Like many of us in the virtualization field, I wanted to have a home lab accessible to me anytime I wanted. This led me down the the road of visiting Amazon and piecing together a “white box” server with the intention of buying another one in a few months.. A few months went on and I never purchased that additional server. I realized three things, A) servers are loud, B) servers use a good amount of power and C) I was never going to be able to keep up with ever changing hardware. The power was the kicker for me. When the server was powered on all month, my electric bill averaged about $30-40 more a month. When I received the first electric bill, I began turning the server off when I wasn’t using it. I then realized I was bugging my wife to turn it on for me multiple times a month. It was a never ending game of “is the server on”. There was no way I was going to purchase another one..
What do I use my lab for you ask? I mostly use it to study for VCP / VCAP / VCIX exams, as well as building out designs and testing those designs before taking them out to a customer.
Which led me down the path of a nested lab, hosted in vCloud Air OnDemand. There are many reason that led me down this path A) I didn’t have to worry about keeping up with the hardware, B) I didn’t have a constant HUM in my garage C) I would never have 100GB of RAM laying around or 4TB of storage and D) I can spin up multiple virtual datacenters all over the US to test features such as cross-vcenter migrations.
So how did I do it? Follow along to find out
Register and activate your vCloud Air OnDemand Account
At the time I originally spun up my vCloud Air Lab, they were offering 300 hours free (additional bonus) – you can register for an account on VMware’s vCloud site. Once you have registered an account, you can log into the vCloud account by going to the vCloud login site. Once you are logged in, you will be ready to consume those OnDemand resources.
Click on “Virtual Private Cloud OnDemand” and then select the region that you would like to have your environment hosted in.
Decide on a design
“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail” – Ben Franklin
Before you can begin building your environment, you will need to decide on a design for your lab. I decided my lab “Base” environment would house two (2) nested ESXi servers, vCenter Windows Server, one (1) domain controller and one (1) File Server
Before we can begin the install, we will need to upload the media using the vCloud Director Interface. To get started, Click on the VDC and then click “Create Virtual Machine”.
Then Click on “Create my Virtual machine from Scratch”
From the Catalogs heading, click on “My Organization Catalog”. This is where your media will be housed. Due to having an updated browser, I was unable to update via the webclient.
At this point, you have to use the OVFTool – There are many resources that can assist you with this. VMware has a KB2110191 that will walk you through uploading the media. There are also two other handy sites that I used to upload the media. William Lam has a great script he had built out on his blog, VirtuallyGhetto which will allow you to run the the script on a MAC. Michael Ryom also has created a powershell script and has shared it on his site. I tested and use the Michael Ryan powershell script (as seen below)
Once the files are uploaded, you will be able to see them in your catalog.
Creating a lab “vApp”
I like to create a vApp in my lab environment to ensure I don’t forget to turn off my lab when I’m not using it. I set the Runtime to auto shutdown after 6 hours.
The next step is to create new VM’s to sit inside your vApp. I created two (2) ESXi servers as mentioned above.
Once the vApp is created, you can then connect the ISO to the VM, as you would in a typical VMware environment.
Once the two (2) ESXi Servers are built, I moved on to building my virtual Domain Controller. I built this using the images build into the public catalog. Once, this is completed, I moved onto building another Windows Server to host vCenter.
What does this cost?
I am expecting to pay around $15-20 bucks per month. Which is much cheaper than buying the additional hardware, the electric bill and hasling the wife to turn on my servers. That by iteself is worth it for me. Happy building!