A Look Inside Webster’s Lab – August 2017
Every now and then, people ask me about the lab environment. This article will give you an update on what is in my lab since the December 2016 article.
I believe 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. Now there are four physical servers running either XenServer or vSphere that allow me to install and run many different operating systems. The equipment in the lab consists of:
- 1 Synology NAS DS412+ with spinning disks
- 1 Synology NAS DS1515+ all SSD
- 2 Western Digital 6TB External USB hard drives
- 1 Ubiquiti 48-port Managed Switch
- 5 Lab Servers
- 1 Writing PC
- 1 MacBook Pro
- 2 Windows 10 Laptops
- 1 Microsoft Surface Pro 4
- 1 Apple iPad Pro
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 runs into the new server room.
Synology NAS #1:
I installed four Western Digital 2TB Enterprise drives (Model WD2003FYYS) in a Synology Hybrid RAID configuration.
This NAS is now only used for backups and my ever-growing ISO repository.
This NAS has two NICs that are independent.
With spinning disks, I could never get more than five VMs to “run” at a time. And running five VMs was painful and basically useless.
With the kindness of people who donated to a fundraising campaign started by “Young Squirt” Shane Kleinert, I purchased another NAS.
Synology NAS #2:
With the budget I had from Shane’s fundraising efforts, I upgraded all my lab servers from spinning disks to SSDs and bought a Synology DS1515+ NAS.
This NAS has five Crucial MX300 1TB SSDs and I upgraded it to 6GB RAM.
The NAS has four 1Gb network ports. One is used for management and the other three are bonded for speed.
With all SSDs, I can run 19 VMs and have all 19 VMs respond in a decent way.
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.
Ubiquiti 48-port Managed Switch:
I ran out of ports on the previous HP unmanaged switch so, on the advice of Jarian Gibson, I bought the UniFi Switch 48.
Here is a picture of the Switch, the two NAS units, and their 6TB external drives.
Lab Server Group 1:
This new server replaces the original three servers.
The new lab server was ordered from TinkerTry.Com/WiredZone.com. I e-mailed Bruno at WiredZone, gave him my specifications and he custom built the server for me. If you are interested, contact:Bruno
(888) 343-1311 ext 222
The new server runs XenServer 7.2 in headless mode.
- 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 120GB SSD (reused from a previous server)
- Quantity 2 – Intel 520 Series 240GB SSD (reused from a previous server)
This server runs the main Lab domain controller, SQL server, and Windows 10 management PC. All VMs run from local SSD since there is only one server and no need to use XenMotion. The 10 GbE ports are bonded for VMs and the 1 GbE ports are bonded for management.
Lab Servers Group 2:
The four servers in group 2 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
- 32GB Kingston KVR16E11/8 8GB 1600MHz DDR3 ECC CL11 DIMM w/TS
- Crucial M500 2.5″ 120GB SSD CT120M500SSD1 7MM SATA3 6Gb SSD
- Crucial MX300 2.5″ 525GB SSD CT525MX300SSD1 7MM SATA3 6GB SSD
- Lite-On Black 24X DVD-RW SATA CD/DVD Burner
All servers run in headless mode. Three servers run vSphere 6.5 U1 and the other runs Windows Server 2012 R2 and vCenter 6.5 U1.
The VMware licenses come courtesy of VMware’s Guru Licensing program that VMware now also makes available to CTPs.
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 7.2.
- 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
I added the additional 250GB SSD so later I can play with Nutanix Community Edition as it requires two drives in the system.
The three groups of servers, the two NAS units, the two external drives, and the switch share four APC XS 1500 UPS.
Here is a picture of the servers as best as I can get a picture in the confined space of the “server room”.
The “server room” is now so crowded with seven servers and four UPSes that it was hard to get an overall picture. Here 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 vSphere client to connect to the lab servers. This computer was bought from TinkerTry.
- SYS-5028D-TN4T / SUPER Mini Tower Intel Xeon processor D-1540
- 64GB DDR4 PC4-17000 (2133MHz) 288-pin RD
- SAMSUNG Hard Drive 1TB SSD SATA 6Gb/s 2.5in
- Visiontek 7750 3M 2GB DDR3 4K – UHD 3 monitors
I added the following:
- Three ASUS PB278Q 27″ monitors
- Crucial MX300 1TB SSD
- Crucial MX300 240GB SSD
- Western Digital 2TB external USB3 drive
- Logitech Wireless MK710 keyboard and M705 mouse
- Logitech Wireless Headset
The software used on this computer:
- Microsoft Windows 10 Pro x64
- Adobe Acrobat DC Professional
- Beyond Compare
- Devolutions Remote Desktop Manager
- Dropbox [Update: I now use Citrix ShareFile]
- Notepad++ (what I use for all my PowerShell scripting)
- Office 2016 and Visio 2013
- PerfectIt Pro 3 (My most important writing tool)
- VMware Workstation 12.5
- vSphere web client (YUCK!!!)
Dropbox is what I use to share PDFs and PowerShell scripts. [Update: I now use Citrix ShareFile]
OneNote 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.
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 Receiver.
The software currently being used:
- OS X 10.12 (macOS Sierra)
- Citrix Receiver for Mac V12.5
- Microsoft Office 2016
Windows Laptop #1:
I bought this little laptop just to use for PowerPoint presentations. It runs Windows 10, 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
- 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 Precision M4800
- Intel Core i7-4800MQ Processor (quad-core, 6MB cache, 2.7Ghz)
- 32GB RAM
- 500GB Solid State Hybrid drive
- Crucial M500 1TB SSD
- Crucial 240GB mSATA SSD
The main software is Notepad++, VMware Workstation 12.5, and Office 2016.
Apple iPad Pro:
This is an iPad Pro 128GB 4G/WiFi model. Mainly used for Twitter, Facebook, Netflix, email, and testing for customers.
Microsoft Surface Pro 4:
Learning to really like this device. 8GB RAM and 256GB storage. Runs Windows 10 and Office 2016. Mainly used for OneNote and drawing and writing notes.
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. So I finally rearranged my office and have given him his own table. I put his pillow and blanket on the table and now he is happy and should no longer get in the way of my productivity.
Simon is a Bichon Frise and will be 12-years old on Halloween 2017.