The virtualization trend in server management continues to revolutionize the modern world of IT Operations. Networking professionals curious about this technology and wanting an easy way to learn it — without putting production servers at risk — need to consider setting up a virtualization lab at home. Hands-on learning is the best way to master any subject, and a home-based environment for testing and experimenting is a perfect solution for the task at hand.
Creating aVMware vSphere Lab at Home
VMware is one of the leading names in the virtual server sector, and their vSphere product provides Cloud-based virtual infrastructure functionality to organizations of all sizes. vSphere 5.5 entered the marketplace in September, and this latest version of the software works well in a home lab scenario. While vSphere is a commercial product, a free trial download is available along with detailed instructions on how to install the software on a server.
Only one server is necessary to set up a functioning vSphere lab, although these experts recommend using at least two servers to learn vSphere’s Distributed Resource Scheduler (DRS) and High Availability (HA) functionality. At least 4GB of RAM is required on each server, but having more will help with server performance. It is also important to make sure each server’s support for virtualization is enabled in the BIOS.
Some form of external storage is necessary for learning about clustering. vSphere has its own virtual storage appliance built into the software, but it can be difficult to set up for beginners. Finally, a switch is necessary to be able to manage traffic between the servers, storage, and a desktop or laptop device to connect remotely.
Installing the vSphere Components
Installing vSphere on the servers includes other supporting components, like VMware’s ESXi 5.5 operating system and the vCenter management tool. The latter requires either Windows Server 2008 or 2012, but it also operates as a virtual appliance, but that is only recommended for more experienced users. Once ESXi is properly installed and running on a server, it is possible to remotely connect to that server to run the vSphere client, which will then prompt for the IP address and credentials for the ESXi server.
Two new virtual machines need to be created for a domain controller and vCenter, with each also getting a Windows Server install. Once the vCenter install is finished, it is possible to connect the remote desktop or laptop to that server and set up a data center, cluster, and all the physical hosts. The virtualization lap is now complete!
Once again, hands-on experience remains the most vital aspect of learning about any technology, and networking is no exception. Doing it in a home lab allows for experimentation and mistakes without putting corporate assets — and one’s job — at risk. For additional help with the lab setup or vSphere in general, be sure to check out VMware’s robust documentation on the subject.
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