Home Lab Set-Up

My home lab is set up, and ready to provide the hands-on needed for vSphere skills enhancement.  It took a little while and a lot of fiddling to get it working exactly as I wanted and especially so to activate the nested ESXi 64bit guest support.  Although the Xeon E5540 CPU’s support VT-x/EPT, it is necessary to customise the virtual machine settings of the nested ESXi hosts to fully support it.  This creates a chicken/egg situation because with vSphere 5.5 you can only make the final change using the Web Client, which needs vCenter installed, which needs either a completely separate physical machine to run on, or has to be hosted on the main physical ESXi installation.

Having got all the key VM’s needed, FreeNAS, Windows Server 2008 (DNS/AD), Windows Server 2008 (vCenter/SQL Express), running on the primary host, the need for 64bit guest VM’s within the nested environment is not a requirement because 32bit will be enough for the purpose of vSphere study.  However, the challenge was there for me and if it can be done, I want to prove it for myself and get it working in my own lab!

So, I have the above VM’s running on the primary ESXi host and 3x nested ESXi host VM’s.  I have a QNAP offering NAS based NFS storage and a second NAS which is used to provide a VMDK to the FreeNAS VM which is then presented to the nested ESXi hosts as an iSCSI LUN.  The local 683Gb RAID5 is presenting VMDK’s to the nested ESXi hosts to appear as local storage and I’ve built 2x VMDK’s per host; 1x 20Gb & 1x 180Gb.  The 20Gb will be faked to represent an SSD drive and then the two can be utilised to allow VSAN support for all three nested ESXi hosts.  This gives me a chance to play with VSAN whilst providing the three main storage options to my lab, iSCSI SAN, NFS and local.  It’s a bit slow but it’s just for training!

On the nested ESXi hosts themselves I think I’ll only need Windows 7 guests to provide the material for study and I’ve created templates or exported as OVA’s a copy of the ESXi host, Server 2008 and Windows 7 VM’s.  I’m trying to put a Visio diagram together to show how things are set up but can never get it right without making look both rubbish and complicated.

Sites used to assist me:

http://www.v-front.de/2014/01/how-to-provision-nested-esxi-hosts-on.html – by Andreas Peetz

http://www.virtuallyghetto.com/2012/08/how-to-enable-nested-esxi-other.html – by William Lam

https://communities.vmware.com/docs/DOC-8970 – from VMware communities

VCP5-DCV (vSphere 5.5)

Having discovered my VCP3 expires completely next March (2015), I thought I’d better do something to upgrade to the latest equivalent.  Giving myself about 4 weeks to study having booked the 50% discounted exam during VMworld USA, I realised how much there was to take in and 4 weeks simply wasn’t enough.  Consequently I failed the exam with a score of 280 needing the 300 to pass.  So, despite using 5.5 every day at work with high levels of exposure to the full vSphere suite of components I have decided to build my own home lab and work through the VMware Press study guide.  Previously I used the Sybex version but decided to switch so I got a different view point and possibly different means of delivering the content.  I also got a good discount at VMworld!

I’ve now booked my retake for the 28 November and bought a refurbished server from Ebay to begin a hands-on home study.  I picked up a DL380 G6 with twin E5540 Xeon’s and a couple of SAS drives with 8Gb RAM for £350.  Having some old SAS disks lying around at work, destined for the shredder and some smaller RAM sticks from the G6 memory upgrades at work, I should be able to boost this to around 32Gb and include 4-6 146Gb SAS disks.  My lab plan will be detailed in a following post once the hardware arrives on Monday 29 September.

Should I fail again I’ll be booking in before the year is out to capitalise on the current 25% discount and then go again asap to ensure I pass before 10 March 2015!!  Fingers, toes, arms and legs all crossed.