Every technology professional needs a solid technology lab. Without this in place you’ll fall behind in relevant technology changes because you won’t be able to properly experiment. Being able to spin up a machine running the latest version of Windows Server or CentOS can be invaluable.
My Current Lab
The core of the lab is composed of a Dell R620 ESXi host running a variety of VMs for almost everything. It has enough power to enable me to add as many VMs as I need with the biggest limitation being in raw disk space. Additionally, I use a Cisco Smart Switch to power the networking between the variety of the hardwired devices. For Wireless LAN I use a UniFi Wireless Access Point to extend the network to laptops, phones, tablets, and guests.
Switch: Cisco SG200-26 Smart Switch
Wireless Access Point: UniFi AP Pro (2.4Ghz & 5Ghz Simultaneous Dual Band)
Primary Server (bottom): Dell R620
CPU: Dual Intel Xeon E5-2690 @ 2.9Ghz w/ 8 cores + HyperThreading (32 logical cores)
RAM: 64GB DDR3 ECC RAM
HDD: 2 x 600GB, 1x 900GB 2.5″ SAS 10K RPM (RAID 5)
Dell Perc H710 Hardware RAID controller w/ BBU
ESXi 5.5 booted via internal USB header
Secondary Server (top): Lenovo RD630
CPU: Single Intel Xeon E5-2620 @ 2.0 Ghz w/ 6 cores + HyperThreading (12 logical cores)
RAM: 4GB DDR3 ECC RAM
HDD: 3 x 500GB 2.5″ WD Enterprise SATA (RAID 5)
HDD: 1 x 160GB 2.5″ SATA Drive (for ISOs and VM templates)
ThinkRaid 700 Hardware RAID controller w/ BBU
ESXi 5.1 booted via internal USB header
This stack should be powerful enough to last into the foreseeable future. The R620 has over 15 active VMs running various servers for everything from SIP Phone service (3CX) to powering a local DropBox like service (using OwnCloud) and firewall (pfSense). With power usage under 130W I’m able to get fantastic performance per watt out of this machine.
Future blog posts will offer insights on how to properly setup a variety of local services in your lab that I find very useful.