My Home Lab

Introduction

It is my first post here. I decided to tell you about my home lab that I started to build a few weeks ago. I have never needed a lab at home before. I(we) had a relatively large environment at my previous job to test all I needed. But I have changed employer, and I would like to have my lab. So let’s do it!

Requirements and possibilities

What hardware do we need? Let’s count vCPU and vRAM (I suppose that storage is not a problem. There are many possibilities to ensure storage space, e.g., NFS, vSAN, or local disks.). I want to install such solutions in my lab: vCenter, vRealize Lifecycle Manager, vRealize Identity Manager, vRealize Automation, NSX-T, vRealize Log Insight, vRealize Operations Manager, and vRealize Network Insight. Also, I need two Active Directory domain controllers, DNS servers, and an NTP server…..Oh, and I need some space for the test workload. Below I give you all hardware requirements based on official documentation.

My minimum requirements (HA is not required).
Nice to have.
* = I will reduce resources because I don’t have production workload and in my opinion I can limit them.

VM:vCPU:vRAM [GB]:
vCenter (Tiny)*212
vRealize Suite Lifecycle Manager26
VMware Identity Manager node1*816
VMware Identity Manager node2*816
VMware Identity Manager node3*816
vRealize Automation node1*1242
vRealize Automation node2*1242
vRealize Automation node3*1242
NSX Manager node1 (Small)416
NSX Manager node2 (Small)416
NSX Manager node3 (Small)416
NSX Edge node1 (Small)24
NSX Edge node2 (Small)24
vRealize Operations Manager (Small)416
vRealize Log Insight*48
vRealize Network Insight*832
NSX Load Balancer24
NTP Server11
Active Directory + DNS12
Active Directory + DNS12
VyOS Router11
VyOS Router11
Workload resources (for test purposes) 1040
SUM:61
113
189
345
Hardware Requirements (vCPU and vRAM) for my LAB.

Oh…So, a laptop is not enough 🙂
I have looked through the site to find many VMware community home labs: here. That’s an excellent place where you can found inspiration for yourself.
After research, I decided to divide possibilities into four categories:
1) Rack servers (new or used) – that idea is excellent. In my opinion, technically the best option, and I will go that way in the future when I have a space or separate room for my lab. My wife does not like cable, so definitely, I need some smaller. Also, I think I could be the cheapest way to build a home lab.
2) Tower servers – not my cup of tea. I need something smaller.
3) Intel NUC and other similar solutions – fantastic option. I like it very much. It’s small, not so expensive….but 64GB RAM makes me a little skeptical. I recommend that if it is enough for your requirements. Many articles and a rich community will be helpful. The disadvantage is that VMware does not officially support it.
4) Build something yourself – hmm, that sounds like a challenge. I have not done such things for years. There are many small micro-ATX motherboards supported up to 128GB RAM. Ok, let’s do it! (I do not recommend that way for people who don’t like solve issues and digging on google. If you one of them, choose supported platform).

I decided to build something myself. I will start with the first node to confirm proof of concept, check if there are some issues, and then add a second node to make 2-node vSAN cluster with vSAN Witness on Raspberry PI. That’s my plan. To check if I fail or not, follow my next parts of that story 🙂

NOTE: All prices in dollars and euros are at the rate of the purchase period.

Hardware (First node)

I have spent few days doing researching what is available, and I set price alarms and notifications. It is crucial for me that my lab should not be expensive, and it takes up little space. Effects can see below.

Component:PRICE [PLN]:PRICE [USD]:PRICE [EUR]:
ASRock B460M Pro4*43011595
Intel Core i9-10900 BOX (10 cores/20 threads)1730465385
4x Adata Premier DDR4 2666 DIMM 32GB1975532440
Chassis and Power Supply
– Akyga Micro ATX AK36BK
– Chieftec iArena Series 600W 80 Plus
2607058
San Disk ULTRA FIT USB 3.1 64GB (boot)40119
Samsung EU 860 EVO 1 TB (capacity tier)450120100
Crucial MX500 1TB (capacity tier)39910087
Samsung EU 970 Plus 500GB (cache tier)2907865
Accessories (Cables, Keyboard etc.)1403830
PCI-E HP 331T 4-Port Adapter (used)**802217
SUM:5794 PLN1551 USD1286 EUR
*I chose that motherboard because it has Ethernet Adapter Intel® I219V on VMware supported list, and Intel NUC also has it. I thought that I would not have any issues with a network adapter. I was wrong. Why? Take a look at the installation part of this article.
** You can use PCI-E network adapter or USB. If you choose USB, use USB Network Native Driver for ESXi,

Hardware (Second node) (updated 10.2021)

It took a few months but I have finally found all hardware for the second node. Unfortunately, prices went up, so I had a problem building a second node for the same money. Details below.

Component:PRICE [PLN]:PRICE [USD]:PRICE [EUR]:
ASRock B460M Pro43599078
Intel Core i9-10900 BOX (10 cores/20 threads)1699429370
4x Samsung Non-ECC UDIMM DDR4 2666 DIMM 32GB2630665570
Chassis and Power Supply
– Akyga Micro ATX AK36BK
– Chieftec iArena Series 600W 80 Plus
2305850
San Disk ULTRA FIT USB 3.1 64GB (boot)40109
Samsung EU 860 EVO 1 TB (capacity tier)45011598
Crucial MX500 1TB (capacity tier)3759581
Samsung EU 970 Plus 500GB (cache tier)2907363
PCI-E HP 331T 4-Port Adapter (used)802017
SUM:6153 PLN1555 USD1336 EUR

Hardware (vSAN Witness) (updated 10.2021)

Component:PRICE [PLN]:PRICE [USD]:PRICE [EUR]:
Chassis Raspberry Pi 4B – Argon Poly+ Vented451110
Cable microHDMI – HDMI 2.02054
Memory card Goodram microSD 32GB2565
Power Supply Raspberry Pi USB C 5,1V / 3A3598
Raspberry Pi 4 model B WiFi 8GB RAM 1,5GHz3909885
USB Hub D-Link DUB-H71203026
Pendrive SanDisk Ultra Fit 64GB40109
2x Pendrive SanDisk Ultra Fit 128GB1503832
SUM:825 PLN207 USD179 EUR

Hardware (Network) (updated 10.2021)

Component:PRICE [PLN]:PRICE [USD]:PRICE [EUR]:
Netgear 8p GS108T-300PES (8×10/100/1000Mbit)3299073
Netgear 8p GS108T-300PES (8×10/100/1000Mbit)2997665
Accessories (Cables)1503833
SUM:778 PLN204 USD171 EUR

Installation

Installation was pretty easy. I had only one problem with a network adapter. I have mentioned before that motherboard has an Intel I219V Ethernet adapter. But the producer does not give us details. VMware compatibility matrix supports only models listed below:

VMware Compatibility Matrix for Intel I219-V.
Vmware Compatibility Matrix for Intel I219V.

But which one is on my motherboard? The installation wizard gives us an answer that none of the supported.

ESXi No Network Adapters issue.

Press Alt+F2 and login into a root account (no password). And run lspci command.

lspcu command output.

I searched in Google that my network card vendor: 8086 (“Intel Corporation”), device: 0d55 (“Ethernet Connection (12) I219-V”). So, we need to add network driver VIB to the ESXi installation image. We can found community ne1000 VIB on William Lam’s blog here. Fortunately, my network adapter is on his list. How to prepare your own image I have explained here.
And finally, we have installed ESXi!

ESXi1 Summary View.
ESXi1 Network View.
ESXi1 Storage View.
ESXi Node1 ASRock B460m, Intel i9-10900, 128GB RAM.
my-lab-love-it

Summary

I am going to build a second node in March or April. I also need some network switch that supports VLANs and Raspberry PI for vSAN Witness. Then I will install vCenter and other solutions. I will update that post and I will describe the rest of the hardware and connections. DONE 🙂
Total costs: 13550 PLN/3517 USD/2972 EUR.
My target was below 10k PLN. I am pretty sure that if I were looking for used parts, I would achieve that. Also, Covid-19 has changed the situation on the market, and prices started growing up. Finally, all works fantastic, and I do not regret it. I like my lab :).

Stay tunned!

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