Home > Certification, Hardware, Home Lab > HomeLab: They grow up so fast! The move to 42U…

HomeLab: They grow up so fast! The move to 42U…

Not many people other than my closer friends and contacts know about my… Home Lab Issues.  This isn’t that I have a lot of issues with it, but… that I seem to keep growing it.  This weekend, I’m upgrading from a 24U to a 42U Rack, so that I can finally have enough room to install some of the things that I’ve been collecting.


Mostly so that I have a place to keep my own inventory, and for those that ask, and also because I seem to never remember to take ‘before’ and ‘after’ pictures of anything.  So without further hesitation:



· APC SURT3000 120V/30A 3kVA UPS with Management
There is always need some sort of power protection. Also this lets me test things like “full data center” UPS triggered shutdown/startup scripts.

· NetApp FAS2020HA 12x300GB SAS

Even for something only capable of running OnTAP v7.3.7, this was instrumental in me both studying for the NCDA/NCIE+SAN certifications as well as testing and breaking things in a safe place. If anyone needs a DS14MK2 14x320GB SATA or 7x250GB SATA shelf, let me know, we can work something out.

· NetApp FAS3040HA pair + 2x DS14MK2 14x300GB FC15K

Here’s hoping I can make these come to life. This will give me something that can run OnTAP v8.1.3 (but no higher), have 10GbE CNA’s installed (hah, someday, perhaps), and give me the ability to add more FC or 1GbE ports to try all sorts of things

· Dell PowerEdge 2950 III, 6x300GB SAS + 1x500GB SSD

This is the “non vendor”, software-based ESXi host that I run SAN simulators on, and also where I offload VM’s from the SAN when… I think I’m going to do something horribly hurtful to the environment, and maybe should be a little careful. Takes advantage of Dell/Silcom PEG6i 6 port 1GbE NIC’s (yes, 6, not quad), so that each SAN simulator can actually have its own dedicated NIC(s).

· Dell C6100 Cloud Server, 4 node, 2xL5520 quad core, 24GB per node, with 6x1GbE

Yes, this is a pretty cool part, and allowed me to drop 6U of space from the older PE2950’s that couldn’t run nested virtualization and maxed out at 32GB of RAM. While those allowed for 3x PCIe cards, and the C6100 only allows for 1 each, the scalability I now have, including being able to run HyperV as a VM on ESXi to test both products, is great!

· 2x Dell PowerConnect PC6248 Stacking switches

Stacking is good, PowerConnect is good, 48 ports are about enough to deal with hosts that have 6-10 NIC’s, iDRAC/IPMI, SAN’s, etc.

· 1x Juniper SSG140SH

Of course, very handy for certifying on the JNCIA-FWV certification. Really need to find me another one, as the SSG140-SH units have built in licencing for HA that I’ve used in the past, and would like to continue to use.

· 2x Barracuda 340 Load Balancers

Price was right, how could I go wrong. My previous position used Barracuda’s, but my current environment uses Citrix Netscalers – so I may try moving to the Virtual NetScalers (limited to 5mbit/sec) or see if there is any way to put good use to an otherwise EOL NS-7000 running 9.2. We’ll see.

· Digi CM32 Console Server

Network based connectivity to all of the console ports on everything. Worth its weight in gold for when I break things!

· Barracuda 300 Anti-SPAM appliance

Work uses it, figured I should have some familiarity with it.

· 2x Brocade 200E 8 port 2Gbit FC switches

Here’s hoping they even boot up. This is largely so I can work with FCP on the NetApp’s as well as a tape library and some NetBackup. No. Actually it’s not. That’s what I should do with it. If I do, however, I’m sure that makes me an SME on NetBackup, and that makes me cry a little…

· IBM 3581-F28 Ultrium LTO2 8 slot FC tape library

Yeah. A moment of weakness, see above. It sounded like a good idea at the time. I wanted to know how to do NDMP backups. Doesn’t seem so glamorous now – I’d rather do Veeam backups!

· 1U Belkin Titan 17″ LCD KVM with OmniView Pro3

It’s not fancy, it doesn’t do KVM over IP – but it is a LOT better than the LCD on a shelf taking up space that I was using.

Found something locally, and

· Dell 4210D 42U Deep rack

Found something locally, and it turned out to be deep. The main benefit to that is extra 0U vertical PDU space in the rear, and I won’t complain about that. The second benefit is that some of the deeper network devices can be mounted front and rear now.

Right about now, you’re starting to wonder about my ‘issues’.  You’re not alone, I’m sure.  Much of the equipment has come from eBay – the trick is knowing what to look for or what to mis-search for.  For example, the more “data center” or “enterprise” a product, the more likely that it will be sold or liqidated cheaply.  An example is the Digi Console Server.  Typically you’ll find average prices of $600 for a CM08, $300 for a CM16, but $50-80 for a CM32.  This is one of those cases where the “Costco Principle” really helps you score a deal.  Equally, if you have an aptitude to figure out how to rebuild some of the equipment, combine parts from two, etc, you’ll find a lot of ways you can save some cash.  My recovering bad flash on a PC6248 switch is one of my more popular blog posts, according to the logs – so I’m not alone.

The rest of the equipment largely comes from local sources.  You’ll find that if you ask, often things *can* be made available.  Sometimes, a lot of junk, but sometimes a nugget of gold.  I’ve often let folks know that I’ll take whatever “Enterprise” IT stuff they have to recycle away – even if a lot is unusable.  The diamonds take some mining!

Equally, as I have gone through generations of lab equipment, and upgraded it, often I’ve sold the pieces for more than their individual parts to trade up.  It’ helps if you know what units have what parts, what can be mixed or matched, or look for ‘lots’ of equipment, and sell off the excess you don’t need.

How much have I ended up spending?  I don’t think about it.  Let’s put it this way – it’s *certainly* less than a supercharger for my Mustang.  That’s good enough for me.  I get to learn a *lot*.  My certifications in the last two years have skyrocketed and there is concern that someone will suggest I just got lucky on some tests.

The secondary benefit is that I can now offer ‘lab space’ to colleagues.  If someone wants to spin something up – just remote in and give it a try.  Expiring trial licences make things a bit of a pain, but I’m often quoted that you probably SHOULD be reinstalling things often.  It’s easy to install a product like vSphere/vCenter ‘one time’, but if you have to do it every 60-90 days, you start finding ways to get MUCH better at it – automation, orchestration, scripting, generational tweaks, etc.  It’s not all bad to have to rebuild it all over and over.

So that’s my story.  If you need lab space (and I know you personally), let me know.  If you have something you need trialed, I’m game – someone tried using my Juniper SSG RADIUS for Administration logins for setting up VPN users and it didn’t work – maybe I can give that a try.  It’s always interesting to come up with a use case and try something.  Often the hardest part when you “can do anything you want”, is figuring out “what you want”.

Oh – and if you have any surplus Enterprise IT equipment you need to ‘go away’ – drop me a line.  If I can’t use it, I know guys who are doing this kind of stuff that will help it find a good home.  You’d be surprised what a 1U, dual core, 4GB, 2x146GB with RAID and dual NIC server can mean to a co-op student.  Feed the curiosity!


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