The Lab

Computer_WhizI’ve been duct tape and gumming this lab together for several years. Recently, I finally got the thing where I wanted it for now, although I never seem to be totally satisfied. It’s foundation is scalable and the equipment is new, affordable and lower in power consumption. The lab functions as my main production environment and the core for all the other ancillary tech surrounding it. Laptops, tablets, phones, wireless bridges, gaming consoles and DirecTV’s network all flow through this core.  It also contains my VMware vSphere and vCloud Director test environments.


1. Cisco SG200-26 24 port Gigabit Switch. ($230). This is a good small business switch that filled all the requirements needed for VMware and vCloud Director: GB ports, VLAN capability and Jumbo Frames. It has a solid web based GUI for configuration. I’m not using 70% of what it can do; it’s capabilities are impressive.

2. Synology DiskStation DS1512+ NAS. ($1,200)  This storage array has been excellent. I designed mine in a base RAID 5 with five 2TB Seagate SATA disks. Its RAID capabilities allow for multiple levels of redundancy (you can configure an online spare), it’s fast, has a link aggregation option ( only available with the correct switch- the Cisco above can provide the 802.3ad feature) and a superior web based GUI. It also has several software applications that can be added to enhance your home network. One that I use is the Cloud Station app. Cloud Station allows you to build an internal private cloud for file synchronization across all platforms (think your own private Dropbox).  For VMware you can build multiple iSCSI LUNs with VAAI features. It’s been a pain free array so far, even with multiple firmware and software upgrades. Another bonus is the USB ports in the back. There are two USB 2.0 ports and one USB 3.0 which works well when you’re backing up data and/or virtual machines. If you’re looking for anything NAS, try SimplyNAS.

3. Two Barebone Servers from Supermicro ($1300 pre-built, $900 DIY). This part of the lab took me the longest. I had two HP Proliant ML150 G6 towers that were 3+ years old, and although they were working fine, I wanted faster processors and more RAM. The first one I bought from ABMX Servers. It was pre-built with VMware installed. When customizing, it had to come with a hard drive, so I couldn’t save any money there. Overall, it was a good, quality server. When I decided to build the second server, I shopped around and looked at some other labs, finally deciding on the following: Item List (2013)- These specs are basically the same server I bought with a superior model processor and more RAM (32 GB instead of 24 GB)

SUPERMICRO MBD-X9SCI-LN4F-O LGA 1155 Intel C204 ATX Intel Xeon E3 Server Motherboard
Kingston 16GB (2 x 8GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM ECC Unbuffered DDR3 1333 Server Memory Intel Model KVR13E9K2/16I (2 of these for a total of 32GB)
Intel Xeon E3-1230 V2 Ivy Bridge 3.3GHz (3.7GHz Turbo) 4 x 256KB L2 Cache 8MB L3 Cache LGA 1155 69W Quad-Core Server Processor
Intel BXSTS100P 25.5mm tall passive heat sink (Important: You’ll need this to complete the build)
SUPERMICRO SuperChassis CSE-512F-350B Black 1U Rackmount Server Chassis 350W

You’ll also need a Flash drive to boot VMware from. I didn’t order a hard drive specifically because I wanted this server to be as stateless as possible. The only moving part is the fan. These Supermicro motherboards have 4 on-board GB NICs with a management NIC included for remote web or IPMI access.


The servers are in a vSphere 5.1 HA cluster with the Synology providing the iSCSI storage. vCloud Director 5.1 also runs in this space using the VXLAN software networking for logical separation rather than VLANs on the Cisco.

Backups are provided by a Windows 7 virtual machine running Veeam. The backup data resides on a USB 3.0 3TB Seagate drive attached to the Synology DiskStation.


lab4-rs   Two post rack with the Cisco switch at the top, Synology DiskStation and backup data USB 3 external drive on the middle shelf. The two VMware servers are at the bottom.

LabNight-RS  Las Vegas? Nope, just the lab at night. Looks the same though.

LabPower-RS  New power consumption average, down from around .180 Kw.


Categories: The Lab

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Brad Hedlund

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