How to Build a Virtualization Lab in VMware Workstation

Why Build Virtualization Lab

The first reason of course is learn virtualization first hand. It’s one thing to watch it in a video or read a book about it and it’s much different and much more educational to do it for yourself . But you don’t have to spend $10,000 to do that. Building a virtualization lab can be really inexpensive not as hard as you might think. Besides with the Vmware Promo Codes you can save 20%.

By building a Lab it will also prove that virtualization works as advertized. It’s great to hear from other people who have used it but it’s completely different to do it for yourself and see it with your own eyes. You’ll able to prove that virtualization works for your company’s applications, you can even convert one of your physical servers into a virtual server and run it in the lab to see that your company’s apps work for yourself. Finally, you might want to create a Virtualization Lab to prepare you for a certification so that you will have that hands-on knowledge.

Types of Virtual LAb

There are two ways to build a Virtualization Lab; either to build a Virtual or a Physical Virtualization Lab. Although this might get a little confusing, let’s start with first option. Literally, what this could be is taking the existing desktop or laptop computer that has a VT capable CPU and plenty of RAM to load to VMware Workstation which is a type 2 hypervisor at your existing operating system running on your computer, so for example if you’re running Windows 7 you would load VMware workstation on that and then you would build your virtual lab by creating virtual machines that run at VMware ESXi, vmware vcenter and perhaps even a virtual storage appliance or a VSA. Most people build, let’s say, to ESXi servers and a Windows 2008 Server that runs via where the center so you have a total of 3 virtual machines running VMWare workstation on your existing computer; so that’s how you build a virtual lab using something like VMware Workstation and this may seem like the utopian perfect scenario but there are a number of limitations to this.

If you have some more room for physical servers and you have some more money and you’d like some higher performance in more dedicated hardware, a better option is to build a physical virtualization lab. You get a couple of servers  to build your physical virtual lab. With a physical lab like that I can do just about anything I want. I can make just about any VMware or Microsoft virtualization product that’s available today. There are many fewer limitations and you’re going to get much better performance. On the other hand, a lab like that might cost you between $3,000 to $5,000.

These are the two different ways to build a Virtualization Lab

Limitations to a Virtual Lab

The first downside of this type would be of course that the CPU on your desktop or laptop computer much be a 64-bit CPU with Intel BT or AMD V enabled. You’ll need at least 4Gb of RAM although you could run a single ESXi server in less than that to really make this a useful Lab I would recommend you have at least 4GB or more. That’s because every virtual machine you create is going to use up more and more of that RAM. Now, you can do this with VMWare ESXi VSphere but I can tell you up front that it won’t work with hyperV which must run on a physical server so you’re going to have to opt for a physical virtualization lab if you want to learn about hyperV. You won’t be able to power on a 64-bit virtual machine inside your virtualized ESXi server. So that’s called a “nested virtual machine” and a limitation is you can’t have nested 64-bit virtual machines. I know this is a little confusing because you have your host operating system, i.e. windows 7, you have your workstation underneath that you create a VMware ESXi machine which is 64-bit you can power that on and then you will create a virtual machien inside the ESXi server. That virtual machine all the way inside the ESXi server two layers a virtualization deep can only be 32-bit. You can make a 64-bit but you won’t be able to power on. You can only power on 32-bit. That’s where the major limitations of  creating a virtual virtualization lab is. In fact even powering on a nested one, inside those ESXi servers, you’re going to find out that those will run really slow no matter how much hardware you throw at those machines.

VMware’s tolerance feature many not work when using a virtual virtualization lab; that’s because ti’s very hardware specific. Finaly performance, may suffer. You’re trying to do so many tasks with your existing desktop or laptop system even if you upgrade the RAM and you have a really beefy system you are still trying to run multiple virtual machines that are very resource intensive on that one system. So, just keep that in mine. It’s a great low cost option, it is portable – you can put on a laptop, you can take it with you on the road – you can demo virtualization , you don’t have to spend a lot of money on servers which take up a lot of room, create heat and use a lot of electricity. Also, it’s going to be lower performance, so just how those expectations up front when you start creating your lab.

Physical Servers

If you opt for a physical server, even if you are just going to get one dedicated server and then use that to build a virtual virtualization lab on, you have two options for those physical servers:

You could use a white box server which is a generic server which you build yourself or you have someone else build it for you. If you use a white box server, chances are you’ll get more value for money so you get a higher performance system but on the other hand that white box server isn’t going to be on the VMWare or Microsoft hardware compatibility list. So, you take the chance of getting that server put together and then the network interface card or the storage controller doesn’t work, you have to take those back, return them and get some different models that do work.

Option two is to get a Name-Brand server and if you are doing that very likely it will be on the hardware compatibility list, but you do need to check those list make sure that this server with its specific CPU and hardware interface cards are on the hardware compatibility list. Also make sure that they are even compatible with specific features; for example there are servers that are on VMWare’s hardware compatibility list and compatible with the Fault Tolerant feature.