The Perfect vSphere 6 Home Lab

It has been awhile since we’ve visited my “Perfect vSphere Lab” setups. If you’re not aware of my older perfect setups you can see a few here: ShuttleSH67H3 and Intel NUCs have been my most popular lab guides to date on this site.

However, with vSphere 6 out, the time has come to build out another guide of some good lab hardware. Maybe you’re studying for a VMware certification exam or just want a long term lab solution to avoid any RGE (resume generating events) at work, this post will outline what you need to get the job done as cheaply as possible and using something other than “nested” hosts.

The ESXi Host

DS81_frontDS81_back_01

For the host itself, I am going to recommend you use another small form factor Shuttle box.  A Shuttle DS81. These boxes are small (nowhere near the biggest host you can build) but I recommend these for two huge reasons, small size and low power. They DS81_3D_lefthave dual gigabit network connections as well built in so no need for any additional cards! All of these things equate to what I call a high WAF (wife acceptance factor) so that’s a plus. These boxes consume a fraction of the power that a full desktop uses. My kilowatt measures about 44 watts around 75% usage. Running at least two of them is what I recommend so you can create a cluster. If you’re looking to do anything with vSAN, you will need 3 hosts. My lab environment consists of 3 hosts for that sole reason!

The Processor

For this build you have two options, to go all out or to keep it simple and cheap. It’s really up to you. If you want my opinion, I’d say keep the costs down and buy more hosts instead of put a lot of money into getting just 1 or 2 large hosts. I’d rather have 3 medium sized hosts for a lab any day of the week.

The biggest difference in price from above is a quad core vs a dual core. When you enable HT it will double it either way you go. If the price difference does not seem like much to you, go all out! Feel free to play with the options but since you run out of memory generally first, CPU is a lot less of an issue.

The Memory

In terms of memory, you really need to max out the host here. They are capable of doing 16GB of ram across the entire host. The system has 2x 204pin memory slots that support DDR-1333/1600 with maximum of 8GB per DIMM. This also seems to be a good price point these days. 2 sticks of 8GB memory is one of the cheapest options out there now. Whatever you do, don’t go below 8GB total.

The Disk

First you have to ask yourself if you’ll be playing with vSAN at all. If you’re not interested in vSAN you really only need one of these disks. Well, technically one SD card and optionally another storage disk for local disk. I generally throw in some sort of small SSD in my hosts regardless for fast VM storage and then attach the host to my Synology DS1513+ as an iSCSI SAN. Remember: The Shuttle DS81 also only supports 2.5 inch hard disks! I am going to break this into three different setups:

The Disk Option 1: The I want vSAN setup.

You will install ESXi 6 to the integrated SD slot using the SD card, your 1TB 7200 SATA disk will be used as a capacity disk in vSAN and the 128GB mSATA drive will be used for caching.

The Disk Option 2: No vSAN, but local datastore please.

You will install ESXi 6 to the integrated SD slot using the SD card, the 128GB mSATA drive will be used for a local datastore.

The Disk Option 3: No vSAN, no local disk, only a basic ESXi install. I already have a SAN.

You will install ESXi 6 to the integrated SD slot using the SD card. You won’t have any local datastores so you’ll need to be sure you have some sort of already existing shared storage.

Overall build thoughts:

These machines work great with ESXi 6. One thing to note is that you’ll need to inject a vib into the ESXi 6 installer. This offline bundle adds the NIC drivers to the installer so you will have them. If you follow these steps below with PowerCLI you can do this within 10 minutes.

  1. Download and install vSphere PowerCLI 6.0 to get access to Image Builder. You will need to create an account, but this is free.
  2. Download required package (Place the zip file in C:\esxi)
    – net51-drivers-1.1.0-1vft.510.0.0.799733-offline_bundle.zip
  3. Open VMware vSphere PowerCLI and execute the commands below. This will create a customized ESXi 6 iso that includes all the needed drivers. Be aware that a few commands will take some time, so be patient.
  4. Go to the root of your C: drive and burn the new iso to disk.
#If you've never used PowerCLI before, set the ExecutionPolicy to RemoteSigned. Skip this step if you have already.
Set-ExecutionPolicy RemoteSigned 
#Makes sure the ImageBuilder snapin is added.
Add-PSSnapin VMware.ImageBuilder
#Connects to the software depot. Takes a few seconds to connect.
Add-EsxSoftwareDepot https://hostupdate.vmware.com/software/VUM/PRODUCTION/main/vmw-depot-index.xml
#Adds DS81 drivers.
Add-EsxSoftwareDepot c:\esxi\net51-drivers-1.1.0-1vft.510.0.0.799733-offline_bundle.zip
#Takes the standard ESXi 6 iso image and clones it so we can essentially slipstream in the missing drivers. 
New-EsxImageProfile -CloneProfile "ESXi-6.0.0-2494585-standard" -name "ESXi-6.0.0-2494585-DS81" -vendor "withNICs"
#Take our newly modified profile and spit out an iso to use. This will take a few minutes. Be patient. 
Export-ESXImageProfile -ImageProfile "ESXi-6.0.0-2494585-DS81" -ExportToISO -filepath C:\ESXi-6.0.0-2494585-DS81.iso

 

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Intel NUC: Perfect vSphere 5.5 Home Lab

In the last few years Intel has been releasing these new NUC boxes. They’re very small, lightweight and can best of all run ESXi 5.5 with little modification! 41sLUt4NddL

The goal of this post is to put together an updated “Perfect vSphere 5.5 Lab” post. My last update to my “Perfect vSphere 5 Home Lab” post is a based on Shuttle units which are now getting harder to come by. So an update was needed. An alternative to these Intel NUC boxes are the Shuttle XH61V lab I have written about.

These little units are now running successfully in my home lab and have been very nice replacements for my Shuttle units. They’re smaller and require even less power. They’re not quite as powerful, but the size makes up for that. You can stack two of these and they don’t even take up half the space of a single Shuttle unit. It’s important to note that the prices listed include the processor.

DC53427HYE Kit D53427RKE
DC3217IYE Kit DC33217GKE
DC3217BY Kit DC33217CK
DCCP847DYE Kit DCP847SKE
Form factor
UCFF
Processor
Core i5-3427U
Core i3 3217-U
Core i3 3217-U
Celeron 847
Clock Speed
1.8 GHz (2.8 max)
1.8 GHz
1.8 GHz
1.1 GHz
Cores
2
2
2
2
HT
YES
YES
YES
NO
Max Memory
16 GB
16 GB
16 GB
16 GB
Network
1x 1Gb Ethernet
1x 1Gb Ethernet
1x 1Gb Ethernet
1x 1Gb Ethernet
Ports
1x USB 3.0
2x USB 2.0
2x USB2.0 (int.)
3x USB 2.0
2x USB2.0 (int.)
Thunderbolt
3x USB 2.0
2x USB2.0 (int.)
3x USB 2.0
2x USB2.0 (int.)
Intel VT-d
YES
NO
NO
NO
VT-x with EPT
YES
YES
YES
YES
AES
YES
NO
NO
NO
TDP
17 W
17 W
17 W
17 W

The Kits are shipped with:

  • Main board
  • Processor
  • External Power Adapter
  • VESA Bracket (which we won’t use).

To install ESXi you will need:

  • Memory (SO-DIMM DDR3)
  • AC Power Cord (C5) (The weird 3 prong one)
  • mSATA SSD or USB-Stick to install ESXi to.

There are several different models to choose from. The i5 being your best option for an ESXi Home Lab. The SSDs are optional especially if you have another form of shared storage. I would highly recommend a Synology DS 1513+. I have owned one for the last year and they are great units!!

Items you’ll need:

1. Chassisnuc-shopping
 2. Memorynuc-sodimm
 3.  SSDnuc-ssd
 4.  Power Cordc5-plug
 5. USB Stick
nuc-usbstick

After you put your parts together, you will need to use PowerCLI to build yourself a custom ISO that includes the correct drivers for the NIC.

Required Files:

Then run these commands and burn the completed iso to disk.

#If you've never used PowerCLI before, set the ExecutionPolicy to RemoteSigned. Skip this step if you have already.
Set-ExecutionPolicy RemoteSigned 
#Makes sure the ImageBuilder snapin is added.
Add-PSSnapin VMware.ImageBuilder
#Connects to the software depot. Takes a few seconds to connect.
Add-EsxSoftwareDepot https://hostupdate.vmware.com/software/VUM/PRODUCTION/main/vmw-depot-index.xml
#Adds NUC drivers.
Add-EsxSoftwareDepot c:\Temp\net-e1001e-1.0.0-offline_bundle.zip
Add-EsxSoftwareDepot c:\Temp\sata-xahci-1.10-1-offline_bundle.zip
#Takes the standard ESXi 5.5 iso and clones it so we can essentially slipstream in the missing drivers. 
New-EsxImageProfile -CloneProfile "ESXi-5.5.0-1331820-standard" -name "ESXi-5.5.0-1331820-Whitebox" -vendor "withNICs"
#Take our newly modified profile and spit out an iso to use. This will take a few minutes. Be patient. 
Export-ESXImageProfile -ImageProfile "ESXi-5.5.0-1331820-Whitebox" -ExportToISO -filepath C:\ESXi-5.5.0-1331820-Whitebox.iso
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Veeam Availability Suite v8

Veeam is a blog sponsor here at ryanbirk.com and I wanted to pass along some information about their new Availaibility Suite. You can check out more details here: http://go.veeam.com/availability-suite-v8#availability-features

v8_lp_gap_03

Availability for the Modern Data Center

Today’s business environment is changing. Connected customers, partners, suppliers, and employees demand access to information and applications at any time and from any device, with no tolerance for downtime or data loss. IT organizations must enable the Always-On Business™ by making data and applications available 24/7.

Being Always-On typically means significant investment in fully redundant systems with instant failover capabilities protecting only the most critical applications. Or, businesses settle for less expensive legacy backup solutions with recovery objectives (RPOs and RTOs) of several hours or days. Both options fail to meet the needs of theAlways-On Business – creating an availability gap.

Veeam bridges the availability gap by leveraging the capabilities of the modern data center – including virtualization, new storage integration, and cloud capabilities – providing Recovery Time and Point Objective (RTPO™) of less than 15 minutes. Veeam delivers Availability for the Modern Data Center™, including:

  • High Speed Recovery
  • Data Loss Avoidance
  • Verified Protection
  • Risk Mitigation
  • Complete Visibility

NEW Veeam Availability Suite™

RTPO <15 min. For ALL Applications.

How do customers get Availability for the Modern Data Center? Today – customers buy Veeam Backup & Replication™ or one of our Suites. With the launch of v8 in Q3 customers will buy our NEW Veeam Availability Suite™! This suite replaces Veeam Backup Management Suite™ – same price, same editions, same features – but with a new name aligned with our new messaging. (No changes to Veeam Backup & Replication™ and Veeam ONE SKUs – still are available)

Veeam Availability Suite v8 delivers High-Speed RecoveryData Loss AvoidanceVerified ProtectionRisk Mitigation and Complete Visibility to the Always-OnBusiness, with more new features:

  • Faster backups and rapid item-level recovery of hardware snapshots with NetApp snap support
  • Lower RTOs with granular transaction-level recovery of SQL databases and Active Directory (in addition to Explores for Exchange, SharePoint, HP and NetApp snapshots as well as U-AIR for all other applications)
  • Improved off-site recovery with major replication enhancements
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Free Stencils for VMware and Hyper-V

Veeam Software provides a free collection of VMware and Hyper-V virtualization Visio stencils that can be used by ESX administrators, system integrators and datacenter managers to create their own diagrams in Microsoft Visio 2003, 2007, 2010 or 2013 as part of your Hyper-V or VMware deployment planning.

Create detailed diagrams and gain valuable business insights.

Use the free Veeam Stencils for Microsoft Visio to create detailed diagrams in reports and gain valuable business insights, improve business process efficiency and customer experience as well as workflow and monitoring capabilities.

icons-for-stencils-2D-preview-larger

Veeam Stencils contains:

  • ESX and Hyper-V hosts
  • Datacenters
  • SCVMM
  • Local storage, shared storage
  • LUN
  • VMs with status sign
  • NICs
  • Networks and more!

Click here to head to Veeam and download.

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Free Training: vSphere Data Protection Advanced Fundamentals [V5.5]

Overview:

The FREE eLearning vSphere Data Protection Advanced Fundamentals course provides information about the vSphere Data Protection Advanced backup and recovery solution for virtual machines and describes the technologies it uses.

The course consists of the following self-paced modules:

vSphere Data Protection Advanced 5.5 Overview: This module provides information about the vSphere Data Protection Advanced backup and recovery solution for virtual machines. It also includes demonstrations of vSphere Data Protection Advanced features.

vSphere Data Protection Advanced 5.5 Configuration and Administration: This module explains deployment considerations, installation, and configuration best practices for vSphere Data Protection Advanced. It also includes deployment and configuration demonstrations.

Add to myEnrollments
Course Description

Self-Paced (2 Hours)

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Free Whitepapers/Training from Veeam Software!

The great folks over at Veeam have gathered up some great content and I wanted to share it with my readers. The free VCP5 study guide is a great one for anybody looking to find extra material to obtain the VCP credential!

Cheers! -Ryan

Hands-on Guide: Understanding Hyper-V in Windows Server 2012
By Brien Posey, with additional chapters from Pete Zerger and Chris Henley (white paper, 391 pages)

The Hands-on Guide is an essential and practical step-by-step guide for IT pros interested in server virtualization technology based on Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V. Written to help readers get the most from their virtual environment, topics include:

  • How to install and deploy Windows Server 2012 and Hyper-V 3.0
  • How to manage Hyper-V and virtual machines
  • How to configure Hyper-V clustering, VM migrations and failover rules and Hyper-V replication, plus and much more

VMware vSphere 5.5 & Windows Server 2012 R2: What’s NEW with Veeam?
By Jose Mendoza and Shawn Lieu (video, duration 1:16:54)

Watch this training video led by two Veeam experts and learn what’s new in VMware vSphere 5.5 and Windows Server 2012 R2, Understand how Veeam Backup & Replication v7 R2 takes advantage of the most recent hypervisor innovations.

Free VCP5-DCV and VCAP5-DCA Study Guides
By Jason Langer and Josh Coen (white papers, 136 and 248 pages, accordingly)

These unofficial VMware certification self-study guides will help you prepare for the following exams:

  • VMware Certified Professional 5 – Data Center Virtualization (VCP5-DCV)
  • VMware Certified Advanced Professional 5 – Data Center Administration (VCAP5-DCA)

After passing the VCP5-DCV and VCAP5-DCA exams, you’ll be certified and get more recognition for your VMware knowledge and practical skills.

Advanced VM SQL Server Backup & Recovery
By Rick Vanover (video, duration 51:42)

The virtualization SQL server has always been a complicated topic because it handles such a critical workload. VMware vExpert Rick Vanover discusses:

  • When it’s better to virtualize the SQL server
  • How to correctly backup and restore the virtualized SQL server
  • Which SQL server restore situations are addressed by Veeam

Watch this 1-hour video here for deeper insight into SQL server virtualization, backup and restore

Annual Data Protection Report 2013: Enterprise and SMB editions

A survey of 500 enterprises and 500 SMB companies across the USA, the UK, Germany and France

This report helps track the progress of data-protection strategies for virtual environments in SMB- and enterprise-level organizations. The survey was conducted among 1,000 CIOs or IT heads by an independent market-research organization, and participants came from different sectors and industries.

Key findings in 2013:

  • 85% of SMBs were experiencing backup and recovery cost-related challenges, 83% were experiencing capability-related challenges and 80% were experiencing complexity-related challenges
  • Almost a third of SMBs’ virtual infrastructures were unprotected
  • 68% of enterprises felt that their backup and recovery tools would eventually become less effective as the amount of data and servers in their organizations continues to increase.

Veeam Backup & Replication v7: A VMware Architect’s Favorite Features
By Joep Piscaer (white paper, 28 pages)

Version 7 of Veeam Backup & Replication includes 50+ enhancements and updates. Two innovations include backups from Storage snapshots and built-in WAN acceleration, which help Veeam users to significantly improve RPOs and remove obstacles to offsite backup. In this technical deep-dive, VMware vExpert Joep Piscaer discusses:

  • 2 innovations: Backups from storage snapshots and built-in WAN acceleration
  • 7 new features: Native tape support, virtual labs for replicas, vSphere Web Client plug-in and more
  • 50+ other updates
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