Home > Ultimate vSphere Lab > Building the Ultimate vSphere Lab – Part 1: The Story

Building the Ultimate vSphere Lab – Part 1: The Story

In my search of the ‘ultimate affordable’ Lab setup for VMware VCAP/VCP/… exams, i went through a lot of possible set ups.

In the end, i started to build a powerful desktop pc in which i intend to virtualize my vSphere environment.  The reasons that made me chose a desktop PC running Windows 7 with VMware Workstation 8 to do this:

– Everybody has a pc.  So why not buy a lightning fast pc which makes your daily application work at light speed (email/surfing/office tasks) and gives you a perfect lab!

– While i enjoy playing around with servers, i don’t like them at home…  they are loud, they generate heat similar to a woodstove, they consume electricity like hell and they are always in the way of things…  Plus you have to interconnect them using 5000 miles of cable.  Bottom line: me not like!

– Every VMware Admin knows the benefits of virtualization… So why not virtualize your lab?  It makes it very flexible (play with # NICs, snapshots, clones, …).

– Since quite some people are already VCP, you can finally put some good use to that VMware Workstation license you got 🙂

– It’s very easy to suspend all your work (suspend all the VMs aka your whole vSphere environment), shutdown your pc, go to sleep/work/kids/fun and continue the day after.  No electricity wasted, no annoying noises, …

– Since a lot of vSphere features originally were introduced in VMware Workstation, it’s always nice to play around with it.

– With the coming of VMware Workstation 8, you can finally expose VT-x to the VMs, making it possible to run x86 & x64 VMs on your virtual vSphere environment.  This includes VDR, vShield, …

– Finally, it’s cheaper that a hardware setup (maybe not as powerful in terms of performance but it will only host a Lab environment so no big deal for me).


So that are my reasons to go for a virtual Lab setup.  On the next post, I’ll discuss the hardware you need for this desktop pc…


Building the Ultimate vSphere Lab – Part 1: The Story

Building the Ultimate vSphere Lab – Part 2: The Hardware

Building the Ultimate vSphere Lab – Part 3: VMware Workstation 8

Building the Ultimate vSphere Lab – Part 4: Base Template

Building the Ultimate vSphere Lab – Part 5: Prepare the Template

Building the Ultimate vSphere Lab – Part 6: Domain Controller

Building the Ultimate vSphere Lab – Part 7: SQL Server

Building the Ultimate vSphere Lab – Part 8: vCenter

Building the Ultimate vSphere Lab – Part 9: ESXi

Building the Ultimate vSphere Lab – Part 10: Storage

Building the Ultimate vSphere Lab – Part 11: vMotion & Fault Tolerance

Building the Ultimate vSphere Lab – Part 12: Finalizing the Lab

Categories: Ultimate vSphere Lab
  1. Pasti
    December 1, 2011 at 10:10

    I can’t wait to see your configuration 🙂

  2. January 3, 2012 at 19:51

    Thanks for the info. Creating a test environment within the next 3 weeks.

  3. julietech
    February 20, 2012 at 00:14

    Fantastic !
    great of you to make such a detailed blog,
    I am sure it will help many,and is certainly apreciated,


  4. Dhaval P.
    June 6, 2012 at 16:06

    Great job! Thank you for sharing this information. I ran through your tutorial twice to see how you were downloading Windows operating systems. I think you are running in eval mode, which I want to do as well to save money for my lab but I am not sure how annoying the reconfigurations would be with dc, vcenter and other servers expiring with time limits. I can stack or ladder expiration dates/time limits, so I have time to reconfigure another server. I want to know if your experience with the lab configured now, would you go back and sign up for MS Technet or have a better way? Would it make this easier with Technet subscription? I don’t want to waste time after coming home from work to rebuild stuff, where I could easily be doing labs and studying for VCP.



    • June 7, 2012 at 08:15

      A Technet subscription would be the cheapest ‘legal’ solution. Windows will expire after 180 days which is quite long.

      For VMware, you can use trial licenses (ask your partner), but they will always expire after several months…

  5. Roland Schmid
    July 10, 2012 at 17:55

    Great Lab!
    I am trying to do the lab at home, but I have no windows.
    But I have vmware fusion, would this work instead of vmware workstation ?



  6. Steve Simoes
    September 7, 2012 at 17:20

    I commend you for taking the time to out this information together. I have an isolated lab on an extra server that is allowing me to study for the VCP and plan my upgrade from 4 to 5. Thanks!

  7. Brian C.
    December 14, 2012 at 15:31

    Hi. Just wanted to say that I thought this was a solid lab and I’ve implemented it twice. I teach VMware authorized classes and use your lab setup to demo stuff in my classes. I was wondering if you were planning on updating the lab for 5.1? Thanks again for a great Lab setup and tutorial….which I also pass on to my students.

    • December 14, 2012 at 21:13

      I know,

      i have to find some time to update it to the newest version of all things… (WS9, vSphere 5.1, Win2012, …). I’ll try to get on it but can’t promise anything as it’s quite busy lately 🙂

  8. MrMoi
    December 16, 2012 at 23:35

    Hoi hoi,

    Leuke blog heb je! Ik ben al een tijdje opzoek naar de perfecte test lab voor mijn vm’s, had eerst een esxi draaien maar vond deze beetje beperkt(nic’s) kan je me helpen met een perfecte stille zuinige workstation/server samzn stellen?

    Alvast bedankt..

    • December 17, 2012 at 17:06

      Waar ik op gelet heb:
      – Voldoende memory. Tegenwoordig is 32 GB al betaalbaar
      – SSD (snelheid) van minimaal 80 GB

      Qua CPU ben ik persoonlijk voor Intel. Moederbord heb ik een ‘basis’ ASUS bordje genomen met standaard functionaliteiten.

      Neem een goeie case (liefst met geluidsisolatie in) met grote Fans in. Hoe groter de diameter van je Fans, hoe trager deze zullen draaien en hoe minder lawaai ze maken. Wanneer ik m’n PC opzet, hoor je deze eigenlijk amper tijdens normaal gebruik.

      Veel succes!

      • MrMoi
        December 17, 2012 at 19:33

        thanks for the reply

        ik beschik al over een elite 8300 SFF verder ging ik kijken voor een HP miicroserver N40L of de opvolgder N54L

        zou deze uitbreiden met het volgende:

        * 32GB RAM
        * Samsung 830 128GB
        * 2 schijven van 1TB (7200 of 5400, had gehoord dat de 5400 zuiniger is dan de 7200?

        ben aan het twijfelen om de microserver aan te schaffen of verder gaan met de SFF of de componenten inbouwen in een andere case?

  9. MrMoi
    December 17, 2012 at 19:45

    MrMoi :
    thanks for the reply
    ik beschik al over een elite 8300 SFF (Compaq Elite 8300 AiO Intel Core i5-3470 500GB HDD 7200 SATA) verder ging ik kijken voor een HP miicroserver N40L of de opvolgder N54L
    zou deze uitbreiden met het volgende:
    * 32GB RAM
    * Samsung 830 128GB
    * 2 schijven van 1TB (7200 of 5400, had gehoord dat de 5400 zuiniger is dan de 7200?
    ben aan het twijfelen om de microserver aan te schaffen of verder gaan met de SFF of de componenten inbouwen in een andere case?

  10. December 19, 2012 at 19:12

    Heya i’m for the primary time here. I came across this board and I find It truly useful & it helped me out a lot. I am hoping to give one thing back and help others like you aided me.

  11. Giridhar
    December 31, 2012 at 16:01

    Thank You for the detaiedl procedure to build the home lab setup. I followed and built the same way and I learnt a lot going through this process. Keep it up the good work.

  12. Ganesh
    January 31, 2013 at 16:13

    Awesome step by step instruction, way to go bro, more varieties welcome if you can and find some time, Thanks Again !!!

    • February 7, 2013 at 20:15

      I plan on creating a new Lab as soon as 5.1 is supported on Server 2012! Keep an eye on the blog 🙂

      • Shayn
        September 16, 2013 at 15:19

        Have you now created a new lab for 5.1 with win server 2012?

      • September 25, 2013 at 12:15

        No not yet… i was about to begin, but with 2012 R2 coming out and 5.5 i decided to wait a tad longer and build one with those versions… hang on tight 🙂

  13. Wayne B
    February 4, 2013 at 22:39

    Can anyone tell me if they know of a preconfigured Dell of HP desktop systems that will have all the hardware requirements? I prefer if possible to just buy the machine then add another HDD if needed or extra RAM.

    • Wayne B
      February 4, 2013 at 22:43

      I found this machine online:HP 8300 W7P-64 i7 2600 3.4GHz 500GB SATA 4GB DDR3 1333

      • February 7, 2013 at 20:11

        The machine itself looks fine! Bump the memory to 16 GB and throw in a SSD drive and you lab will fly like a rocket 🙂

  14. John A
    February 6, 2013 at 09:50

    I build using a DC – the other 2008 r2 had Vcentre and SQL express – also put on 192.168.*.* network and set gate ways as router – you can them remote to vcentre and sql or run remote – . Also to make it easier I snapshottted the 1st vm build – just before DC promo then cloned it as a termplate then returned to the snapshot before runnig dc promo also let DNS install along with dcpromo this ironed used some issues with sids and dns resolution not working.

    I would of liked to of used full blown SQL – but after reading how Single sign on is so difficult to setup and get working correctly – I skipped this part.

    I may migrate to full blown sql later does anyone know the link for sql download and whatthe eval lenght is on this.


  15. Christian
    February 28, 2013 at 16:05

    Would a machine with an AMD FX8 series work just as well as an Intel processor? According to AMDs website, these processors support Virtualization technology. I’m just trying to be budget conscious.

  16. March 13, 2013 at 14:33

    Reblogged this on UC Lord and commented:
    Great Lab

  17. Craig Summers
    March 27, 2013 at 17:37

    Would this kind of environment work ok on a laptop:
    Win8, 6GB RAM, i5 Dual core intel processor, 1GB dedicated graphics card

    • April 14, 2013 at 19:44

      It should run, but you won’t be able to run any VMs on your ESXi hosts in that config… You need more memory and to work comfortably an SSD…

  18. Luis
    April 11, 2013 at 15:14

    Great lab!!! Especially for someone like me who is totally new to VMware. One question I do have is, how do the VMs on the “VM Network” communicate with the Servers on the “Management Network” as I do not see any routing……

    • April 14, 2013 at 19:24

      Well they don’t 🙂

      The VMs itself can communicate with other VMs on the cluster, but not with the ‘Infrastructure’. But that’s just a way of setting it up in the lab, you can easily change the VMnet of the underlying vmnics in VMware Workstation to match the vCenter/AD/… network.

  19. oscarjrodriguez@live.com
    April 29, 2013 at 15:59

    Thank you very much for this post. I’ve bulit this home lab with varying hardware and updated software. I have since passed my VCP510, and if I can thank you in any way please let me know.

  20. oscarjrodriguez@live.com
    April 29, 2013 at 16:10

    I am not sure if you wanted my Labsetup, but here it is :

    Software :

    VMware workstation 9
    Windows server 2008 R2/2012
    SQL Datat center 2008

    Corei 7 3770k
    256 SSD
    1 TB HDD
    32 GB RAM
    I believe that is all that is important

    • Jason
      November 27, 2013 at 00:28

      Hi oscarjrodrig,
      Can i ask…did you build Win 2008 R2/2012, SQL 2008, VMware Workstation 9 ALL on 1 machine ?

      What about ESXi ?

  21. James
    April 30, 2013 at 19:49

    Hi – one of my VM’s (the vCenter VM) has stopped working for some reason. Even when I revert back to a snapshot it doesnt find a network connection and when entering control panel, it just hangs. I have no idea on how to repair this other than to rebuild the VM however if I rebuild it and re-install vCenter and then connect to it using the vSphere client, will all my modifications and work that i’ve done on the 2 ESXi hosts I have be preserved?

  22. July 21, 2013 at 17:42

    Reblogged this on Ayo Dada's Blog and commented:
    This is a Great Lab setup for home labs and testing

  23. Jason
    September 3, 2013 at 04:43

    Hi boerlowie and everyone,

    According to this site,


    It says that a CPU with at least 2 cores is a bare minimum for running ESX1 host and VMs but to ensure smooth running of many VMs and hosts, it suggests getting a CPU with at least 6 or more. If so, can you recommend me one that is capable of running at least 6 cores? Or a complete package with at least 12-16Gb RAM.

    I even read somewhere that 32Gb RAM is needed for some cases. Is this true ? If so, what scenarios or lab require this much RAM ?


    • September 25, 2013 at 12:17

      The requirements i suggest is only for a lab and certainly not for production. Your VMs on the nested hosts will run fast enough to play around with, but not to actually do something ‘real’ like mail/web/…

  1. January 5, 2012 at 15:00
  2. January 5, 2012 at 17:32
  3. January 6, 2012 at 17:53
  4. January 8, 2012 at 19:52
  5. January 16, 2012 at 06:07
  6. January 20, 2012 at 19:16
  7. February 21, 2012 at 04:50
  8. March 8, 2012 at 17:22
  9. March 16, 2012 at 00:05
  10. March 21, 2012 at 19:06
  11. June 8, 2012 at 16:43
  12. July 30, 2012 at 21:44
  13. October 13, 2012 at 17:42
  14. January 23, 2013 at 16:15
  15. February 2, 2013 at 12:25
  16. February 13, 2013 at 20:34
  17. March 16, 2013 at 04:58
  18. June 19, 2013 at 23:02
  19. June 28, 2013 at 08:53
  20. July 5, 2013 at 15:02
  21. September 27, 2013 at 19:05
  22. October 16, 2013 at 18:54
  23. October 16, 2013 at 21:13

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: