I wanted to kick off this series with a brief look into the Whys and What for, for the home lab,  it seems in my view anyway that the last few months has seen either a resurgence or just generally more interest around the industry for the Home Lab.

This post is really an introduction and part of at least a 10 part series covering right from an introduction in where or why you might need or want a home lab to a deep dive into what I am doing with my own lab.

I hope to cover off the “Why I am doing this”?

My first resource and everyone should watch this – Building a Home Lab: The Mindset

First up is the Why

Why do we do it to ourselves… expensive initial outlay on cast off kit or even more outlay if you can get the budget for newer hardware. That’s not the only cost either, the running costs is a much bigger part of the operation, running any sort of commercial server in your house is going to cost you a fair bit of money.

The second task is finding this equipment and hardware, the compute, storage and networking.

Once you have gotten over the initial light headiness of how much this home lab is going to cost upfront and on going then it comes down to the detailed planning that we put ourselves through. The ability to take what we have learnt in our day job and create a full on home lab design as if it were just another customer.

If you are one of the lucky ones, (or stupid) then you have also invested in a rack system to house the hardware, once all that kit is delivered its time to get creative and place the equipment in the best possible location to avoid any unwanted heat, noise and movement, I mention movement and this will become clearer later on in the series, lets just say once you have 3-5 servers in a rack, there is no way you are moving that easily. Another consideration as part of the design and this stage is the free space you may or may not have, so organising Network Switches, Servers etc and potentially pre cabling before racking to avoid lots of movement later on. I for one have very little access to my equipment at the rear so pre populating USB boot disks and even a tertiary USB extension cable for each server that runs to the front of the rack is a life saver if you ever need it.

At this stage we have everything physically installed, Power Cables, Network Cables etc. Its then a case of deciding what are you going to use this expensive, warm and heavy resource for?

What For?

The next stages could form a spike in the road for some home lab users, it really depends on what the use case is for the lab.

Option 1 – lab is being used for demo purposes, training and testing. I believe a lot more care and attention needs to be taken with this option because you don’t want to have to rebuild anything on a regular basis because there are going to be times when testing, training and demos are going to be happening at the same time. However with this in mind you need to set the base system in the best possible way to begin with, something I will really dive into later on.

Option 2 – Using the Lab for training and testing, lots of people purchase labs for certification, to help them pass a test as well as a learning resource, I massively learn from the hands on approach, no good in a classroom situation and as much as I do get on with Online Video Training the hands on approach wins hands down for me.

Options 3 – the 3rd option I want to shine a light on is the demo rig, often this is going to be the Systems Engineers of the world at mostly vendors just to have their own demo rig that allows them to show their product but also means they have complete control of their demo lab over the corporate demo labs.

Don’t get me wrong those aren’t the only options and we could probably go on for days but I am pretty sure anyone reading that has a Home Lab would fall into one of those option buckets. Myself I fit into the Option 1 bucket, being able to get hands on with beta software or even just new to me software is priceless having a lab to be able to do this helps so much, but also being able to run a demolab that I can use to show my customers the value of the product we are selling, finally the ability to segregate some space and use for certification renewals again is priceless in my eyes and has paid for my home lab on its own.

But, having these 3 functions live on the same physical hardware, can make things tricky. Especially when my home lab is very much reliant on virtualisation and in particular VMware.  To keep these functions separate takes a lot of pre planning, something that I didn’t quite grasp when I first began the home lab journey. As well as the 3 mentioned above you also have your home network that you want to keep away from this.

Seperate Functions

Test – The ability to test software or maybe hardware, generally non persistant but will require resource and could be on for several days/weeks.
Demo – A clean environment, no errors unless required to show product value, But in my case an empty clean lab doesn’t do too much for the demo so I need to have this as a working lab as such. More to come on this.

Training – Similar to test, and some people would put training with test, but this will really come down to what are you training for? Different certifications require different timeframes and resource.

Home – When I refer to Home as a function, I mean this is everything within your house, Phones, Laptops, TVs, IoT, Streaming services. Again in parts this will share resources with your home lab but this needs to be planned accordingly, you do not want your wife not getting internet access to be able to check her facebook, remember the wife rules the overall Acceptance Factor when it comes to this lab. (WAF – Wife Acceptance Factor)

Hopefully that’s opened some ears and possibly given some ideas. The next post in the series is going to cover specifically around my own use case, Test, Demo and Train.

If you have any feedback for me please get in touch on the twitters @MichaelCade1

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