope ID
$vm_count = read-host ‘How many clones do you want to create?’ # Ask User Number of VMs to Create
#__________ end of user defined input__________

Connect-viserver $vCenter -user $vCenterUser -password $vCenterUserPassword -WarningAction 0

#For each VM create a clone based on template
1..$vm_count | foreach {
    $y=”{0:D2}” -f $_
    $VM_name= $VM_prefix + $y
    $ESXi=Get-Cluster $Cluster | Get-VMHost -state connected | Get-Random
    write-host “Creation of VM $VM_name initiated” -foreground green
    New-VM -Name $VM_Name -template $template -VMHost $ESXi -Datastore $ds -Location $Folder -runasync
    }

#insert wait here for 5 minutes or make sequential/sync operations
start-sleep 150

1..$vm_count | foreach {
    $y=”{0:D2}” -f $_
    $VM_name= $VM_prefix + $y
    $vm = get-vm -name $VM_Name
    start-vm -vm $vm            #Start VMs
    $mac_address= $VM.networkadapters[0].macaddress -replace ":", "-"
    $freeip = Get-DhcpServerv4FreeIPAddress -ComputerName $dhcp_server -ScopeId $scope_id
    start-sleep 15
    Add-DhcpServerv4Reservation -ComputerName $dhcp_server -reservationname $vm -ScopeId $scope_id -IPAddress $freeip -ClientId $mac_address -Description "Reservation for $VM_Name"
    start-sleep 15
    add-DnsServerResourceRecordA -Name $vm -ZoneName corp.local -IPv4Address $freeip -ComputerName $dhcp_server
    start-sleep 15

    #get last octet of IP and set to name for DNS PTR
    $freeip_split = $freeip.split(‘.’)
    $freeip = $freeip_split[3]
    Add-DnsServerResourceRecordPtr -Name $freeip -ZoneName "157.24.10.in-addr.arpa" -PtrDomainName "$vm.corp.local" -ComputerName $dhcp_server
}

# Create new Datacenter if it doesn’t already exist
If (-Not ($NewDatacenter = Get-Datacenter $datacenter_name -ErrorAction SilentlyContinue))

{
Write-Host "Adding $datacenter_name"
$NewDatacenter = New-Datacenter -Name $datacenter_name -Location (Get-Folder Datacenters)

}

# Create cluster if it doesn’t already exist
if (-Not ($NewCluster = Get-Cluster $cluster_name -ErrorAction SilentlyContinue))

{
Write-Host "Adding $cluster_name"
New-Cluster -Name $cluster_name -Location $datacenter_name
start-sleep -s 15

}

1..$vm_count | foreach

{
    $y=”{0:D2}” -f $_
    $VM_name= $VM_prefix + $y
    $vm = get-vm -name $VM_Name
    $vm = "$vm" + ".corp.local"

    Add-VMHost -Name $vm -Location $cluster_name -User $root_user -Password $root_pw -Force
    Start-Sleep 90

#Create new datastore. Note my templates assume a 10 GB store for the local datastore. Other sizes are used for nested VSAN in my environment.
    $datastore_path = get-scsilun -vmhost $vm |where CapacityGB -EQ 10
    new-datastore -vmhost $vm -name $vm -path $datastore_path.canonicalname -vmfs -filesystemversion 5
    }

set-cluster -cluster $cluster_name -DRSEnabled:$true -DRSautomationlevel FullyAutomated -haenabled:$true -confirm:$false

17 Feb

The Aftermath of My PEX Presentation

In my previous post I talked about some of the preparation and worrying I went through for my upcoming PEX presentation. Last week I had the opportunity to deliver the session and wanted to add on a few thoughts for those looking to present. A big thanks to everyone who attended and especially those that participated. As anticipated I learned quite a few new things in the process.

First things first, I couldn’t have asked for a better crowd of people to have attended. I felt extremely comfortable the entire session, which I certainly did not beforehand and to some degree afterwards. I thought the 60 minutes was going to feel like  two hours, instead it felt like 30 minutes.

And that brings me to one big mistake I ended up making, having too much content. I was warned of this and trimmed it down some but still thought I’d get through what I had left. For all those who told me this, you were right. In the end I ended up getting about 80% through the content. I was a bit bummed by this but the reason we didn’t cover everything was I had a lot of great comments and questions from attendees of the session that greatly aided the information I provided.

While I think I did an ok job I’ve definitely got room for improvement and look forward to using what I’ve learned to present again.

05 Feb

Rambling on Public Speaking , Creating Presentations, & PEX

One of my more recent personal/career goals is to get better at public speaking. When the opportunity to submit a session for PEX came up I jumped at the opportunity and I’ll now be presenting and assisting with several sessions next week. I figured the only way to get better at public speaking and presenting is to throw myself in the fire and that is just what I did.

Then shortly thereafter I started thinking, why? Why am I doing this? No one told me I had to do this and now I’I already had a set of material that I just needed to think down a little bit, so the easy part was done I thought. Then I started thinking about standing up there in front of all those people. Or maybe even worse, standing up there to a poorly attended session with just a few people.

It was at this time I was happy to come across a blog article written by Duncan Epping who shared his thoughts on speaking at VMUGs. I also saw a review of Toastmasters by Mike Laverick, a group dedicated to getting better at public speaking. It is unfortunate but knowing others are suffering the same and/or having similar experiences is a great way to make myself feel better. Especially if those individuals are regularly doing this kind of stuff. Makes me think to myself again, why am I doing this?

While I haven’t even done the PEX presentation yet I’ve learned a lot more just in the realm of creating presentations and preparing. I’ve done several smaller VMUGs, book related stuff, Brownbags, etc, but I’d say this is the first time I’ve actually had people actively give me feedback about the presentation itself which I feel greatly helped in the effectiveness it will have on those attending. And a couple of things I’ve learned and recommend to those looking to present….

Learn More About PowerPoint

Being an engineer by trade, I’m still new to the other side of the house. I didn’t realize how much of a novice I was when it came to doing basic stuff in PowerPoint. It was pretty embarrassing some of the stuff I couldn’t figure out how to do,  but I’ve never desired to be a PowerPoint expert. While I feel like I could show someone everything new I learned in 30 minutes, it took me seemingly forever to get to that point. A good lesson here in doing some prep work before getting too deep.

Less Is More

Further I struggled heavily with the content on my slide deck. The struggle was there was way too much. The original content was I condensed into the most important 70 or so. It was painful but week by week I’d remove a few more items and condense more and more to the point I got down to a more reasonable number, which some argue is still too many.

Even with the reduced ‘slide count’ the biggest problem with my slides is some of them just had way too much content to be relevant.Think outfield wall of a minor league baseball stadium. This is obviously extremely difficult to digest and awkward for you as the presenter. image

To put it in perspective this was deeper technical content that in its whole was over 100 slides. I was able to pick out the high points and reduce this, but even then there was way too much content per slide. It wasn’t until someone told me “your job is not to train” that the job of reducing the materials to a more digestible format made sense. And maybe your job is to train everyone in a session, but in many cases you are there to present a topic and leave the audience with something to walk away with.

And on to the presentation itself, I’ll defer my personal experiences and tips until a later time. Your thoughts?

03 Feb

The Art of Working From Home

Working remotely can be one of the most challenging things you’ll do if you aren’t prepared. I’m talking about those of us that are a 100% remote employee and not the occasional work from home day.

When I was searching for a new opportunity last year I had decided on the type of work I wanted to do, technical marketing. With this type of role I knew that I’d have to either move or take a job where I’d be working remote. Moving was not really an option, so I was faced with the idea of having to work from home, again. The negative tone I had at the time was a result of having gone through this before. About 5 years ago I left a job where I worked 100% of the time from home. The main reason was that I couldn’t stand working from home anymore.

With that job, there were so many things that contributed to this.

  • I didn’t feel like I had a good understanding of where I stood as an employee and it wasn’t until I left that I found out I was in line to be promoted. I often felt like being remote I had something to prove and spent a lot of time in some ways trying to justify my existence. Mixed with the constant outsourcing that was going on at the company I was left with a lot of doubt.
  • On top of this I quickly got sick of my own house. I had just moved to the area and had no friends, colleagues, etc and found myself not leaving the house for days at a time.
  • I felt like work never left. I had a VPN phone/router setup and due to the role I had, the phone range at all kinds of hours due to the global presence of the company. Any type of support job was probably out of the question for me.

Do I really want to do this again?

When I started thinking about if I really wanted to go down this route I realized in many ways some of these things were now solvable.

  • I had since moved and now have and office that is detached and about 100 feet of the house. I could now ‘leave’ work behind in some ways.
  • Having now been in the Richmond area for over 6 years I now had friends, or at the least people who’d be willing to meet up once in a while to get lunch together.
  • The final hurdle was the communication barrier that became an issue from my first foray into telecommuting. I suppose I had proven that I was capable of being successful my first time around, but at the time it definitely didn’t seem like it. Looking back on that some of it certainly had to do with the mass outsourcing that went on, but some of that was also due to communication barriers that I didn’t know how to manage at the time.

As I began my search this aspect became even more important than the job being in a technical marketing type role like I had desired. As I found jobs and started talking to people I felt out how the organizations were setup, if remote employees existed, and where they didn’t how they would function in the role. I had the opportunity to talk to some great companies and while there were many deciding factors, the biggest was going some where I could be successful.

Mission Accomplished

So I now had a job where I was 100% remote, again. While there are days once in a while where I really wish I worked in an office, they are few and far in between. It really only takes making some lunch plans to both help break up the day, and remind myself through others experiences the implications of having to go to an office every single day.

No matter how well you think you are prepared, issues will arise if you are a new or experience telecommuter. The following are the most common things that tend to come up from my perspective either past or present.

Separation of Work/Home – Despite having a separate work space, that doesn’t always stop my son from coming a knocking. I’ve spent time explaining to him what work is and he understands most of the time. With that said I’ve found it is easier to accept the interruptions and use them as a break in your day. Remember having the chance to be around your family more is a perk of the job, well most of the time at least.

Isolation – . Not only was I adjusting to telecommuting again, but my new job also much more solitary. The quick fix for me is to email a few people and setup lunch. And back to the previous point taking a break and doing whatever you want for a a little bit works great.

Communication - To be honest I haven’t had a single issue in this regard with my new job that I can think of right now. This probably has a lot to do with lessons learned from my first time doing this.  There have been at times a feeling that I ‘could’ be missing out on something from not being in the office, but there are so many internal broadcasts, and extra-curricular type groups and content that I’ve never felt like I didn’t know what is going on. I feel closer to the core objectives of this large company then I ever did working for some of the smaller companies I have where I did work in an office.

 

The Tools of the Trade

There are some basic things that every home office should have, but if you work from home these are some things that I find being crucial. I will cover in a future post some of the apps I use, etc.

A Big White Board -  I have an 8’ x 4’ whiteboard(http://www.rakuten.com/prod/quartet-melamine-whiteboard-aluminum-frame-96-x-48/216677847.html) , and another project type whiteboard that is 4’ x 3’.

Printer/Scanner – If you don’t have something already, think about the functions you’ll need even only occasionally. You won’t have access to company resources any more.

Postage Scale – This falls under the not necessary for work category for me. It is however crucial to have things like this since you won’t have access to things like this now that you don’t work in an office. Alternatively just going to the post office is not a bad idea if your looking for a way to break up the day when you need to.

Mat – I stand most of the time and got this recommendation for a mat (http://www.amazon.com/dp/B003BYRDLG/ref=pe_385040_30332190_pe_175190_21431760_M3T1_ST1_dp_1). It is pricey but it is a small price to pay considering how much you’ll use it.

Are you a part-time or full time telecommuter? What are your tips and experiences?

26 Dec

Obligatory End of Year Blog Post

It’s been a great year, but one that didn’t consist of a ton of blogging.

I recently transitioned out of the day-to-day IT Engineer/admin role and into a technical marketing role. It is a new view at some of the same things I’ve been working with for many years and one I have welcomed with open arms. As a result, I have decided I will try to resume blogging, but with a new focus on some of the other aspects of technology, rather than simply VMware focused topics.

What types of things will I be writing about? I have a few ideas but am leaving it open for now. For example I will likely spend more time focusing on the decision making process of choosing new technologies, and things such as this great series of blog posts by Josh Atwell.

There is a lot that goes into all our jobs besides what we do. I hope to share a little of that from my world and gain some valuable feedback from yours in the process.

Happy 2014!

29 Aug

VMware’s VSAN in the Home Lab

Update:While my original plan of creating a VSAN datastore with just a single host worked, once I moved over subsequent VMs I experienced several issues. This is not a huge surprise, VMware recommends three hosts. Even in a lab I’d encourage you to have multiple hosts.

 

————–

 

I’ve just begun to check out VMware’s VSAN in the home lab and have been trying not only to learn the ins and outs of it, but figure out where it might fit in my home lab. It is going to be a great new offering from VMware and I can see it really helping out a lot of the customers I used to work with doing VDI, DR, and taking advantage of the advanced capabilities of vSphere without traditional shared storage. I’m currently running just a single big host, with everything virtualized within for my home lab. In terms of facilitating these efforts VSAN is potentially going to be a tool to help me out in doing so. With that said any of the following I’m about to speak of is of course entirely unsupported.

Since I have a single host I do want to leverage these capabilities as much as possible but the reality is I do not have the minimum number of nodes for a VSAN(3). I did find however that this is not a hard-set minimum requirement, however keep in mind you are not going to have any redundancy at this point.

What I decided for my home lab was as follows:

• I am going to retain the other 500 GB SSD and 1 TB SATA I have and not put them in the VSAN disk group. Since I am not properly using it I’m not about to take the risk of rebuilding my entire lab, even if I have backups. I’ll continue to put the core infrastructure directly on the data stores that are created on these disks.

• Lastly I am going to create a proper VSAN cluster using virtual esxi hosts and present each of them with virtual disks. These will be stored on separate disks from the VSAN datastore. The cool thing is the hosts can detect the type of physical storage these disks are on and will make them available as such so I should be able to use these hosts for nested virtual machines and still retain the performance benefits of my lab infrastructure.

If you want a bit more detail check out Mike Laverick’s post , which provides some further information on what VSAN is and some advanced settings you can play around with.

26 Aug

My Brief VMworld Experience

New to VMware I had the chance to come out the week before VMworld and stay through Sunday
night. While I unfortunately could not stay for the main festivities I did get to see and
meet a lot of new people as well as browse the floor Sunday night for some of the new
technologies to be announced this week.

My experience as follows technically began the Sunday prior to VMworld where I arrived in
Palo Alto to visit headquarters for the first time. Over the course of the week I was
able to meet many of the public facing and behind the scenes people that have helped make
VMware what they are today. On Saturday and Sunday I was able to attend some internal
events that furthered the experience and allowed me to meet even more people. And then
Sunday night I was able to browse the floor at VMworld and check out some of the new
technologies that are soon to be released. In addition this gave me a great opportunity to
track down some of the people I couldn’t over the weekend, most of which were easy to find
as they were working a booth.

An event like VMworld is a rare opportunity to see some of the people you’ve either
interacted with through twitter/blogs, and in some cases past co-workers. I’ve been
fortunate to build a lot of relationships from blogging and participating in the community.
While I have only lived in two places during my working career, I have worked on several
global teams, remote from my colleagues. I can remember leaving one position about 5 years
ago where I was 100% remote assigned, and the day I left feeling like I’d never see these
people again in person. VMworld has allowed me to see many of these people again, and in
particular some last night from India, China, Israel, and those based in the United States
as well.

I’m going to leave it at that and will follow up with any more relevant information I see
from afar as the week goes on.

And if you somehow have not become familiar with 5.5…..

New Stuff in 5.5
There is a lot that you all know about by now, and if not read the What’s New paper below:

http://www.vmware.com/files/pdf/vsphere/VMware-vSphere-Platform-Whats-New.pdf

I also encourage you to check out Chris Wahl’s stuff. He has a series of posts, below of
which relates to VSAN. Chris’s posts are typically deep technically but also with a sense of humor mixed in. A must follow.

http://wahlnetwork.com/2013/08/26/vsphere-5-5-improvements-part-4-virtual-san-vsan/

05 Aug

Beginning a New Adventure at VMware

I am very excited to announce I’m beginning a new adventure today and joining VMware. It’s hard to believe but I’ve spent over a decade using VMware products, and I am very excited to now be a part of the organization that has helped shape today’s technology in so many ways. I’ve been very fortunate to have been given the chance to be involved in so many VMware projects over the years, including the chance to co-author a book last year.

In my new role I will for the first time be entirely outside of day-to-day support, which up until now has still been at least some function of any job I’ve ever had. While I very much enjoyed helping out operationally, I’ve felt more and more the desire to work in a more research and lab driven role. Additionally I’ll be returning to being a member of a globally dispersed team. This in itself is a big challenge if you don’t know what you are in for, but fortunately I had the chance to work as part of a global team several years ago and learned a lot in the process.

A lot of changes and new challenges, but looking forward to what lies ahead.

24 Jul

How to Find a New Job Utilizing Social Media and People You May Not Actually Know

That may be the longest blog title ever.

I will soon be starting a new venture and wanted to share some tips and experiences of the things I encountered while I was recently looking for a new opportunity. I hate speaking about myself and please don’t take any of this as ‘look at me’, I just want to share some success I’ve had that would have came much sooner if I had a different method up front. If you are reading this and have any opinions of your own please do provide.

Having not looked for a new opportunity in almost 4 years my first attempts at even getting a chance to talk with someone about a job resulted in zero success. This was despite the huge efforts I placed. I did however have a bit more luck once I changed the methods I used, in fact I had more success than I’ve ever had by far and spent much less time. I’ve never found looking for a new job to be particularly fun at all so I thought I’d share some things that may aid anyone else out there looking. Additionally if you are particularly looking for a VMware/Datacenter type position please let me know and I will forward you anything additionally that comes along my way.

A little background on what I was seeking. I have been questioning in recent months whether I wanted to do something different than being a design or implementation engineer. I won’t drag you through my whole thought process but I decided I really wanted to do something that was more R&D or marketing related. The first thing I needed to get around for this is knowing that I could not get the job I wanted where I was located. Additionally I have zero willingness to move right now. And to be quite honest I wasn’t looking to travel that much. Of course my initial thoughts were I was probably not going to have much luck.

The Way You Shouldn’t Do It

As many people know, the traditional ways of applying for jobs and waiting for a call back are not likely going to yield good results. I know for me this was the case. I spent a lot of time researching and applying and wasn’t getting calls back for anything. I feel like I’ve done a good job of generating a resume and being fortunate to have the opportunity to co-author a book last year as well as being provided with training and experience opportunities that have given me some good credentials. Additionally I have all the checkboxes checked having my Bachelor’s Degree and a Master’s Degree. I state all this not to say look at me and look at what I’ve done, but rather to establish that I felt like I had everything I needed to have at least a little success.

I can only speculate why I didn’t initially receive any calls back, but a few common items became apparent as I talked to more and more people. For starters, there are a ton of people that are going to apply for any job you are applying for. Secondly I was applying for jobs not where I was located. Although employers didn’t know I had no intention of moving, I have heard that many places are not paying for relocations these days so it is likely this will throw you to the bottom of the list, if you aren’t already there from someone just not having had a chance to look over your resume.

I spent almost two months doing this.

A Much Better Method

The good news is I stumbled upon a bit of dumb luck when I saw a few individuals that I followed on Twitter speak of leads they had. I contacted several individuals for several positions with several different companies and at least got an insight as to what the job was, who it was for, and in some cases even got them to refer me directly to the hiring manager. This only goes so far though as you have to realize you obviously aren’t the only one seeing that twitter posting, nor are you the only one being referred. You really have to find a way to differentiate yourself.

One thing that inspired me a bit was this sliderocket presentation created by someone trying to land a job at Sliderocket. I knew that if I wanted the best shot I was going to have to at the very least send along introduction and follow up emails to anyone I needed to convince and make sure they knew not only my technical capabilities, but also my desires to work in the role I was interviewing for. For the position I really wanted, and the one I ultimately accepted, I ended up creating a relevant technical write-up of around 12 pages to show how I could fill that role. While it was nice to be able to just send over a chapter over from the book I worked on I still felt the need to really target the position itself. For other roles where the opportunity to work remote was questionable, I emailed both the hiring manager and director to explain to them my remote work experience and my capabilities to succeed working remotely. I could dedicate a whole series of blog entries to working remotely based on my 2 years of experience of doing it before.

Fast forwarding a little bit to two months later I now had been actively talking with around five different positions. If I was a little less picky I probably could have had even a little more success but I was strictly focused on technical marketing type roles that were home based and didn’t involve a ton of travel.

Like my original efforts, I spent almost two months doing this as well. The difference being I had multiple offers and opportunities from companies I wouldn’t have thought I’d have a shot in the world of working at because of my location. The above mentioned is definitely an effective way to jump to the top of the line.

 

Some Other Tips

  • For VMware jobs, if you’ve applied take the REQ number and contact @VMwareCareers on Twitter and ask who the recruiter is and for their email. Once you have this contact them directly and let them know you’ve applied and you’d like to talk.
  • Always follow-up interviews with an email
  • Always make sure you’ve prepared a list of questions. Interviewing is a two-way street and it is just as much about you finding the right fit and opportunity as it is for them. If you don’t ask questions you will probably come off as either not interested in the position or the company.
  • If you don’t hear back don’t be afraid to follow-up. I hounded quite a few people. In my opinion if this ends up annoying someone it probably wouldn’t have worked out anyways.
  • Use Twitter searches to look specifically for certain types of jobs. I tried a bunch of different searches but found it most relevant to search through the list of vExperts for things such as job, opportunity, or position. This way you aren’t getting too much of the contract stuff from random recruiters.
  • If you are really trying to limit your time spent searching and maximize your efforts, don’t bother applying for jobs you don’t have a lead for. I only got one or two calls back and it took months for that to happen.
  • Utilize your contacts, even if you don’t know them outside of Twitter or the VMware community. Heck, even if you don’t really know them that well people were very willing to help pass my resume along and provide additional information. I can’t thank enough all the people who provided me various leads and insight into the positions and companies those positions were for.

Some Companies that I know will hire you remotely if you are the right candidate include the following:

VMware – For the right candidates they will hire you to work remotely and some positions have little to no travel.

EMC – These mostly seem to be home based with a bit of travel

Dell – These mostly seem to be home based with a bit of travel

Nutanix – Opportunities exist here for working remotely for the right candidates.

12 Jun

The Software Defined VMware Home Lab

Sorry, I figured it was my turn to throw out the latest tech jargon. I’ve recently gone through the process of building out a new home lab and wanted to share the process for anyone else out there looking to build something that is affordable and realistic for their home.

Last year I decided to pare down the home lab. Ultimately I ended up completely selling it and going back to using the lab we had at work. It is a pretty nice setup with 8 UCS Blades, a ton of memory, and VNX storage. Recently though I’ve decided I wanted something I had complete ownership of again and the ability to make any changes I wanted and not worrying about affecting any demo or other persons setup.

The Old Lab

Last time around my lab consisted of the following:

  • 3 Dell T110 Servers(4 core Xeon I believe)
    • Extra 4 Port NICs
    • FC HBAs
  • EMC AX150 FC Array(12 X 500 GB 7.2k RPM Disk)
  • Brocade FC Switch
  • Netgear Gigabit Switch
  • DD-WRT Based Router for routing

This setup served me well for a while but I ended up running into a few issues that led me to get rid of it. First the storage  became a problem from a performance perspective when doing multiple disk operations at once. I was only using single path 2 GB FC so that could have had a slight affect, however the disk itself was definitely being saturated from a performance perspective during these operations.This was more of a slight inconvenience than anything but this time around I think my long term plan will be to go with SSD storage. The price has dropped substantially.

Secondly I was eating up a lot of power. It wasn’t unbearable but I believe last I checked it was running me about 50$/month for everything. At one time I had gotten a great deal on a Cisco MDS 9216 switch that I had planned on using at that alone would have added on another 30-50$ a month to it so I quickly resold that after I found out the power it was drawing.

Scoping Out the New Lab

As mentioned above I wanted to get something with a little better storage performance and not break the bank on power. Additionally I did not want to drop anywhere close to what I spent last time around. I don’t have the exact costs but I spent ~2500$ from recollection. With that said the resale value on everything was pretty good and I got almost all of that back. I actually made some money on the storage array too.

As I started exploring the various options another thing that I realized I wanted was less complexity. There was certainly a time where I wanted to mess with zoning on the switches but I no longer required this. Additionally vSphere has continued to increase abilities in nested virtualization which led me to think, do I really even need a series of hosts to have in my lab?

Some people load up VMware Workstation on a system and run the VMs from there as needed but I didn’t want to worry about scaling issues. My intention is to be able to run as much as I need and keep it running without having to worry about it.

Once I got it in my head I only needed a single host, I realized I no longer needed to purchase a fancy switch. To make it even simpler I’ve decided why not just load this box up with storage and carve it out for the hosted VMs and nested Hypervisors and VMs.

Once I got down to this simplicity I then realized I didn’t need to load this thing up with NICs and could get away with two NIC ports. With it being a lab I could probably get away with a single one but didn’t want to box myself into

The New Lab

I found exactly the solution when I came across a blog entry laying out the home lab config of Ed Grigson. To sidetrack a bit Ed has a lot of really detailed and great posts and if you aren’t following him already you should be.

Last year Ed built a single host with scalability that should last some time for anyone’s home lab. I’ve used almost the same exact configuration as Ed as I know it will run ESXi without issue. I did make a few minor changes and ended up getting a slightly higher rev CPU and registered memory. Registered memory is required to reach the boards full potential of 256 GB of RAM, otherwise it only supports 64GB. Registered memory is not usually very cheap but I found a supported 16 GB DIMM on SuperMicro’s website that was being sold en mass on Ebay for 99$ used.

  • CPU: 1 x Intel Xeon E5-2620 6 Cores(12 Threads)
  • Heatsink: Supermicro SNK-P0048AP4
  • Motherboard: Supermico X9DRL-3F, dual CPU socket, up to 256GB RAM, onboard SAS & SATA(2×6, 4×3), IPMI/KVM, dual Gb NICs
  • RAM: 2 X 16 GB Memory (SAMSUNG 16GB PC3-12800R REG ECC DDR3-1600 MEMORY MODULE M393B2G70BH0-CK0)
  • Power supply: Silverstone Strider Plus 600W (Pretty important not to skimp here as you need a power supply that supports a multi-processor system)

Additionally I have some SATA and smaller SSDs I plan on using for the initial pieces and will replace and Add SSD in as needed in the near future. You can get some really great SSDs these days and in terms of capacity I’ve recently noticed 1 TB SSDs have dropped in price with Crucial offering one at 600$.

In the future if I outgrow the core count and memory I will add an additional processor and additional physical memory. I also had some success swapping to SSD in the lab so may explore that option before adding too many more DIMMs.

The gear is not yet in so it will be a bit before I am up and running but once I do I’ll have a lab setup that is completely encapsulated in one system, less routing which will be accomplished by an old router I have. Everything will be carved out with virtual storage and the use of virtual hypervisors. Truthfully I could do the same with the routing too but at the moment I don’t have a real need to do that. I plan on setting up virtual hosts under the physical that will be used for View and vCloud test environments along with all the usual suspects directly to the physical.