A Little Intro

For a while now I’ve been wanting to create my own home lab outside of work. The reasons for this have spanned from testing my current knowledge of VMware, testing out parts of vSphere 6.0 that I haven’t really put my hands on yet, and also just standing up my own development environment.

 

When I first started using VMware I read a lot about at home labs from Duncan Epping the writer of Yellow-Bricks.com and many other bloggers. However, as far as I have seen recently there has not been something like that posted to get newcomers into the understanding of it. I will more than likely not fit this entire guide into one blog post as I want it to be a pretty extensive guide for the reader and my own future use and I also want to explore two ways of doing the process.

 

I am going to avoid a lot of hardware for the setup as if you are just approaching VMware you don’t want to cash out and spend several thousand just on an introduction. The box I am going to use is simply my home computer, though it is fairly powerful, it really was not too expensive to put together and much cheaper than buying storage and servers for hosts. Here are the core components of which my desktop consists:

  • Intel Core i5-2500k 3.7GHz
  • G.Skill Sniper (4 x 4GB) DDR3
  • ASUS Z68 Maximus IV
  • Crucial 128GB SSD
  • Intel 256GB SSD
  • Any standard hard drive

 

If you are going to build a rig for this I highly recommend getting a CPU with hyper-threading to give you more logical CPUs and more vCPUs to use on the VMs. Also virtualization technology has to be enabled on the CPU (VT-x features) but I believe that comes on all i7’s now.

 

While this will be a home lab and it will most definitely perform, this is not going to be a setup that will be able to perform at a production level. I will write up another lab implementation after this series that will have more hardware and could be usable for a small production environment.

 

Getting Started

For the virtualization we are going to use VMware Workstation 11, there is a free trial available if you cannot purchase it. Download it and start the setup:

Simply go through the prompts for the installer choosing Typical for the install and allow defaults for the rest of the installation.

 

Activate with a license key if you have one or go through with the trial otherwise.

First, let’s get started by editing some of the preferences so that we don’t run into problems when setting up storage later. Going into Edit > Preferences the first option you have there is Default location for virtual machines. I would suggest creating a folder on your SSD drive and on the HD drive to use for the rest of the setup. We’ll place certain VMs on the SSD so we can go ahead and set the Default location to the folder on the HDD, in my case the HDD I will be using is F:\ while my solid state is C:\.

 

pref1

 

 

Normally, we would go ahead and download software updates to make sure VM Tools is up to date but since we just installed it should have already checked for updates.


pref2


Next, we want to edit the memory allocation that we allow the VMs to use. Click the Memory category in preferences and change the Reserved memory slider until you have just about 2GB left for the OS. This might not be enough unless this is just a fresh install of Windows 7 or 8 but that is up to you to figure out the optimal settings. In the following picture I leave around 2GB of my 8GB of RAM that was currently on the machine used for the screenshot.


pref3

 

 

Simply click OK to save the changed preferences.

Now we need to setup the Networking for the lab. Similarly, we need to go into Edit > Virtual Network Editor.


vne1

 

 

Currently, it’s setup with the previously configured networks for the three available options for a network in Workstation 11.

  1. Bridged: VM ends up getting an IP analog to your physical PC. This is needed if the VM has to have internet access or access to other devices in your home network such as NAS and others.
  2. NAT: Workstation actually acts as a router.
  3. Host-only: Basically an internal switch, VMs on this can communicate with each other but not external access.

The default bridged VMnet0 is what is used to set up the first VM’s so that will be used. However, we need to create a new internal network for LAN communication, this is for the vCenter, hosts, and databases. So we need to go ahead and do Add Network…
addvirtualnetwork

Leave the default for VMnet2 and hit OK. The network is going to be Host-Only. Uncheck the Connect a host virtual adapter to this network & Use local DHCP service to distribute IP address to VMs. Change the Subnet IP to whatever you want to base the network on, I used 10.0.0.0/8 so a subnet mask of 255.0.0.0. This is just a lab so do whatever you would like, and this gives us a lot of IPs to mess around with.

vmnetinfo

 

 

These are the only two networks we will need for now, later we will add additional networks for iSCSI/NFS networking. So now we have two virtual networks to use:

  1. VMnet0 – Internet connectivity
  2. VMnet2 – Internal Network only

Alright this is pretty lengthy so I want to cut it off here and I will continue with another blog post soon that outlines setting up VMs and the first VMs we are going to deploy. In the end this will be an AD integrated environment with a database, vCenter, and domain controller for the barebones.