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Constructing Your VMware Home Lab

by Team Nuggets
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Published on July 19, 2017

Some say that everyone who works with VMware should have a test lab. No, this isn't some dark, secret lab. It's a way to experiment, help you practice for exams, and get a first-hand feel for VMware. The good news is there are simple hardware and software options available for VMware home labs. Plus, you don't have to be a rocket scientist to put it together!

Continuous focus on innovation and creative thinking is necessary for growth. When you're simply reading text, it can become clear that direct experience would be something entirely different. You have to take the plunge! Setting up your own VMware lab at home is a step in the right direction.

1. Think Outside the Box

In your VMware home lab, you can make mistakes without any professional repercussions. Plus, successful administrators often maintain VMware home labs. Of course, you'll want to build it on a budget. What you want to do is start with a desktop or laptop PC. Next, you want a shared-storage device such as the Iomega ix4-200d. Here are some of the features it comes with:

  • RAID 5 and RAID 10 support

  • Iomega personal cloud feature

  • Simple setup

  • Remote access

  • Device-to-device data replication

In a perfect world, you could set up a home lab that is an exact replica of your production lab but that's rarely feasible and would likely break the bank. In addition, during practice, you would probably mess something up, but hey, that's why you're practicing in the first place! Yet, you can test varying setups with one tool described in the next section.

2. Say "Hello" to AutoLab

One way to automate your VMware setup is with AutoLab, created by vExpert Alastair Cooked. If you already have access to VMware Player, VMware Workstation or ESXI servers/clusters then you can use AutoLab for free. Did we just say free? Why, yes, we did!

You can run it on a laptop as long as you have at least 8GB of RAM, ideally 16GB, so you can pull up various versions of vSphere. Who doesn't enjoy testing on new and older versions? In today's world, you need to be experienced with multiple versions as data centers often mix legacy systems with new ones.

3. Setting Things Up

It really is simple to go with the AutoLab route. You start by downloading a .OVA file that already comes with VMs, ESXI hosts, and a vCenter. When you deploy the .OVA, you will see tiny VMs in Workstation. At this point, they are powered down. To bring them to life, you power the NAS VM. You'll then see a build share filled with VMware and Microsoft ISOs.

Once it is filled, you can proceed with the automated building. After that, you power on your DC VM the domain controller and, AutoLab will configure the rest. Upon completion, you'll notice a Validate script to ensure everything was installed correctly before moving on to the scripted installs for vCenter and hosts. It takes about an hour or so for installation.

4. Another Popular Approach

You didn't think we'd only give you one option for building a VMware test lab, did you? Perish the thought! Here's another method for building the home test lab, featuring a simple approach for those on a budget so, basically, all of us. It lets you test your lab from any location too. All you have to do is virtualize your lab with the VMware Workstation. This way you can enjoy advanced vCenter features such as:

  • High Availability

  • Fault Tolerance

  • Distributed Resource Scheduler

  • vMotion

Not to mention, when you run vSphere in Workstation, you don't need physical routing equipment. All you need is a laptop or desktop PC. For a detailed guide on how to achieve this setup, check out Keith Barker's VMware vSphere 6 (VCP6-DCV) course. Because many VMware users like a mix of public and private infrastructure models, you can now create your own hybrid environment as well.

5. The Fun Never Ends

Once you have set up your own home lab, you may find it becomes an addiction. You'll want to develop it much further than you originally intended. That's what you should do. Plus, you should have some fun, such as infecting your VMs with malware. You'll get hands-on experience with fighting off attacks.

In a world where virtual attacks happen daily, companies are making it a priority to hire employees with cybersecurity experience. Moreover, with your test lab, you can securely remove the icky malware in an isolated VM sandbox

Final Thought

Constructing your VMware home lab is a great way to get practical experience using a popular product that continues to gain traction across the industry. Learn more about the wonders of this exciting technology from CBT Nuggets trainer Keith Barker's VMware vSphere 6 (VCP6-DCV) course. Happy labbing!


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