vSphere Home Study Lab, Part I

This series of articles will assist anyone looking to build a reasonably-priced VCP Home Study Lab.

Despite the many articles on the web about setting up a home lab, there still seems to be some confusion in the VMware Community about what are the easiest wallet-friendly configurations.  In this multi-part series, I will discuss and demonstrate how to setup a simple Home Lab to do your independent study away from your production environment at work.  Many thanks go to Eric Siebert, whose articles helped me immensely during my studies.

In part 1 of the Home Study Lab series, we will first cover the hardware and software required:

1. Server: HP ML110 G6 with the Xeon X3440 CPU ~ $600 (Consider your purchase soon; these servers are hard to find.)

2. RAM: 4x4GB RAM ~ $320

3. Storage: SSD (At least 80 GB) ~ $180

4. Host OS: Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit ~$180

5. VMware Workstation 7 ~ $170

Bill of Materials = $1450

For less than $1500, you can have a Home Study Lab whose performance is pretty reasonable.  With the materials listed above you should be aware of the following items:

* 8 logical CPUs since the X3440 is a Quad Core processor with HyperThreading enabled

* The SSD storage is essential to having acceptable performance.  If you use the included HDD in the Server, you will be very frustrated by machine responsiveness.

* You will not be able to run 64-bit guests in your virtualized ESX\ESXi Servers

Regarding your ESX\ESXi configuration, I suggest the following minimum setup:

1 Windows Domain Controller (2003 or 2008)

1 vCenter Server

2 ESXi Servers

1 OpenFiler NAS Server (for iSCSI Storage)

VMware allows you to run trials of vCenter and vSphere for 60 days, and that should be plenty of time to prepare for your exams.

I will be posting follow-up articles in this series that will include videos showing step-by-step instructions on how to install and configure the components listed above.

NOTE: My recommendations in this article are for a quick and easy lab setup.  Working with VMware’s advanced capabilities (i.e. anything beyond the scope of the VCP exam) may require multiple Physical Servers running ESX\ESXi bare metal instead of from within VMware Workstation.

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