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  • A Look Inside Webster’s Lab – July 2013

    January 8, 2013


    July 2013

    Every now and then, people ask me about the lab environment I use to write my articles, answer questions on Experts Exchange, and study for Citrix certification exams.  This article will show you what is in my lab.

    Everyone should have a lab, even if it consists of free virtualization software running on a laptop with minimal RAM.  Even a simple lab setup will allow you to install and test software to enhance your skills and knowledge.  My current lab is the continued growth of the first lab I started in 1998 to study for Microsoft NT4 certification exams.  That original lab consisted of separate physical servers and workstations for installing all the various Microsoft, Novell, and Linux operating systems.  There are five physical servers running XenServer that allow me to install and run many different operating systems.  The equipment in the lab consists of:

    • 1 Synology NAS
    • 1 Dell Managed Switch
    • 7 Lab Servers
    • 1 Writing PC
    • 1 MacBook Pro
    • 1 Windows 8 Laptop
    • 1 Apple iPad

    In previous articles on my lab setup, I had several large tower servers.  My local utility has gone to time-of-day billing, making it expensive to run the servers during the day.  Plus, the servers generated LOTS of heat.  I sold all the old servers and PCs and replaced them all with small form factor computers.  I also renovated my office closet and turned it into a “server room”.  I had a dedicated 20amp circuit and outlets run, and an additional A/C vent runs into the new server room.  My HVAC technician placed a thermostat in the server room so that when the temperature rises above 75, it turns on the fan to the main A/C unit to begin circulating cool air into the server room.

    Synology NAS:

    I bought a Synology DS412+ off the recommendation of one of my Active Directory mentors, Andrew S. Baker.

    I installed four Western Digital 2TB Enterprise drives (Model WD2003FYYS) in a Synology Hybrid RAID configuration.

    This NAS has two NICs that are configured in an 802.3ad LACP bond.  The Synology unit actually uses both NICs for traffic, unlike the QNAP, which only used one NIC at a time.

    I was able to simultaneously create five VMs using the same Windows Server 2008 R2 ISO.

    Dell PowerConnect 5424 Managed Switch:

    I bought this switch from the recommendation of Claudio Rodrigues.  I found one on eBay for around $200 and bought it from:

    Austin Nutter
    2152 Citygate Dr.
    Columbus Ohio 43219
    P: (614) 847-0400
    F: (614) 847-1112
    Email –

    Being new to managed switches, I had help from Jarian Gibson and Andrew Baker on getting it configured properly.

    Here is a picture of the Synology NAS, the Dell Switch, and the three APC UPS units in my “server room”.

    Figure 1
    Figure 1

    Lab Servers Group 1:

    All lab servers were ordered from  I e-mailed ServersDirect, gave them my specifications, and they custom-built the servers for me.  If you are interested, contact:

    Andy Sun
    Server Solutions Consultant
    TEL: 800-576-7931 ext. 205
    New Direct Line: 909-839-6605
    FAX: 877-391-6656

    The two servers in group 1 system components are:

    • Supermicro 731i-300B Mid-Tower 4x 3.5″ tool-less HDD trays with 300Watt Power Supply
    • Supermicro X10SLL-F Server Board
    • Intel Xeon E3-1245 V3 Haswell 3.4GHz (3.8GHz Turbo) 8MB L3 Cache LGA 1150 84W Quad-Core Server Processor
    • Supermicro SNK-P0046A4 2U Active-Heatsink
    • 16GB Kingston KVR16E11/8 8GB 1600MHz DDR3 ECC CL11 DIMM w/TS
    • Crucial M500 2.5″ 120GB SSD CT120M500SSD1 7MM SATA3 6Gb SSD
    • Lite-On Black 24X DVD-RW SATA CD/DVD Burner

    Both servers run in headless mode.  These two servers run HyperV 3 on Windows Server 2012 Datacenter.  These servers will run all the System Center once I get it figured out.

    Lab Servers Group 2:

    • InWin IW-BL631.300BLP Slim Desktop Chassis with 300W Power Supply
    • Intel DQ57TM Desktop Board
    • Intel Core i7-870 Lynnfield 2.93GHz 8MB L3 Cache LGA 1156 95W Quad-Core Processor
    • 16 GB Kingston 1333MHz DDR3 Non-ECC CL9 DIMM
    • Intel 320 Series 40GB SATAII SSD
    • Seagate ST3250312AS 250GB SATA 6GB/S 7200RPM 8MB
    • Lite-On 24X Dual Layer DVD+-RW SATA Drive Black

    All servers run in headless mode.  These two servers hold the Server 2012 Domain Controllers running under XenServer 6.2.

    Lab Servers Group 3:

    The three servers in group 3 system components are:

    • InWin IW-BL631.300BLP Slim Desktop Chassis with 300W Power Supply
    • Intel DQ77MK Desktop Board
    • Intel Core i7-2600 Sandy Bridge 3.4GHz (3.8GHz Turbo Boost) LGA 1155 95W Quad-Core Desktop Processor
    • 16 GB Kingston 1333MHz DDR3 Non-ECC CL9 DIMM
    • Intel 520 Series 120GB SATA6Gb/s SSD
    • Intel 520 Series 240GB SATA6Gb/s SSD
    • Lite-On 24X Dual Layer DVD+-RW SATA Drive Black

    All servers run in headless mode.  These three servers hold whatever virtual machines I am working with.  These currently run XenServer 6.2 but will be rebuilt with HyperV 3.

    The three groups of servers share two APC XS 1500 UPS.  The NAS and Switch have their own UPS.

    Here is a picture of the seven servers as best as I can get a picture in the confined space of the “server room”.

    Figure 2
    Figure 2

    The “server room” is so crowded with seven servers and three UPSes that it was hard to get an overall picture.  Here is the best shot I could get.

    Figure 3
    Figure 3

    Writing Station:

    This computer is used to do customer work, write articles, answer questions on Experts Exchange, study for certification exams, and run XenCenter to connect to the five lab servers.  This is also a computer bought from ServersDirect.

    • InWin IW-BL631.300BLP Slim Desktop Chassis with 300W Power Supply
    • Intel DQ67SWB3 Desktop Board
    • Intel Core i7-2600 Sandy Bridge 3.4GHz (3.8GHz Turbo Boost) LGA 1155 95W Quad-Core Desktop Processor
    • 16 GB Kingston 1333MHz DDR3 Non-ECC CL9 DIMM
    • Intel 320 Series 300GB SATA II
    • Two Crucial m4 256GB SATA 6Gb/s SSD )
    • Lite-On 24X Dual Layer DVD+-RW SATA Drive Black
    • Seagate FreeAgent External 1TB USB3 Drive )
    • Three Dell UltraSharp U2410 24” Displays )
    • Unicomp Classic 104 Keyboard [aka The World’s Loudest Keyboard] (

    The software used on this computer:

    Carbonite has saved me a couple of times.  Most recently, when the main SSD died and had to be replaced.  Crucial replaced the drive with no hassles.  I installed the replacement SSD and used Carbonite to restore files with absolutely nothing lost.

    Dropbox is what I use to share PDFs and PowerShell scripts.  I still have not been given access to my CTP ShareFile access, so I stick with Dropbox. [Update: I now use Citrix ShareFile]

    Evernote is used as my repository of notes, links, and info I need from any device.

    NeatDesk is a wonderful scanner.  I use it to scan all my receipts and legal papers.  It scans fast and is 99.999% accurate, even with business cards and double-sided documents.  I do not use NeatCloud as I think it is just way too expensive.

    PerfectIT is my most favorite utility.  It forces consistency on long documents.  I don’t write without it.

    SecureCRT is to connect to the console of all my XenServer hosts, switch, and NAS.  SecureCRT makes it easy to capture screenshots for my articles.

    Figure 4
    Figure 4

    MacBook Pro:

    Almost every customer’s Citrix Farm I have worked on in the last several years has Mac clients.  I was tired of having to tell customers that I knew nothing about Macs.  In January 2009, I finally bought a 15” MacBook Pro and loved it.  In October 2010, I upgraded to a 17” MacBook Pro.  In July 2012, I upgraded to a 15” MacBook Pro with Retina Display, 16GB RAM, and 768GB SSD.

    The software currently being used:

    • OS X 10.8 (Mountain Lion)
    • Camtasia for Mac 2.3
    • Carbonite
    • Citrix Receiver for Mac V11.8
    • Dropbox
    • Evernote
    • Microsoft Office 2010 for Windows
    • Parallels Desktop 8 for Mac
    • Snapz Pro X 2.5.1

    Windows 8 Laptop:

    I bought this little laptop to use for PowerPoint presentations.  It runs Windows 8, PowerPoint 2010, and nothing else.  I bought it at a close-out sale at a local electronics store.

    • ASUS X202E
    • Intel Core i3 1.8GHz processor
    • 4GB RAM
    • 11-inch Touchscreen
    • 500GB hard drive
    • Classic Shell set to boot to desktop to bypass that horrid Metro Start screen
    • Enough battery life to last through giving four Briforum sessions!

    Apple iPad:

    It is an iPad3 64GB 4G/WiFi model.

    Main apps:

    • Carbonite
    • Citrix Receiver for iOS 5.7.1
    • Dropbox
    • Evernote

    Before you leave, I have one other picture for you.  Everyone who follows me on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook should know about my bud Simon (Sir Simon of Searcy is his registered AKC name).  Simon is a hard-core extreme daddy’s boy!  He wants to be with me almost all of the time.  He sits on my desk and moves from left to right to left to middle to the right repeated all day long.  He is constantly laying his head down on my mouse, on my keyboard, and every time he moves, his hips hit the power switch on a monitor and turn it off.  As much as I love that boy, he can make it hard to get work done at times.  So I finally rearranged my office and have given him his own table.  I put his mat and his puppy blanket on the table, and now he is happy and should no longer get in the way of my productivity.

    Figure 5
    Figure 5
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    About Carl Webster

    Webster is a Sr. Solutions Architect for Choice Solutions, LLC and specializes in Citrix, Active Directory and Technical Documentation. Webster has been working with Citrix products for many years starting with Multi-User OS/2 in 1990.

    View all posts by Carl Webster

    4 Responses to “A Look Inside Webster’s Lab – July 2013”

    1. 01004753 Says:

      Hi Carl,
      Take a look at XPEnology and play with it. You’ll like it and thank me later 🙂



    2. ASB Says:

      Thanks for the kind words, Carl. Glad to see your configuration.

      I’m still working on my website and my network upgrade, but I’ll post them once I’ve finished. 🙂


    3. Igor Says:

      Hey Carl,

      Nice setup, really impressed.




    4. Neil Spellings Says:

      Great article Webster!

      Looks like you’ve chosen similar hardware to my own:

      Love the QNAP NAS boxes!




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