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New lab setup

My employer has kindly allowed me to take some APC UPSes off their hands, a two-post rack with 1U PDU and some shelves, and a zero-U PDU (which is on loan). I can take two of either a 3U 3000VA or 2U 3000VA. Just need fresh batteries. I wonder what they utilize for normal operation... The rack is also has a shelf-type bottom so I can mount heavy long stuff from the bottom up.

We've decided to invest in a lab for certs and training. Immediately it will be my VCP lab, and afterwards for VCAP and other MS certifications (not to mention test environment/learning lab for new tech).

Key items:

  • Firewall (Astaro) with multiple NICs for DMZ, etc.
  • Switch upgrade (from 8 port to 24 port Gb)
  • Three ESX hosts (i5, 16GB)
  • The NICs and switches I'm sourcing from Ebay/local.

My employer has also graciously offered to donate a two post rack for the lab, just need to get it home and mounted to the floor. All will be mounted on said rack in the basement. Currently I have all my network gear on a 1200VA APC UPS down there...will keep it all through that until I can justify a racked UPS.

The firewall is a Supermicro SYS-5015A-EHF-D525, putting 2x2GB RAM, a dual-port PCIe PRO1000PT NIC, and a spare laptop drive into it (also got two sub-20db fans for cooling). Going to run Astaro v8. Total of four NICs (all Intel-based).

Astaro is free for home use. I've used it in a production environment before, and it's a very nice mix of price/performance. Astaro home/free are the same thing, just business use requires licensing.

I will keep the 8-port switch as it's rack-mounted already, and you can never have enough ports! Going with a Linksys 48-port (SRW2048). The 8-port may be retained if necessary.

Since each host has 7 NICs, I'll need 21 NICs just for the hosts, not to mention other network items like the Synology. Going with the 48-port will give me greater flexibility and room for expansion.

ESX hosts
The ESX hosts are spec'd something like this:
  • 3U iStarUSA D-300-PFS case (thanks to Chad Sakac!)
  • Upgraded fans (Vantec variable-speed, 2x60mm, 1x80mm)
  • Core i5-760 (quad-core w. VT)
  • Crucial 4x4GB RAM (CT2KIT51264BA1339)
  • USB flash drive (ESXi)
  • Intel motherboard w. on-board DVI and Intel chipset NIC (BOXDH55HC)
  • 3x PRO1000MT dual-port NICs (total of 7 NICs per host, all Intel)
  • Seasonic S12II 380w PSU


My trusty Synology DS410j will do iSCSI duties until it can't keep up, then I'll look at options.

Alternatives include a lightweight server with a many-spindle RAID10 running Starwind or the Synology DS411+ (approx 4x the iSCSI performance of the DS410j). I think if I upgrade down the line I'll want to move to MPIO (so at least two ports). Not for performance requirements, but for having that option to configure in my lab.


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