Building a VCDX-NV Home Lab

Teaching Laboratory

Building a lab that is suitable for your VCDX-NV can be difficult… I’m here to show you how to do it without too much trouble.  Here is what I was trying to do in preparation for my VCDX-NV:

I wanted to build a home lab where I could:

  • Install vCenter and vSphere 5.5, as well as vSphere NSX 6.0.5.
  • Test single-datacenter advanced logical routing, switching, distributed firewall, load balancing, etc.
  • Test multi-datacenter configurations with all of the above.

My home lab consisted of the following:

  • 2x home built PCs with 1x quad-core Intel Core-i7, and 32GB RAM each.
  • 128GB SSD in each PC.
  • 2x 1GbE Intel NIC in each PC.

A big part of my VCDX preparation consisted of testing multi-datacenter strategies for disaster recovery and operational recovery.  At first, I tried to build a very complex nested ESXi setup, with a management/Edge cluster, as well as two compute clusters, nested within my 2 node physical cluster.  Soon I learned that I should just STOP THAT!

Complexity and nested setups are not what you want, when you simply need to learn a new technology and figure out how to operate it proficiently.  What you need is SIMPLICITY!

Here is how to achieve it:

  • I have 2 ESXi hosts in my home lab.
  • 1 host will become my west coast datacenter, and the other my east coast datacenter.
  • Split each one into a separate 1 node cluster, and install a vCenter Server appliance on each.
  • Configure the local SSD in each server using vFlash Read Cache to allow it to become a MONSTER size node…


So, I only had 1 ESXi host to simulate each datacenter, which would definitely not be enough to run vCenter, the NSX manager, 3 NSX controllers, as well as all of the Edge VMs and Router Control VMs, along with any application server VMs I need to simulate my lab, but by leveraging a low cost SSD in each ESXi host, and dedicating the majority of it to host swap cache, I can act as if I have a 96GB cluster in each datacenter, to test NSX configurations, instead of a measly 32GB host.

This configuration really helped me out while preparing for my VCDX-NV.  I was able to configure 1 host per cluster (west coast/east coast), along with vCenter Server Appliance, NSX Manager, NSX Controllers, Edge appliances, and multiple 3-tier applications, with little to no slow-downs, because all of the swapping was done on the local SSD in each ESXi host.

I hope this helps you as you prepare to build large labs in a very small space.  Let me know in the comments if you have any tips on how to build your home lab better.



1 Response

  1. Dave August 21, 2017 / 2:46 pm

    Hi nice post !! please do you have diagram of this lab, i want to create my own lab!! thanks

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