Home Lab Design Considerations

I’ve recently had several discussions with a friend about building a home lab. We covered various aspects including defining requirements, creating networks, and figuring out DNS domain names to use.  In the next few blog posts, we will document lessons learned.

To get started we had to articulate our goal — to learn VMware SDDC products, gain hands on experience, and prepare for certification exams.  The second consideration was how the lab was going to be used.  For example, did we want an environment that could be quickly recreated for a specific purpose or did we need an environment on the other end of the spectrum with a long life / persistence?  This longer life environment would likely require that we perform upgrades, troubleshoot when things broke, and have sample data for systems like vRealize Operations or Log Insight.  For the first use case of an ephemeral, non-persistent environment, a solution like the VMware Hands On Labs would be perfect.  It would have no cost, be easy to instantiate, and then could be torn down and recreated with just a few clicks.  For a more persistent environment, we would likely need to acquire our own hardware, which would add costs and force us to understand system requirements of all of the solutions we would like to deploy in advance and go through a capacity planning exercise.  Through our discussions a decision was reached that a more persistent environment would be necessary.

The next step was to document hardware requirements.  I would recommend starting by creating a list of all of the workloads that you would like to run in the lab.  Interesting data points you’d want to capture for each workload would be the number of virtual CPU required, the amount of RAM needed and total disk capacity.  In my home lab experience the 1st place you’ll run low is on RAM, so I would take the total you think you are going to need, double that number, and start there.  With rough hardware requirements in hand, the next step would be to find a solution that meets budget constraints.  There are a lot of options in this space, from large, loud, & power-hungry refurbished server grade hardware on one end down to small, quiet, & power saving micro devices like the Intel NUC.   There are plenty of sites to review some of the hardware other folks are using, and its worth checking out the collection of HomeLab BOMs at https://github.com/lamw/homelab

With hardware ordered and on the way the next step will be to talk about networking. Please look for the next post where we will discuss getting started with home lab networking.

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