Demitasse Lab Network

Like a lot of technical people working in virtualization I have had a home lab for study and testing.  I’ve written a few posts about this in the past but have made quite a few changes so it’s time for an update.

My lab had become entwined with the home network, network services and home entertainment were provided by my lab host. If something went wrong with my lab then I had an unhappy family as they couldn’t get to their social networks or watch TV programs.  Over the second half of 2012 I slowly detached the home network from the lab network.

Now the home network is fairly standard: an ADSL router, a few PCs and a NAS.  Being in a small town it’s not ADSL 2 and I get that service from a budget ISP.  There is no domain, and the PCs are a mixture of Laptops, a couple of Media Centre PCs and a heap of smart phones and tablets, it’s a normal modern home network.

The lab network is now in a local ISPs datacentre. It is two 2U servers, one running ESXi and the other Windows 7.  Both are white box i7 PCs, the ESXi server is about three years old (next on the list for replacement) and the Windows 7 I bought in 2012. The physical Windows 7 machine is used for AutoLab development and testing while the ESXi machines hosts a Windows 2008 domain and a View 5.0 build. My usual desktop when I’m not using my laptop is a Windows 7 VM that I access from training centres and Internet Cafe’s using the View Client and PCoIP.  I’ve been using this desktop for a few months as my main computing environment and really like it.  I keep a ThinApped copy of the View Client on a USB key and use that when I’m travelling. 

My next network project is to make a branch office network at home, independent from the home network. This will use a WiMAX Internet connection from the ISP where my lab network resides and will have a VPN to make it an internal network with routes direct into the lab.  This will let me do a lot better testing of branch office access and device management since I’m spending some time playing with thin clients this year.

My old faithful laptop that I’ve carried around for the last 3 1/2 years has finally started to fail, so I bought a new Windows 8 convertible.  I ended up with a Sony Vaio Duo which is a very small and light machine but still has a full HD display. I know that the Sony practise of not enabling VT from the BIOS means I’ll never run big VMs on the machine, but I chose portability and embracing using my lab rather than taking the lab with me. 

A consequence of the laptop upgrade is that I cannot use the docking station and dual monitors that I’ve had for the old laptop.  Now I am looking for a dual screen thin client to use as my main device while I’m sitting at my desk.  I’m also very interested in what things will require me to bring out the Sony, so far podcast recording and video editing are the first ones.

My lab environment keeps evolving, since I travel so much it is great having the lab at the ISP where it’s bandwidth and latency aren’t a problem.  One challenge is 3G data speeds in my region don’t always allow a good experience using PCoIP so I end up using hotel Internet, which is not universally free in this region.  The other challenge is the cost of the ISP holding the gear, but I’m sure that the hands on time contributes to my value as a trainer and therefore my income. If I was starting my lab today I suspect I’d end up with a few MAC-Minis in a cupboard at home.

© 2013, Alastair. All rights reserved.

About Alastair

I am a professional geek, working in IT Infrastructure. Mostly I help to communicate and educate around the use of current technology and the direction of future technologies.
This entry was posted in General. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Demitasse Lab Network

  1. Nice post!
    I didn’t search the blog (yet..) but, what are the specs of this machine and how about the cost of the co-location?

    I ask because right now I have a 3 node cluster at home and I’m starting to think that using remote machines for testing and AutoLab is a better idea.

    Right now I have a machine at OVH (16G-RAM, i3 processor and 2TB disk space) for $49/month.

Comments are closed.