The travelling lab
A reader named Elmars asked us not to use his surname, but we can’t leave him out because his story is remarkable: kit on the rack you see at right was acquired in the Baltic countries and eventually shipped to the USA where Customs became rather interested in X-Ray images of its UPS batteries.
Elmars' Home Lab
“I am a senior systems engineer running a much larger VMware farm for a cloud-based product for the printing industry,” Elmars wrote. “VMware certification is very expensive and I have yet to find an employer willing to stump up the >$5k for the required courses and certification. They are much more willing to throw me a decommissioned server or other gear - sometimes accompanied with the phrase 'knock yourself out'. With at least one supervisor, I was never really sure if it was meant figuratively or literally.
“All told, probably about $3k in my own money invested and it has brought me a lot more benefit than a piece of paper titled 'Certified'.”
What’s in the rack? Here’s Elmars’ list and explanation:
- An ancient IBM dual P3 server (933MHz eServer x340) with 4GB RAM attached to a 1.5TB SCSI storage shelf, and 1TB internal SATA array. A dual-port Intel gigabit NIC makes sure the network floods the backplane at will.
- A SATA storage shelf that is a work in progress.
- Two VMware hosts licensed for Essentials. V5.1. The hosts are IBM x3455 machines with two sockets and four cores each and 48GB RAM. “These came out of an HPC shop in Texas for cheap,” Elmars says. “They replaced a pair of first generation IBM x3950 machines I had picked up in Germany. It was cheaper to replace the x3950 machines than to power them as they together ate 1KW just to run at idle and don’t support ESXI 5.x.”
- The last machine at the bottom is an old Rackable box with 8GB RAM and a pair of 2nd generation Opterons serving as OpenFiler NAS providing the data stores for the ESXi hosts. Elmars adds: "35MB/s sustained write speed is good enough for me."
- “An HP switch I don't even remember where I picked up.”
Home-lab building makes me... thirsty
Kiwi reader Andrew Gall says his lab only looks a little messy because when he took the shot below he’d lived in his current home for just two weeks.
Would your home lab look like this 2.5 weeks after you moved into a house?
He’s done rather well, we think, to stand up the following:
- ESX1 Host 1, Quad Core, 8GB RAM, 3TB storage
- 8 port KVM + 21” LCD, keyboard & mouse
- Old HP ML330 G3, Dual Xeon 4GB RAM
- Another old HP ML330 G3
- ESX2 Host 2, Quad Core, 16GB RAM, 4TB storage
- Media server, not technically part of my training lab but storing a few Linux ISOs
- Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V Host, Quad Core, 16GB RAM, 2.5TB storage
- 24 port 10/100 switch
The lab “mainly gets used for me to learn new MS skills/technology, and to play around with things that I'd be hesitant to try out on a production network,” Gall told us by email.
Next page: Cloudy capers
Clues you spend too much time in the DC
Your home rig has the following:
- No dust
- You worry that even though you've got dual power lines, they're i) 13A not three phase and ii) coming out the same socket
- Your patch cables are bought by length (or better still - custom made) , to ensure no unnecessary slack at the bottom of the cabinet. Naturally, they are all colour-coded from the same reel. You notice when one is not the right shade of blue, so you replace it.
- The patch panel itself is also obsessively tidy
- far too many cable ties in use...but damn, its so tidy and routed perfectly you'll be diagnosed as OCD by a non-IT person. You actually look forward to adding a new U, because it means you can redo the routing, and perhaps improve on it.
- You worry about airflow, and wonder how you'll get cold air retro-fitted into the garage floor
- You used a spirit level to setup the cabinet, and a ruler to measure the height from the floor
- You actually DR test your cabinet, and actively monitor your UPS's for capacity. Even if you only have 4U's worth of kit.
- You keep the 1U blanks in place for empty slots, rationalising this decision for "airflow" reasons
- Your server fronts are millimetre perfectly aligned in all 3 dimensions. And the plastic blanks too. That plastic front panel that sits at a 0.5' angle because of a poor fit, actually has you considering replacing it.
What, no photo?
I see that the photo of my set-top-box seems to be missing --- probably a conspiracy of some kind, you know how it goes. Here it is:
(Served from the machine, naturally.)
The writeup also neglects to mention the 100% organic hydrocarbon biodegradable backplace. In other words, it's nailed to a plank.
...and then sat there waiting for training that would never come. And then wondered why your self-taught colleagues who have home labs were getting all the primo overtime. And then posted a stupid snark on a tech site.