Through the drug-addled haze of cold medicine, the Datanauts wipe the fog off the glass, and peer out the window to the winter outside. Yes, as we come to the end of 2015, we take a weary moment to rest, ponder, and think about the year ahead.
Goals. Yes. We sets them! We must get smarter…stronger! Mmmm…now…how are we going to do that?
Labs. Yes. Yes! The lab must be even better than it is now.
And here we find ourselves. Talking through how to improve our labs to make us stronger, smarter, faster, and better.
In this episode we talk about our home lab setups, what we’re running, and how we deal with issues like location, noise, and power consumption. And we touch on into why it’s useful to include significant others in the home-lab discussion.
We also look at cloud and online labs from vendors and public cloud providers, and discuss options that let you do more than you think with just a laptop.
If a home lab is one of your New Year’s resolutions, this is the show for you! And don’t forget to check the useful links at the bottom of the post.
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Part 1: Physical Labs
- In today’s world, why would we even want a physical lab?
- There’s still hardware in the equation somewhere, and having hands-on experience is tough to substitute
- Cost is a huge factor, like renting vs buying a car. Unless you’re just doing spot testing, or need something for a very specific (short) period of time, having physical kit is often financially responsible
- Support issues can crop up when you’re using virtual equipment or nesting
- As with any IT endeavor, formulate a proper design for a lab configuration.
- What are you trying to accomplish? This will help flesh out a functional design for the lab
- Identify the constraints, including space, heat, power, and physical placement
- Basements are handy for larger installations
- Home office or spare room
- Garage or closet with proper HVAC
- Colocation for really, really serious labs
- Design for scale-out. It’s difficult to purchase everything you need in one go, so plan to start small and build out as budget and time allows
- Start with as little as one server, one switch, and one piece of storage
- Even if you don’t plan to grow, make sure to account for it in your design. The future rarely goes exactly as planned, and having to scrap hardware investments due to poor planning is expensive and wasteful
- Avoid analysis paralysis from having too many options.
- There is no perfect solution; each home lab should be designed to meet the specific set of requirements set forth by your needs
- In the consumer space, hardware is all fairly commoditized, especially for the compute layer
- Flash – everywhere!
- Storage is one of the most critical components of a physical lab
- Everything needs and uses storage, actively
- Design for performance, then solve for capacity
- Consumer hardware can be presented in all-flash formats, and work well
Part 2: Cloud And Vendor Labs
- This is a growing trend among data center design (private + public cloud) and has benefits including the lack of hardware investment. You can get off the ground and going in minutes.
- Requires self control, but this may be a great thing if you’re looking to tinker with automation software (Chef, Puppet, DSC, Salt, Ansible) to create disposable and stateless infrastructure.
- Some examples:
- VMware Hands on Labs (HOL)
- Cisco Virtual Internet Routing Lab (ViRL)
- Cisco CloudLab
- Graphical Network Simulator 3 (GNS3)
- EMC e-Learning
- F5 BIG-IP Virtual Edition (VE)
- Ravello Systems Virtual Lab
- Public Cloud (AWS, GCE, Azure)
Part 3: The Future Of Learning
- A laptop and Vagrant are now enough to test a lot of software stacks.
- Keep in mind a few things:
- All labs become out-dated and should be deprecated at some point
- You’re making an investment into YOU, a very valuable asset; your lab is an opportunity to grow your career and value
- Before setting sail with a technology, research, plan, and schedule your time
- Prioritize learning and give yourself rewards for the investment you’re making
- Smaller bites are better than big bites. Learn for little bits at a time (Pomodoro) vs trying to “cram all night” on a technology
- Be prepared to shift and pivot. As one technology wanes, another waxes
My Home Lab – Chris Wahl
Home Labs – The IT Hollow