Updating my home lab

I am thinking it’s about time to update the home lab, being a bit of a geek and much to the despair sometimes of my partner, I do read and play with technology a bit too much out of work. I just can’t help it!!

On a serious note I think that having a home really does make the difference between a good IT Pro and an Outstanding one. Maybe your lucky and your current employer still has a training budget but mine doesn’t and if I want to learn something new I am left to my own devices. It’s these types of situations where having a lab and some spare time is a god send.

Having a seven month old daughter has meant far less time in the lab but it wont be forever and whilst it’s not in heavy use perhaps a little upgrade or two wouldn’t go amiss.

Today I have one of my gaming rigs which runs Windows 7 8 GB of RAM, two SAS drives with 300GB of storage, 2 1GB Nics, 1 quad-core 2.4Mhz CPU. I am running VMware workstation 8 with two embedded ESXi hosts and my Windows 7 PC is also running the Virtual Centre.

I then have a laptop that is running Workstation 7 and it hosts a couple of extra client VMs that I use for testing.

It’s not much of a lab but I can run a few servers and it’s just about enough. So what is next. Let’s start with a few goals.

The Must haves

  1. Low power device
  2. Small form factor
  3. Not cost any more than £175 per unit (doesn’t include extras) I have a small amount for disks etc.
  4. Must be able to run ESXi native
  5. Support at least 16GB of ram

The Nice to haves

  1. Low noise
  2. Two network cards
  3. Out of band management or at least WOL support
  4. USB 3.0

With this in mind I set about doing some R&D. I short listed the following devices.

  1. HP Micro Server N54L G7 http://www8.hp.com/uk/en/products/proliant-servers/product-detail.html?oid=5336624#!tab=features
  2. HP Proliant ML 110 http://h20000.www2.hp.com/bizsupport/TechSupport/Home.jsp?lang=en&cc=us&prodTypeId=12169&prodSeriesId=3663719
  3. Intel NUC http://www.intel.com/content/www/us/en/motherboards/desktop-motherboards/nuc.html

I wont beat around the bush here saying what boxes each of these three options has ticked or missed, as the Intel NUC is just awesome and I cannot see why would I not get several of these. The power savings alone more than justify the extra cost for me. That and Mrs will not get annoyed with constant fan whirring on top of having loads of computers piled up. Of course the latter of the points is the most important 😉

I do plan to get some posts up about these devices and how I have set them up, but I am waiting for the new i5 versions to be released as these come with vPro chipsets and that means some bonus out-of-band management options.