Project Home Lab: Goals

Since I’ve started working in consultancy, I have the constant need to challenge myself and spend more time working with the technologies that I promote. The only way to do this is learn and practice and the only way to learn and practice is to have equipment to do that on. I have embarked on a project to build myself a home lab and in this Project Home Lab series of blog posts, I’ll go through all that I am doing to produce my home lab.

This series will consist of the following posts. I will update the table of contents with the new page links in each post as I produce and publish the articles.

  1. Project Home Lab: Goals
  2. Project Home Lab: Existing Infrastructure
  3. Project Home Lab: Hardware Decisions
  4. Project Home Lab: Network Decisions
  5. Project Home Lab: Shopping List

Project Goals

In this first post, I will explain the goals of my home lab and what I want to be able to achieve with it.

The goal of the project is to allow me to work in an environment where I can break and fix, play, learn and explore the products I work with as a consultant, System Center primarily.

I need the project to provide me with a hardware platform which is well performing, not to the degree that an enterprise customer would expect it to be but enough to not make me want to hurt myself every time I do something in the lab due to a severe lack of performance. Functionally performing to summarise. I need the hardware I use to be cheap but suitable for the task, cost effective in other words. I also need it to be energy efficient where possible as I don’t want to be paying the earth to run this environment. Coupled to the energy efficient statement, I need it to not sound like a datacenter in my garage where I keep my kit so there may be a need for some post-work to add some sound deadening to the garage if things get too loud as noise output can’t be completely eradicated unless I spend a fortune on water cooling for it all.

Although my plans for the environment are small right now, I don’t want to be hamstrung in the future, stuck at the end of a garden path without options to either scale up or scale out the project. Virtualization is a given in this project and being that I work with the Microsoft technology stack, this is obviously going to be centred around Hyper-V. The primary goal is to run System Center in it’s entirety which will include some SQL Servers for databases. If I decide in three months time to add the Windows Azure Pack or in six months that adding Exchange or another enterprise application to the mix will help me understand the challenges that customers I work for have thenĀ I want to be able to deploy that without having to re-invent the wheel to do so but minor upgrades are to be expected: memory uplifts or more disks for increased IOPS perhaps.

Project Budget

To be honest, there is no real budget limit for this. I’m going to spend what is appropriate to make it work but the sky is not the limit. I’ve got a wife and three kids to feed so I need to make it all happen as cost effectively as possible which will likely mean the cost is spread with purchasing parts over a number of months.