Tag Archives: #OpenHomeLab

The Home Lab

Automated Deployment in the HomeLab- Part 1

I’m commencing a project with my HomeLab- I’m going to build a system whereby I can produce custom mini-lab environments by means of a script. There are off the shelf solutions to do this (see AutoLab as an example) but if I build this myself I get something tailored exactly to my needs (and available resources) and hopefully learn something along the way- which is what the HomeLab is all about really. This is the first post in what should develop into a series showing how I work through the process to create my automation system.

 

The Aims

a.k.a. what I want to achieve

  • ExampleMiniLabThe ability to run a script to deploy a predefined lab environment. For example running “Build-Project-Lab-One.ps1” makes 3 Windows Server VMs, connected on a private switch, with one running AD/DNS/DHCP roles, one acting as a Gateway, and one ready for whatever experiment I throw at it
  • The ability to quickly and easily modify a copy of that script to produce a lab with a different configuration. Then I can have a script that builds me a WDS platform, or another one that produces a SCOM test environment. I can use this library to quickly rebuild, or build a copy of, and of my environments within the HomeLab
  • This script should also create a second script for decommissioning  /destroying the lab environment when I’ve finished.
  • Whilst perhaps not meeting full “production” standards, the scripts should be at least in a state whereby I can post them online and not have to hide in a cave for the next decade whilst they get laughed at.

 

The Resources

a.k.a. what I have to play with

  • One Intel NUC host running vSphere ESXi 6 providing some compute, memory, storageIntel NUC
  • One VMUG Advantage Subscription complete with VMware EVAL Experience licensing- this provides VMware vCenter amongst other things.
  • One Microsoft DreamSpark Subscription and Microsoft Evaluation Licensing (see “Microsoft Licensing” on the Open Homelab Project for details on how to get these)
  • Me with my knowledge of Windows, vSphere, PowerShell, PowerCLI, and how to Google for stuff.
  • The community who not only kindly put content up on the internet for me to Google for but also are there for me to tweet, slack, and (shock, horror) talk to when I encounter problems or lose direction.

 

The Plan

a.k.a. How I’m hoping to achieve those aims with those resources.

To do all this I’m starting out by preparing a vSphere template of Windows Server 2012R2. I can deploy this- with customisations- using PowerCLI to form the building blocks of the lab environment. Once I have Windows VMs deployed I need to be able to configure them- this is where PowerShell remoting will come in handy- I can deploy roles and features and do some basic configuration. I’ll put together a PowerShell function to do all that. This function can then be re-used in the script to deploy multiple VMs with different configurations. For example:

CreateVM "Server1" $TemplateName $CustomizationSpec "Web-Server"
CreateVM "Server2" $TemplateName $CustomizationSpec "WDS"

I’ll use PowerCLI to deploy a private network within the Hypervisor and connect the VMs to it. This method will also be used to configure the connections to the gateway -one NIC pointing at the private switch and one at the internet-facing vSwitch already in place.

Some more in-depth PowerShell (possibly also arranged into reusable functions) to do the in-depth configuration of the roles. For example, when the script completes I want the Active Directory to be up and running, the Gateway providing an internet connection to the VMs, the VMs getting IP addresses from the lab DHCP and domain-joined. Basically I want to be able to run the script, make a brew, and come back and find a fully configured system ready to go.

 

Coming Soon- Part 2, full of scripting goodness.


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The Open HomeLab Project

Open Homelab ProjectIf you run a HomeLab, or have ever considered setting one up, you should check out the new Open HomeLab Project. This is a new wiki-based initiative to collect together information on the Home Lab ecosystem for newbies and hardened enthusiasts alike.

The Project was kicked off by Alex Galbraith following the London VMUG event in April and in the build up to today’s public launch a team has been busy collating together plenty of information on the uses, costs, hardware, and software of a HomeLab. If you’re learning about IT infrastructure and want somewhere to experiment, or if you just feel the need for a semi-enterprise IT environment in your house or garage, then there’s something here for you and the project would love to have input on what you’re up to.

I’m a relative newcomer to the “proper” HomeLab scene, having started in earnest back in January (check out my HomeLab series here), but found myself as one of the founding members of the project and have already been able to contribute some content from my experiences. This is proof that this can be a real community driven resource- you don’t need to be a multi-qualified VCDX, MCP wielding enterprise architect to be able to participate and share your knowledge and experience with others.

The site is now in a public Alpha, so here’s your chance to get in early. Go and have a look, peruse, and add content: http://openhomelab.org/

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London VMUG April 2016 (Part 2)

Last week was the second London VMware User Group of 2016– and I came away with so many notes I couldn’t justify just squeezing them all into one post. So, check out Part 1 here if you haven’t already and what to know what happened in the morning.

From the agenda I chose to start my afternoon with a look at VMware Virtual Volumes (VVOLs) and how they fit with the offerings from Nimble Storage. Nick Dyer ran through the company background and an overview of their products. One of these was InfoSight Predictive Analytics, this cloud based analytics solution collects data from across Nimble’s entire install base which not only allows them to use your own data to help spot problems and improve performance with your own infrastructure but also the other customers’.

On the VMware front he discussed how VVols abstracts away from the datastore model, allowing the storage vendor to present their capabilities directly up to the virtualisation level using VASA 2.0 technology. A VM is assigned a storage policy and therefore can be hosted on the most appropriate storage at a very granular level- this can affect not only the performance tier the data is placed on but also things like the volume encryption requirements.

Open Homelab Project

Coming Soon…..

After the afternoon break in the (Not Quite on the) Thames Suite we had a round(ish)table discussion about HomeLabs chaired by Alex Galbraith. I’ve mentioned in other posts that the London VMUG community set me on my HomeLab path, and this was a great chance to see what other people were doing and to exchange ideas. There’s a whole range of systems out there, from things like my small NUC-based deployment right through to people with racks of blades in their garden sheds. There are also those using or looking at hybrid or full cloud solutions to exchange that Capex for Opex, although if you turn that under-bed datacentre off you’ll need to heat your house more conventionally in winter . I thoroughly enjoyed this session and it already looks like it will lead to further community discussion and resources – keep your eyes peeled on #OpenHomeLab for more.

My last session of the day was with Neil Andrew from VMware who talked about vRealize Business. A mention of some of the features that morning had piqued my interest, and it’s was great to have this timely opportunity to delve deeper into the technology on offer.

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vRealize Business can help answer those questions such as “How much is a VM costing me?” and “Is it cheaper to relocate this to a cloud provider?”. Although real Chargeback is potentially tricky to implement fully in many organisations, I could see how the idea of Showback is quite achievable and could not only help plan (re)deployments of existing services but also be a valuable tool in planning the budgets for new ones. The customer (internal or external) can be given a real cost of the infrastructure they are requesting, rather than a piecemeal hardware/ licenses/ manpower/ environment/ etc. cost usually calculated on a difficult to maintain spreadsheet.

After the closing statements, and the prize giveaways (including a rather awesome prize of an Anki Overdrive kit from PernixData) we adjourned to the 10-Zig sponsored vBeers where the technical discussions continued.

There’s another London VMUG in a couple of months, and dates for 2017 are already booked in. See you there?

London VMUG dates

Upcoming London VMUG dates