There are many blogs and resources available providing very good help on setting up a home lab. This post is not one of those. There are also some amazing home labs out there. Check out the #homelabking and yes – @MarcHubbert is the King. This is not about one of those awesome home labs either. I’m just sharing my home lab setup I built on the cheap to support my vRA addiction and just a bit on how to automate it.
The lab details.
- Intel NUC8i5BEH, 64GB Ram, 1TB Samsung NVMe SSD
- iMac (27-inch, Late 2009) 2.8 GHz Core i7, 12 GB Ram
- Two Raspberry PI 3b+
- Ubiquiti EdgeRouter X
- Ubiquiti Access Point
- Artillery Sidewinder X1 3d printer
- AWS Account
That’s it. I can do everything I want to do with this setup. I will be expanding in the future to dive into the VMware PKS stack, but for now it suits my needs.
The lab consists of a single Intel NUC running ESXI 6.7u3 booting from a USB drive. The internal 1TB SSD is all used as a single datastore. It is running as simple as possible of a ESXI configuration with a single network, no DRS, no vMotion, no vSAN, etc. This host supports vRA, vRO, vIDM, vRLCM, and a Bitnami gitlab server. It is also utilized for on-premise workload deployments from vRA. AWS is my primary compute datacenter for vRA deployments as it is pretty easy to melt the NUC running the vRealize stack.
The brain of the lab is a 10 year old iMac running High Sierra which is also my primary home computer. I would so like to upgrade but this thing just keeps on running. The iMac is running a vCenter Server Appliance as a VM under VMware Fusion 8.5. It is also used for running vRO client, PowerShell scripts, and writing this blog post.
First Raspberry Pi runs Pi-hole network add blocking, Unifi networking controller software, and a lab only Citadel mail server. Second Pi is dedicated to OctoPrint software controlling an Artillery Sidewinder X1 3d printer. This Pi and printer are not really core pieces of the home lab, but I do plan to experiment what the OctoPrint API and see if I can deliver 3DPaaS (3D Printing as a Service) from the vRA catalog.
I am severely internet challenged and wireless LTE is the only service currently available. Running a Ubiquiti EdgeRouter X connected to the wireless modem and a Ubiquiti Access point for wifi provides single private /24 network for the home lab and house.
Now for some Automation..
The networking equipment and the Pi-hole are the only lab infrastructure running 24×7. I only start up the lab when I am actively working on a project. Since I am an automation guy… Of course i had to automate the start/stop and it gave me a good excuse to dive into some PowerShell scripting. Running vCenter external to my ESXI host really makes this easy to do with PowerCLI. I only suspend all of my lab VM’s at shutdown since waiting 10+ minutes for vRA 8 to start up gets old quickly.
The procedure to start lab is run PowerUpLab.ps1 script and hit the power button on the NUC. (Hope to remove the hit power on NUC step but wake-on-lan is not working). Lab startup takes about 3 minutes from zero to login into vRA. The majority of time is waiting for Fusion to resume the vCenter appliance. I really need a new Mac. The procedure to shutdown the lab is to run PowerDownLab.ps1 script which will cleanly shutdown the lab in about a minute.
- Launch VMware Fusion
- Resume VCSA VM
- Take ESXI host out of maintenance mode
- Resume vRA, VIDM, and gitlab VM’s
- Suspend all VM’s on the ESXI host
- Put ESXI host in maintenance mode
- Power off the ESXI host
- Suspend VCSA VM in Fusion
- Shut down Fusion
This is my current home lab and automation controlling it which is continuously evolving. Here are a few home lab resources I have found very helpful to get his running.
I really need a good Bob Ross style sign-off message for every blog post… I’ll keep working on that lab addition.