So you think you want a new home lab?

I have been debating upgrading the physical equipment in my home lab for some time now. Checking out different builds from Chris Wahls Lab Resource section, Chris has a great compilation of posts to get you started from various community members.

Your number one question should be what is the need for my lab?

What am I going to need for my lab today? But what about 3 months down the road? 6mths? 1yr? Is the investment I make going to be able to do what I want it to do now and into the future so I can get the most out of my investment?

This is the very question that has me stumbling personally. My use case is different in that i need different configurations at different times. I would love to have a house filled with various equipment. But the reality is having equipment, and that equipment gets expensive to not only purchase but to run. Then there is the number one factor in all home lab set-ups, the #WAF (Wife Acceptance Factor) this is huge if you don’t have a lot of space in your home.

In my current home I am fortunate to have the space to have a 3/4 tall rack which I can put equipment in and I have a separate office which closes off from the house. But it is loud with my current systems running. 78db with servers going and they are about 5ft from my desk. With all equipment off I am at 32-45db. Big difference, especially as I get set to record some videos, i want it as quit as possible.

Things to consider

Noise level – This is a big factor in some areas, we don’t want our homes sounding like a data center.

Cost – Let’s be honest we want to do this for as reasonable price point as possible, set an amount and go for it

Purpose – This is what will dictate most of the above, what is the reasoning behind building a lab environment

Space- How much space do you have to place your equipment

Current configuration

Currently I have

  • 2 ibm eseries server – firewall and other has vSphere 3.5
  • dell 745n with Freenas installed on it
  • Dell power edge with vSphere 4.1
  • Lenovo box with vSphere 5.5
  • Dell optiplex with vSphere 5.1
  • HP Desktop – 3 HD for some shared file storage and windows operating system
  • Cisco 2950 24 port switch
  • Macbook Air is my primary machine with VMware Fusion installed

Now non of my servers have more then 4GB of memory. This is one of my biggest needs is more RAM, Storage space is ok for now.

My use case

Currently my environment is ‘ok’, it allows for me to experiment on a small scale but to fully test and implement things I need a bigger environment.

I do testing of products and reviews and need a flexible solution that can scale up or down as the need arises.

My options

Cloud- AWS, vCHS, BareMetal, Windows Azure, Google

New hardware- I could spec out what it would cost for me to build an ultra quiet lab that has plenty of RAM, Storage with some networking.


Biggest challenge right now is the cost for the above.

What I am doing now

Currently I am experimenting with baremetalcloud. This allows for me to spin up servers on the fly and only have to pay for it when i use it. This is huge in cost/space/noise reduction in my home office.

But there are some caveats to using the cloud the initial configuration of system has to be well planned because time is literally money. If I can get a test environment up and running in few hours the cost on Bare Metal Cloud could be $10. I then save that configuration or image for later testing purposes (which will save time and then even more money) for when I need it.

In the cloud approach planning is key as you want to maximize the time you have a server running. One of the down sides I noticed is things aren’t spun up in seconds, but with planning it can be cost effective.

Example on possible saving- **** please note this is only an example real numbers varies on exact equipment and run time****

I need a server with at least 40gb of RAM storage isn’t involved but say 50GB of storage space – I can do a search for those requirements and for aprx. $.67 hr I could rent the server for 30 hrs and only spend around $21. Now if I was to buy that exact system I’m spending thousands, not to mention i have to pay for the power and cooling of the equipment.

But again, I can not stress enough of needing to plan out your scenario and configuration ahead of time when using any cloud on the go model.

Nerd’s Blurt

My goal is to do some more posts specifically on using baremetalcloud, and over all experience. Ido continue to research various lab set-ups and possibilities for what I need a lab environment for.  I like the model from them so far as I have flexibility with various servers and configurations and when I need it and for how long I need it.

What are your thoughts or advice on labs and or using cloud models?