Building a Home Virtualisation Lab

So one of my tasks in the “day job” is to manage the redesign and upgrade of a small business network and infrastructure. Not exactly rocket science, but for anyone who has done so, you know there’s disruption, teething problems and gotchas. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to build and test as much as I can without interfering with the existing infrastructure? Well, with virtualisation it’s possible to do at least some of this. I play around with virtualisation quite a bit for my server infrastructure, not so much for internal office infrastructure.

So I thought to myself, why not build test servers and workstations to run on a hypervisor and vlan to take some of the inevitable headaches away. The office in question uses a Windows 10 peer to peer network with resources tied to the switch of hanging off physical machines. There is no Windows server at all. No internal DNS, DHCP or any of what one might come to expect in a web business. That’s right, whilst the network is small it would be a pain for a system administrator to have to sign in to each workstation to make simple changes. Administration would be so much easier with centralised control, reporting and resource management. Changing over to a domain based network would be the obvious first step.

Obviously I don’t want to replicate the entire network, but I would like to test out:

  • Server configs
  • Workstation configs
  • Failover
  • Resource Management
  • Resource Sharing
  • Resource Auditing
  • Asset Management
  • License Management
  • Backup Policies
  • Device configs (nas, ups, printers, etc)
  • Services, such as DNS, DHCP, etc.

One could at least cover much of this using a Windows server (two for failover) with configured domain and Active Directory and relevant services + a few workstations on a vlan connecting to the aforementioned domain.

First choice, what kind of virtualisation should we use? I use virtualbox, vmware and kvm quite a bit, provisioning with tools like Ansible, but this is mainly in the Linux sphere. But this does give me a bit of experience in virtualisation concepts and tools.

Which type of hypervisor, 1 or 2? Well, 1 would be the obvious choice with it’s one less layer of abstraction, but I want to be able to run all of this at home, where I have one suitable PC only, and that PC is my personal workstation. The system will only be run when I’m working on tests and configuration so a type-2 would have to do as I do not want another large box in my small home office. It’s full of tech already! So EXSI, VSphere, etc, was out.

Hyper-V has alot of benefits in the Windows world, but the network will have quite a few Linux boxes. Whilst still possible I steered away as I’m not overly familiar with Hyper-V.

Vbox or VMware? hmmm, I like both, but I ever so slightly prefer VMware Workstation Pro and have had slightly more reliability with it – though this could be because I am more familiar with this tool when working in Windows. So Workstation Pro it is! The workstation has an i7 and 20GB of RAM + enough space to store all that’s needed on a secondary SATA SSD drive.


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