An interview with Kendrick Coleman about his VMware vSphere home lab

Posted by on February 27, 2011 in Labs, VMware | 1 comment

These days it’s almost a necessity that if you want to continue to increase your technical skills you will need to build a home lab. With a lab at home you can learn new technology that you might not get the chance to work with at the office. In the safety of your Lab you can break things and fix them without any worries.

I was able to sit down and talk with Kendrick Coleman this month about his newly created home lab. I thought that Kendrick would be a great first victim for this column, since he just built his lab. Some of the choices that he picked for his equipment intrigued me and I wanted to learn more. In case you don’t know Kendrick he is a vArchitect for VCE and works with Service Providers in his role evangelizing the benefits of the VCE stack. I hope to find other interesting home lab stories for upcoming issues.

Why did you create your home lab?

To keep myself up to date with all things related to vSphere. Since joining VCE as a vArchitect my role is more of a Pre-Sales function. I don’t have that daily access to servers in a datacenter to test out features.

How long did it take you to assemble?

I really took about a month to do research on the parts that I purchased for the lab. I spoke with people online and read a lot of blogs that others wrote on their labs. I needed to decide if I was going to go with one really large server or two servers with shared storage model.

What do you want to test in the lab?

I’ve been working with the Uber Celerra VSA that Nick created and the Cisco UCS emulator. I will also be checking out the Uber UIM VM that Nick setup. A lot of my time at VCE will be centered around architecting VDI and vCloud Director solutions. So I will be working with these products to test out different solutions that will help me in my designs.

What type of equipment is on your wish list for future lab upgrades?

The one thing that I would really like to upgrade in the future would be to get another NAS device and add SSD’s into it so that I could test the difference in performance.

How often have you been using the lab?

I’ve been using it a ton lately but I also just finished building it. So my wife has already been complaining about my time spent with the lab.

Do you keep it running all of the time?

Yes it’s just a few feet from me as we are speaking and I can barely hear it. That was my goal by looking for products that are green. By selecting these parts I was able to keep the power consumption low and also build a lab that is very quiet. I built the shuttle systems without hard drives or optical drives this kept the cost down and I can barely hear them running.

Will you be running anything other than VMware products in the lab?

I only plan on running things that related to what I’m doing as a vArchitect. So things like a Nexus 1000V virtual switch, VMware products and EMC / Cisco offerings that tie in with VCE. I don’t think that I’ll be running anything else. I don’t plan on becoming an SQL DBA or a Microsoft guru or anything like that.

What is the best thing that you have learned so far?

The best thing so far was to take your time and make sure that you do your research on the products that you buy. You will want to make sure that the motherboard and parts will work with vSphere. I highly recommend that you choose a network card that is on the VMware HCL, while I was able to do some driver injection to get the onboard Nic to work I still have some issues with it.

You choose to run ESXi on both servers why?

I went with ESXi on both because it allowed me to go diskless on both servers and boot from USB sticks.

What method are you using to connect to the shared storage?

Right now I am using both iSCSI and NFS. This allows me to play with both methods and I recently setup CHAP authentication for the iSCSI. That’s something that I never did in the past. During this I encountered an error with the iSCSI and was able to take the time and correct it rather than just starting over.

Kendrick also wrote up an extensive post on his blog that talks about some of the technical setup steps that he went through. It’s a great read and I suggest you give it a look also at this link.

About Brian Suhr

Brian is a VCDX5-DCV and a Sr. Tech Marketing Engineer at Nutanix and owner of this website. He is active in the VMware community and helps lead the Chicago VMUG group. Specializing in VDI and Cloud project designs. Awarded VMware vExpert status 6 years for 2016 - 2011. VCP3, VCP5, VCP5-Iaas, VCP-Cloud, VCAP-DTD, VCAP5-DCD, VCAP5-DCA, VCA-DT, VCP5-DT, Cisco UCS Design

1 Comment

  1. Shuttle rocks! I have also built my lab around that kit and it is quiet and though powerful.
    And Kenny and I share the same issue… Wife complaining about the time we spend on our lab :)

    Cheers,
    Didier

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