Homelabs: It's evolution, baby

A discourse is going on in the community. I can’t say who has started the discourse, but the number of blog postings to this discourse is an indication for the interest at this topic. But what’s the topic?


A homelab is the datacenter of the poor man. Some people have the luck to use a fully populated data center for test and study purposes. Our job requires to work with the latest technology and products, so we need an environment for test- and study purposes. Back in the days it was sufficient to have some VMs on you computer or laptop. But as virtualization moved into the data center, it was necessary to have this in the lab. At this point homelabs began to explode.

Why homelabs began to explode?

Lets assume that you wish to play with VMware vSphere. Playing with a single host is lame. So you need at least two hosts to build a cluster. If you want to use the cool features like HA, vMotion, DRS etc., you need shared Storage. Virtulization without VMs is also lame. So you need some CPU power and memory. Wow. At least two hosts and a shared storage. That escalated quickly… Okay, lets look at Microsoft Hyper-V. Mhh… at least two hosts and a shared storage if you seriously want to work with it. Now you have two options:

  • Physical Equipment
    • real server HW
    • Whitebox HW
  • Nested Enviroment

Physical HW has some benefits, because nothing is shared or virtualized. If it’s server HW, the chance is high that it’s on the HCL and you will not face issuses due to unsupported HW. But there are disadvantages: Think about space and power consumption, heat or the WAF (Wife Acceptance Factor - higher is better). Real server HW will violate requirements to space and power consumption, heat and WAF. You can go for whitebox HW, which means that you build your own server out of different components, that are not necessarily supported. But it’s cheap (if I look at Franks and Eriks homelabs this is not necessarily true…), you can focus on power consumption, noise and WAF. But what if you get in trouble because the HW is unsupported? What if HW currently works, but with the next release of VMware ESXi or Microsoft Hyper-V not? You can skip dedicated HW and go for nested environments. In this case you virtualize virtualization environments. Sounds spooky? Yes, sometimes it is. And it has some disadvantages, especially in case of performance or things that simply didn’t work (VMware FT with 64 bit guests). But it’s easy, and that is a big advantage. All you need is VMware Workstation, Fusion or ESXi and AutoLab. An awesome source for nested environments is virtuallyGhetto, William Lams blog.

The “scientific” discourse

There are some really nice blog posts came up in the last days. Take a look into the comments section!

Frank Denneman - vSphere 5.5 Home lab Erik Bussink - The homelab shift… Erik Bussink - Homelab 2014 upgrade Vladan SEGET - vSphere Homelabs in 2014 – scale up or scale out?

It’s evolution, baby…

… and sometimes there are different, at the same time extending developments. Time will show which architecture will make the race. I chose server equipment, because due to some circumstances I came to four HP ProLiants. But I will not run them at home. ;)