One of the most important tools I use day-to-day is my lab. Although I’m fortunate to have access to some shared lab resources at VMware, I still choose to maintain a dedicated home lab. I like to have the freedom to build it up, tear it down and configure it in any way I see fit.
I’ve had a few people ask me about my home lab recently, so I wanted to take a moment to share my setup. I’m not going to go too much into how I use the lab, or the software side of things but will stay focused on the hardware for now.
I’ve had several iterations of home lab over the years, but my most recent overhaul was done about two years ago in 2016. At that time, I had several goals in mind:
- To keep cost low. I chose mainly EOL, second hand hardware that was relatively inexpensive. I often looked for the ‘sweet spot’ to get the best performance for the dollar.
- To use server/workstation grade hardware wherever possible. I’ve had some mixed experiences with consumer grade equipment and prefer having IPMI and being able to run large amounts of registered ECC memory.
- Low noise. I really didn’t like the noise and heat generated by rackmount gear and tried to stick with custom-build server systems wherever possible.
- Power efficiency. Building custom machines with simple cooling systems allowed me to keep power consumption down. I also didn’t see the point of running the lab 24/7 and chose to automate power on and power off activities.
- Sized right. Although more RAM and compute power is always desirable, I tried to keep things reasonably sized to keep costs and power consumption down. I wanted to be able to have some flexibility, but would try to keep VMs sized smaller and power down what I didn’t need.
I’ll get more into each component, but here’s a summary:
- 1x Management Node (2x Xeon E5-2670, 96GB RAM)
- 3x Compute Nodes (Xeon X3440, 16GB RAM)
- 1x FreeNAS Server (Dell T110, Xeon 3430, 8GB RAM)
- 1x Raspberry Pi 3 Model B (Automation and remote access)
- Quanta LB6M 24 port 10Gbps Switch (24x SFP+ ports)
- D-link DGS-1210-16 Managed Switch (16x copper ports, 4x SFP)
- Cyber Power PFCLCD1500 UPS system
All of the equipment sits comfortably in a wire shelf/rack in a corner of my unfinished basement. Here it can stay nice and cool and the noise it generates doesn’t bother anyone.