Home Lab Build: vSpecialistLabs v2

So, time to update the home labs information, and yes, this time I may have overdone it a little in one or two areas.

I spend most of Sunday rebuilding my home lab (christened some time ago as vSpecialistlabs v2), adding some elements, changing and tweeking some hardware, and removing other hardware I wasn’t using at the time.

Essentially, I’ve ended-up with a home lab that comprises the following aspects:

  • Multi-site VM configuration, with multi-host clusters at both sites.
  • iSCSI shared storage for main ‘production’ site.
  • vSphere Replication to backup ‘DR’ site.
  • Managed networking.

Below is a picture of my home lab set-up, and you can immediately see where I may have gone OTT – screens! For some reason, I love to have screen real estate.


The components of the lab / set-up are as follows:

  1. Servers:
    1. Server 1: IBM S5520HC chassis with 2 x E5520 2.26GHz, 24GB RAM, 1TB SATA, H/W iSCSI & Dual 1GB NICs.
    2. Server 2: As server 1 above.
    3. Server 3: HP NL35l MicroServer with 8GB RAM.
    4. Server 4: As server 3 above.
    5. Main PC. Desktop PC from Servers Plus. (Updated range can be found here). Intel i7-2700 Quad core @ 3.50GHz, 32GB RAM, 2 x OCZ Vertex 4 SSDs and 2TB SATA, X64 Windows 7 Pro. Eizo CE210W (main monitor) plus Dell E177FP (second monitor).
  2. Storage:
    1. 8 TB QNAP 459 Pro II NAS. (4 x 2TB drives in 2 RAIDs).
    2. Iomega external 1TB USB/FW disk.
  3. Networking:
    1. HP 1910-16G Managed gigabit switch.
    2. HP 1410-8G Un-managed gigabit switch.
  4. Accessories:
    1. Belkin Soho 4-port VGA KVM, with bluetooth USB keyboard – for all servers.

I will add more information about how the lab grows and is configured – especially in the light of required revision for updating my VCAP certification to v5. Things to note:

  • The cabling is far from finished! I’m still on connectivity at the moment – looking pretty is next phase.
  • Power configuration is top of the list. Running this from multi-plugs is not ideal (at least they aren’t daisy-chained!) The servers and PCs are all connected to surge protector PDUs.
  • For my PC, iMac and laptops I use Synergy across all clients for a single KVM view. For the servers, I use the Belkin KVM and separate keyboard.
  • I’m not a specific network focused bod, but I am looking at expanding the lab in the near future into the Cisco arena, for CCENT certification and beyond.

In the meantime, please feel free to ask questions or comment on my set-up, I’m always looking for ways to improve!

Jeremy loves all things technology! Has been in IT for years, loves Macs (but doesn't preach to others about their virtues), loves virtualization (and does shout about it's virtues), and sometimes skis, bikes and directs amateur plays!


  1. AnthonyP says

    I love seeing these home lab setups, but what I really like to see is how you are running it. VMware design, use etc What machine(s) are doing what or are going to do what.
    As an example what are the HP micro servers doing? Storage? But you have a QNAP for that…..

  2. Jeremy says

    Hi Anthony,

    Thanks for the reply! The current configuration of the vSpecialistLabsv2 is as follows:
    2 x Whitebox servers in a single cluster, with iSCSI storage from the QNAP.
    2 x HP NL servers in a separate cluster, to represent a second site, using a VMware Storage Appliance for shared storage.
    vSphere Replication between the local storage arrays of the NLs and the QNAP.

    Management of all the hosts is done from a ‘Management Clusters’ that actually run as VMs inside my workstation (Quad i7, 32GB, SSD) running Workstation 9. The workstation, hosts and storage all collect to Cisco switches that handle Layer-2 and Layer-3 networking.

    One day I’ll get around to documenting all this. The benefit of running the configuration like this is the hosts can be built and burnt easily, and the management tools can be snapshotted and upgraded with beta or different configurations. After all, it’s a lab, so the configuration changes regularly!

    The other cool thing about the QNAP is that it has dual 1GB NICs. At the moment, I have 12TB storage (3TB x 4) split into 2 arrays. One array does VM hosting work and works of one NIC connected to the Cisco, the other array hosts my home media server / iTunes etc that connects off to the home network (segregated from the Cisco lab network). Performance is acceptible on a single 1GB connection as my lab is small – it works ok but I always have the option to aggregate both NICs in the QNAP to improve performance to the lab.


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