Hello and welcome to automatevi.com. My name is Justin Jones- I’m currently employed as a Senior Consultant in Integration and Automation at VMware. This post documents my home lab build- however, I’ve decided to include a little twist on the standard home lab build. As a remote employee, I work from home a great deal of the time. This post includes tips and tricks I’ve found helpful in being a home office worker to make my work life easier and more productive.
Priorities (Use Case)
Low Power (includes bonuses such as quiet, low heat emission, and lower electricity bill)
High Capacity (Specifically Memory and Storage)
My home lab resides in my home office, where I spend a good deal of my workday on the phone. Standard rackmount servers that sound like a hair dryer on full blast and put out an equivalent amount of heat were out of the question. One popular solution I’ve seen is Mac Minis- I believe these are a pretty solid choice, but with a maximum of 16GB of RAM (from my observations Home Labs are typically memory constrained), I would need 6 Mac Minis to obtain ~96GB RAM capacity.
The ESXi Hosts
- x3 Shuttle SH67H3 ($250 each)
- Low Power i5 2400S CPUs ($200)
- 32GB Memory ($325)
- Dual Port PCI-E GB NIC (HP NC360T) ($40)
- Cost per unit: about $800, mostly in RAM
- Synology DS1813+ (8 bay, $1,000)
- x4 Crucial M500 CT 960 SSDs – 960 GB -($500 each)
- x4 Samsung HD204UI – 2 TB – ($125 each)
My lab predates the availability of vSAN. If I was building a 3 node lab today, I’d give vSAN serious consideration- for those that don’t have licenses available or for those who want a storage system for more than just VMs, I’d give a nice NAS like the Synology a try. I’ll planning a separate post detailing its use.
During my day to day job, I provision probably 5 VMs a day on average, and as many as 20-30+ on a heavy day. This is because I write and test software integrations that modify VM pre and post build processes, so part of debugging my code is frequently building a VM. Yes, I do use linked clones in some cases, but sometimes code needs to be tested in ways that exactly reproduce client configurations, and linked clones cannot be used. If you do the math, an average of 5 VMs per day is 25 a week, or 1300 per year.
That means shaving 1 minute off provisioning time equates to over 21 hours of time I get back not waiting to see if a code change fixed a bug over the course of a year- With that kind of time, 4 1TB SSDs in RAID 5 make a lot of sense 🙂
Low end commercial switches like PowerConnect and ProCurve can be had for less than $200 each- Due to my goals of low noise and low power consumption, I chose to go with the 2816/2808 due to them being fanless, low power, and compact.
- Dell PowerConnect 2816
- Dell PowerConnect 2808
- Asus RT-N66U Router
- Aris Cable Modem
Think 96GB of RAM for a home lab is a lot? It goes pretty quick:
And the Virtual Machines:
So, revisiting the originally stated goals, let’s take a look at power consumption. I’m using a Belkin Conserve Insight to measure my power consumption.
261W Total Power Consumption, for a home lab with:
- 29 GHz of CPU
- 96 GB of RAM
- 8TB of NAS Storage (2.5 TB of which is SSD)
- 3 ESXi Hosts with x3 1Gb links each
- 2 Gigabit switches Switches (16 port, 8 port)
- Cable Modem
All using less power than a 27″ iMac under full load.
Hope this post gives you some ideas, feel free to contact me if you have any questions!