My home lab is a medium sized affair. I’ve made use of the HP MicroServer to provide me with 3 small ESX hosts. For bigger projects I also have an HP ML 110 available for a bit of extra capacity. The Microservers are the most used though as they are low power units that don’t eat too much electricity when they’re on for long periods of time.
On the networking side I have two Cisco SLM2008 switches. These are 8-port, gigabit, smart switches that allow me to create 802.1q trunk ports. They’re connected to my broadband router, a NetGear WNR3500L that’s flashed with DD-WRT to give it better functionality.
From a storage perspective I have a small QNAP TS219P NAS that I mostly use for file storage but it also serves as my ISO store for software and OS installations. I also use it to store some less well used VM templates. My main storage facility is actually located inside one of the HP Microservers. They have 4 SATA drive bays in them ready to use and I have filled them up with some large disks. Whilst you can’t use RAID on them with ESXi (the onboard RAID is not recognised) you can create large VMDK disks and assign them to virtual storage appliances (VSAs) that run on the host. And that is exactly what I do.
At present most of my lab runs from just one of the SLM2008 switches. In the future I might re-cable a bit and balance the load across them but for now it’s a low priority.
As for what I run on these ESX hosts, I have an Active Directory domain, vCenter and a number of other VMware Management appliances and products running as well as many third party products from Veeam, vKernel etc. Getting a Microsoft Technet subscription can be very useful in terms of licensing your VMs. Otherwise you have to opt for evaluation licenses.