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Building a home virtualization lab/test/learning/what's not environment - Part one.

Oh No!
Not another geek who is going to tell us how to build a virtualized lab environment! We already know all there is to know about this crap!
Hah! Yes this is another geek doing this build, but rest assured, it’s not you, it’s me! This is my view and take on this subject, where this blog will function as a “diary” to log my time, remarks and build guide on how I built it. Besides, I’ve built similar environments hundreds of times so I want to add a bit of a twist J. Seeing as my move abroad is coming up this will be a lengthy series . Plus it means I’m going to be fairly low on budget...
I guess every geek wants to have a couple of machines at home running a lab environment. I’ve been doing so for more than 6 years! Back in the day when I started with this “lab” environment I was forced to use a couple of computer, mostly spare parts and hand-me-downs from friends. Let’s face it, high amounts of RAM were expensive so running virtual machines was not really an option for most “up and coming” geeks. It also prevented me from deploying larger environments that I could use to learn more complex situations.
Stop the time freeze and move forward to present day. Computers are dirt cheap and having loads of memory is in the grasp of most computer enthusiasts. Having deployed and worked with more complex environments than I did 6 years ago my lab “evolved” but kept most of that old rubbish hardware and I would just add on new pieces. Well no more! I’m cleaning out the lot and am going for a fresh, shiny new environment ready to cope with most of my demands.
Call it a professional deformation (gah!) to define requirements in a home project but it is one of those things I need so I actually can keep everything in control. Starting something without a clear plan is dangerous, I will tend to be all over the board in such cases J.
Simply put these are my requirements:
·         Low footprint: Whilst I’m blessed with a wonderful partner that will not hold me back from learning and trying out new things, I believe she will not be amused if I need a room to only run this farm.
·         Low budget: Whilst I’d love to do it I can’t afford to blow thousands of euro’s (soon to be pounds) on this. Simply no budget in my life for that...
·         Silent: Related to the small footprint part, a couple of jet turbines running next to the bedroom will not make the better half happy.
·         Capacity: All in all one of the more important parts of the requirements. I want to be able to run at least 10-12 lab machines simultaneously. 
·         Performance: No waiting 5 minutes before I can log in to a machine!
Nice to haves:
·         Storage: centralized storage with a high capacity I can use for more than this lab.
·         Capacity: Running more than 12 machines simultaneously makes me drool!
·         Failover: Totally unneeded for a home lab environment but it would be nice to have J.
·         Ease of management: Ideally I would be able to deploy a new virtual machine in a matter of minutes so I don’t waste to much time on installing software.
Nice list if I say so myself :D! To condense it: Significant Other Approval Factor
What’s available to me?
The world! At a cost that is... Seeing I can’t afford the world (one day! I swear!) I’ll have to make an inventory of what I have:
·         Leftovers from previous labs (scratch that, I think they died a horrible death during unpacking.)
·         A technet account (ooooooh shiny!)
·         A small budget
·         Open source
Choices to be made...
Hyper Visor
Right! Seeing as I have a technet account I can use Microsoft Hyper-V as a solution for my hyper visor problem. I’m very familiar with it and it will allow me to do failover clustering without paying through my nose for it (yes I’m looking at you VMWare!).
Well, I’ll be honest. I already bought components for 2 machines with 24 GB of memory and an i7 CPU. So those will form the front end of my virtualization pool. Each machine bled me of 900 euro in component costs, not too shabby if you ask me!

·         Motherboard: ASUS P6X58D-E DDR3 SOCKET I7 INTEL® X58
·         CPU: INTEL CORE I7 950 45NM 3.06
·         RAM: Patriot triple channel DDR3 24GB

More painful, I have the choice between building a centralized storage device, buying a centralized storage device or going for local storage. Whilst I have a number of hard drives that are in disuse (beats me why, everything has been blurry for the last couple of months) that I could simply pop into the machines to use for local storage it also limits me in performance.
After careful research as to what it would cost me to buy a NAS that supports not only iSCSI but iSCSI 3 persistant reservations and give me enough headspace to grow I have found the Synology DS3611xs and the Synology DS2411. Performant, RAID capable (pesky drive failures) and the DS3611xs has 4(!) NIC interfaces capable of doing LACP (combining all into one port)!!!
Eh, they also cost around 2000 pounds (2200 euro) each. Without drives. Auw!
So back into the storage I went and looked, finding an ASUS P45 DQ6 under the hood of an old machine I was able to salvage from the horrible ripper. It even has a working Intel CPU and some memory! Well what do you know? Seems I’m heading back to junk kit after all... Whilst I would want to buy a DS3611 in the future I can simply not afford to spend +3000 euro on a storage device. Got to remember the budget now don’t we?
As for an OS to run on this hardware I’m looking at either FreeNAS 8.0.1 (beta) or nexentaStor. Both support iSCSI 3 persistant reservation and seem to work fine with the live migration “nice to have”. Freenas is completly free and has no limitations, NexentaStor is limited to 18TB available space in the community edition. Both additionally support link aggregation (LACP), which comes in handy.
Plain and simple, I have a HP 1800 24 port managed switch in my possession (again saved from the destruction) which is quiet, fast and capable of all kind of wonders!
This is a bit more a pain in the ass situation. I’ll need to automate a lot if I want to get where I want to get so either a lot of scripting and figuring out what happens under the hood is going to be needed or I might have a look at Virtual Machine Manager. Either way will be intresting.
Th-Th-Th-Th-Th-... That's all, folks
Well, for now at least. I defined the requirements and the nice to haves for this project, figured out what I have and what I can use, as well as defined some elements of how to tackle to problems at hand. It’s still fairly loose and large, but I can’t get in the nitty gritty details yet.

Upcoming sessions will have a design for the environment, build guides, management definitions, automated deployments and cake. Loads and loads of cake...

Print | posted on Friday, August 19, 2011 1:38 PM | Filed Under [ General Platforms ]



# re: Building a home virtualization lab/test/learning/what's not environment - Part one.

have you considered using Linux for building your virtual environment?

have a look at proxmox or opennebula.

6/22/2012 4:28 PM | nicolas
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