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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 l.jpg

Cheap vSphere Lab

Simon Gallagher

Simon Seagrave

Agenda l.jpg

  • 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...

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  • 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

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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)

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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


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Where to get them

  • eBay for old kit


  • That “spares” pile – but ask 1st!

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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

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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

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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

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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)

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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

Storage l.jpg

  • 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

Networking l.jpg

  • 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

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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!

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  • Simon Gallagher

    • Blog

    • Twitter @vinf_net

  • Simon Seagrave

    • Blog

    • Twitter @kiwi_si

  • Reference