A Look Inside Webster’s Lab – August 2019
This is the 8th major update to Webster’s Lab since I started this website in November 2008. This write-up will attempt to include more detail that you have asked for.
As of August 2019, there are now seven physical servers running XenServer that allow me to install and run many different operating systems. I tried for months o get VMware vSphere 6.5 or 6.7 installed but never got past installing vCenter (VCSA).
The equipment in the lab consists of:
- 1 Synology NAS DS1817 with eight 1TB SSDs
- 1 Synology NAS DS1817+ with eight 1TB SSDs
- 2 Western Digital 6TB External USB hard drives
- 1 NetGear 48-port Managed 10Gig switch
- 7 Lab Servers
- 1 Writing PC
- 1 MacBook Pro
- 2 Windows 10 Laptops
- 1 Apple iPad Pro 10.5 inch
- 1 iGel UD7 Thin Client
- 1 iGel UD Pocket
In previous articles on my lab setup, I had several large tower servers. My local utility has gone to time-of-day billing which made 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 two dedicated 20amp circuits and outlets run and an additional A/C vent run into the new server room.
Most of this lab equipment is not free. iGel sent me two evaluation pieces for the lab and some money comes from donations. All donations made for the scripts and money from the advertisers are used for lab equipment.
Synology NAS #1:
Synology 1817 NAS.
This NAS is used for backups and my ever-growing ISO repository.
This NAS was upgraded to 8GB RAM and has seven Crucial MX300 1TB SSDs configured in Synology Hybrid RAID and one Crucial MX500 1TB for SSD Cache, as shown in Figure 1.
The NAS has two 1Gb network ports that are not used.
There are two 10Gb network ports configured in a bond for performance, as shown in Figure 2.
Synology NAS #2:
Synology 1817+ NAS. I just bought the 1817+ not too long ago and it has already been replaced by the 1819+.
This NAS is used for lab Virtual Machine (VM) disks.
This NAS was upgraded to 16GB RAM and I added a Synology 10Gb Ethernet Adapter with 2 RJ45 Ports. There are eight Crucial MX500 1TB SSDs configured in Synology Hybrid RAID, as shown in Figure 3.
The NAS has four 1Gb network ports that are not used.
There are two 10Gb network ports configured in a bond for performance, as shown in Figure 4.
Western Digital 6TB External USB Drives:
With all the stuff that is now stored on the two Synology devices, I needed to make sure everything on them was backed up.
The two WD 6TB drives are configured to use the Synology Hyper Backup utility to back up all shared folders and LUNs on a daily schedule.
NETGEAR 48-port Managed 10Gb Switch:
One of the newest additions to the lab is a NETGEAR XS748T 10Gig switch.
This switch has really sped things up in the lab. All of the lab servers have 10G NICs along with both Synology NAS units. My Writing PC also has 10G NICs and it is also connected to this switch.
The switch, the two NAS units, and their 6TB external drives are shown in Figure 5.
The blue cables are 1Gb server connections, the black cables are 1Gb IPMI server connections, the white cables are 10Gb connections, and the two green cables are the uplinks to the Internet router and the Writing PC.
Lab Server Group 1:
The lab servers were ordered from TinkerTry.Com/WiredZone.com. I e-mailed Bruno at WiredZone, gave him my specifications and he custom built the servers for me. If you are interested, contact:Bruno
(888) 343-1311 ext 222
The servers run XenServer 7.6 in headless mode.
- 5028D-TN4T Mini Tower Intel Xeon processor D-1567 12-Core System-on-Chip
- 64GB DDR4 PC4-19200 (2400MHz) 288-pin RDIMM ECC Registered
- Dual 10 GbE – bonded for VM traffic
- Dual 1 GbE – bonded for management
- Samsung 970 EVO 500GB – NVMe
- Samsung SSD 860 EVO 1TB 2.5 Inch SATA III Internal SSD
All VMs run from local SSD since I never use XenMotion on these VMs. The 10 GbE ports are bonded for VMs and the 1 GbE ports are bonded for management.
I run my permanent VMs (all running Windows Server 2019) on XenServer as shown in Figure 6.
Lab Servers Group 2:
These four servers were also purchased from Bruno at WiredZone.com.
The servers in Group 2 system components are:
- 5028D-TN4T Mini Tower Intel Xeon processor D-1541 8-Core System-on-Chip
- 64GB DDR4 PC4-19200 (2400MHz) 288-pin RDIMM ECC Registered
- Dual 10 GbE
- Dual 1 GbE
- Intel 520 Series 240GB SSD (reused from a previous server)
- Samsung 970 EVO 500GB – NVMe
All servers run in headless mode.
Right now, all servers run XenServer 7.6. I tried for over six months to get every version of vSphere 6.5 and 6.7 to work on these servers and failed every time. The server components are on the HCL and the two Synology NAS units are on the HCL, but I could not get vCenter to work. I could get VMs created with just ESXi, but as soon as I installed vCenter, I could not get any created VMs to work. I received the error shown in Figure 7.
I sent log files to Synology support and they say the issue is on the VMware side. If you would like to spend some time on a Saturday helping me get the latest version of vSphere/vCenter 6.7 working on these servers, I would appreciate it. For these servers, I would rather run vSphere than XenServer.
Sorry if I offend my XenServer friends but I find vSphere and VAAI compatible storage (Synology is) to be MUCH faster at creating Machine Catalogs than XenServer. In order to get work done in the lab, I simply MUST use vSphere for creating my Machine Catalogs. In my simple testing, vSphere 6.x was a minimum of 8 times faster than XenServer 7.x at creating the machines for a catalog.
Lab Servers Group 3:
I bought two Intel NUCs specifically for testing PVS Accelerator with XenServer 7.1 at the time. These now run XenServer 7.6.
- Intel Core i7-6770HQ 2.6 – 3.5 GHz Quad-Core Processor
- Intel Iris Pro Graphics 580
- 32GB DDR4-2133MHz SODIMM Memory (2 x 16GB)
- Sandisk 1TB M.2 SSD
- Samsung 850 EVO – 250GB – M.2 SATA III Internal SSD
The three groups of servers, the two NAS units, the two external drives, and switches share four APC XS 1500 UPS. Every piece of matching equipment is plugged into a different UPS.
The “server room” is now so crowded with nine servers and four UPSes that it was hard to get an overall picture. Figure 8 is the best shot I could get.
This computer is used for doing customer work, writing articles, answering questions on Experts Exchange, studying for certification exams and running XenCenter and (hopefully soon) the vSphere client to connect to the lab servers. This computer was bought from Dell.
- XPS 8930
- Intel(R) Core(TM) i9 9900K (8-Core/16-Thread, 16MB Cache, Overclocked up to 4.7GHz on all cores)
- 2TB PCIe SSD + 2TB 7200RPM HDD
- 64GB, DDR4, 2666MHz
- NVIDIA(R) GeForce(R) GTX 1080 8GB GDDR5X
I added the following:
- Three ASUS PB278Q 27″ monitors
- Western Digital 2TB external USB3 drive
- Logitech Wireless MK710 keyboard and M705 mouse
- ASUS XG-C100C 10G Network Adapter Pci-E X4 Card with Single RJ-45 Port
The software used on this computer:
- Microsoft Windows 10 Workstation x64
- Adobe Acrobat DC Professional
- Beyond Compare
- Devolutions Remote Desktop Manager
- Citrix ShareFile
- Grammarly Premium
- Notepad++ (what I use for all my PowerShell scripting)
- Office 2019
- PerfectIt Pro 4
- VMware Workstation 15.x
I use both Citrix ShareFile and Dropbox to share PDFs and PowerShell scripts.
A recent addition to the lab is a Realspace Magellan Performance Electric Height-Adjustable Wood Desk. This desk allows me to have preset sitting and standing positions. This allows me to not sit on my big fat lazy butt all day long. Simon doesn’t like it because he can no longer get behind the monitors and lay on the cables.
Almost every customer’s Citrix Farm I have worked on since 2008 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. I rarely use this device any longer. It is now used mainly for my huge iTunes music collection and testing customer issues with the Mac Workspace app.
The software currently being used:
- OS X 10.14.5 (macOS Mojave)
- Citrix Workspace app for Mac V19.6
Windows Laptop #1:
I bought this little laptop just to use for PowerPoint presentations. It runs Windows 10, PowerPoint 2016 and nothing else. I bought it on a close-out sale at a local electronics store.
- HP Model 14
- Intel Core i5 1.6GHz processor
- 8GB RAM
- 14-inch screen
- 500GB hard drive
- Enough battery life to last for about 7 hours
Windows Laptop #2:
I bought this laptop to allow me to do Active Directory, Group Policy, and scripting work at customer sites.
- Dell XPS 15 7590
- 9th Generation Intel(R) Core(TM) i9-9980HK (16MB Cache, up to 5.0 GHz, 8 cores)
- 32GB DDR4-2666MHz, 2x16G
- 2TB PCIe Solid State Drive
- NVIDIA(R) GeForce(R) GTX 1650 4GB GDDR5
- 15.6″ 4K UHD (3840 x 2160) InfinityEdge Anti-Reflective Touch IPS 100% AdobeRGB 500-Nits display
Main software is Notepad++, VMware Workstation 15.x and Office 2019.
Apple iPad Pro:
This is an iPad Pro 10.5 inch, 256GB 4G/WiFi model. Mainly used for Twitter, Facebook, Netflix, email, and testing for customers.
IGEL sent me a UD7 for the lab. I want to thank my fellow CTP Fellow Steve Greenberg and his company Thin Client Computing for providing me with the initial set of free product licenses. After Steve provided me with free licenses at his expense, I found out that because I work for an IGEL Platinum Partner, I could have gotten the licenses I needed at no cost from IGEL. Now I have two sets of licenses I can use with the UD7 and the two UD Pockets I was given at Citrix Synergy.
I love the IGEL company, its people, its software, and its hardware. If you are also an IGEL fan, make sure to join the free IGEL Slack Community.
Here is a picture of the UD7 and the three 17″ monitors I bought for it.
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 hardcore 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 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.
Simon is a Bichon Frise (aka Chick Magnet) and will be 14-years old on Halloween 2019. Simon is no longer in great health (he has several seizures a day) and now spends most of his time taking naps in the guest bedroom. When he comes to the lab, he sleeps on his pillow on the floor. I hope he makes it to his 14th birthday.
August 5, 2019