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Cheap vSphere Lab. Simon Gallagher Simon Seagrave Agenda. Why would you want to do that? Best boxes for vSphere Where to get them Datacentre in a box (virtualized ESX) Muti -Node TARDIS cluster Demo Performance I/O Demo FT Demo

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cheap vsphere lab

Cheap vSphere Lab

Simon Gallagher

Simon Seagrave

  • Why would you want to do that?
  • Best boxes for vSphere
  • Where to get them
  • Datacentre in a box (virtualized ESX)
    • Muti-Node TARDIS cluster Demo
    • Performance I/O Demo
    • FT Demo
  • Cheap/Free SAN Storage
  • Cheap/Free Networking
  • Software Licensing
  • Further Information...
  • Because you can 
  • VCP study
  • Critical home infrastructure (wife & kids 2.0)
  • IT is a vocation, not an occupation
  • Production use cases
    • Automated install testing
    • Changes (ITIL)
    • VUM patch testing
best boxes for vsphere
Best Boxes for vSphere
  • Need:
    • Cheap
    • Low-Power!!!
    • Quiet
  • Options
    • eBay an old Proliant
    • Buy something cheap but less “server”
    • Find someone else to pay for it (good luck)
best budget boxes for vsphere
Best Budget Boxes for vSphere
  • New HP ML115 G5 / ML110 G5
    • With 160Gb HDD, 8GB RAM, dual/quad core ~£330
    • ML115 G5 is weapon of choice (AMD x64, FT)
  • Used HP D530
    • 160Gb HDD, With 4Gb ~£90
    • ESX 3.5 only (not x64)
  • Build your own (White-box)
    • Compatibility issues
    • Community supported H/W
where to get them
Where to get them
  • eBay for old kit
  • That “spares” pile – but ask 1st!
trolley attached random datacentre of inexpensive servers t a r d i s
Trolley Attached Random Datacentreof Inexpensive Servers(T.A.R.D.I.S)
  • 2 x Physical HP ML115 G5 with 8Gb RAM vSphere 4 Servers
  • 1 x HP D530 OpenFiler (1TB iSCSI storage, 60Gb SSD)
  • Cheap VLAN’able GbE switch
  • 10 x virtual ESXi instances in a HA/DRS cluster
  • 4Gb RAM allocated to each instance (heavy overcommit!)
  • Software L3 router; Vyatta
  • Trolley & luggage straps (B&Q)
  • Approx cost to buy <£1,000
  • Non-HA version ~£500
  • Even cheaper if you can recycle the OpenFiler box & Storage
tardis network diagram
TARDIS – Network Diagram

VM Network for guest iSCSI VLAN

Physical Host Network Config

VM Network for guest vMotionVLAN


Admin Network

VMKernel Ports

For physical hosts

tardis network diagram9
TARDIS – Network Diagram

VMKernel Ports in ESXi Guest

These are really vNICs

Virtual ESXi Guest Network

Note: no need to specify VLAN tag – it is done on host

t a r d i s demo
T.A.R.D.I.S Demo
  • It’s bigger on the inside than outside
  • vMotion between physical host & VM ESXi (Nested VM)
  • Host Profiles
  • VMware Update Manager
  • Nested Virtual Machines (configuration)
  • FT (FT’d vCenter & Vyatta installation)
t a r d i s configuration notes
T.A.R.D.I.S Configuration Notes
  • Separate VLAN’s for storage, vMotion, FT
  • VM Template with multiple vNICs & mounted .ISO
  • Do not clone installed ESXi/Classic
  • Physical Host – set vSwitch to allow promiscuous mode otherwise it will not work
  • Pay attention to max number of ESX hosts to a single shared LUN (or it will stop working)
  • Nested VM with FT needs special VM configuration & doesn’t work brilliantly
  • Virtual ESX servers need monitor_control.restrict_backdoor TRUE setting to run nested VMs
  • SATA, consumer grade SSD is cost-effective
  • Don’t expect amazing performance, but good-enough
  • Beware of iSCSI reservation conflicts
  • OpenFiler
    • Free, open-source, wide hardware support
    • Will also run as a VM (caution with HA testing)
    • Replication possible if you are a Linux wizz
  • HP Lefthand Virtual Storage Appliance
    • Not free
    • 30-day eval available
    • Fault-tolerance/replication & failover possible
  • EMC Celerra Virtual Machine
    • Resource hungry
    • Free
    • Fully featured
    • (..more coming from EMC soon; CLARiiON etc.)
  • NAS – Drobo/IX StorCentre
  • There are no cheap L3 switches
  • Old L3 Cisco kit is <£100 but not Gigabit (eBay)
  • Solution
    • Cheap SoHo GbE switch that supports VLAN’ing
    • Linksys SLM series ~£80 for 8 GbE ports & VLAN support
    • Vyatta software appliance router (VM with multiple vNICs
    • Configure router VM with FT
software licensing
Software Licensing
  • VMware software is an expensive problem for the lab
    • 60-day evals out of the box (re-install)
    • ESXi – but no vMotion/etc.
    • NFR via employer
    • Re-using production keys; naughty
    • The Internet; naughty
    • No real product activation at present or viable solution to this problem from VMware – No more VMTN subscription!
  • Microsoft
    • Mainly for guest VMs or you could try out Hyper-V or Xen if you can’t get an eval license from VMware to use in your lab 
    • Downloadable evals
    • TechNet Direct – best approach to be legal, and reasonably priced with lots of copies ~£300 unless you go to TechEd then it’s free
  • Open-Source
    • Nothing to see here, move along – it’s free!
  • Simon Gallagher
    • Blog
    • Twitter @vinf_net
  • Simon Seagrave
    • Blog
    • Twitter @kiwi_si
  • Reference