Recommendations for Home Lab

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by darkstar710, May 31, 2019.

  1. darkstar710 macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2017
    #1
    I’m looking to create a home lab on a Mac system using VMware Fusion Pro to build a nested vSphere environment for VMware certification. It will be running around 5 VMs (2 ESXi hosts, 1 vCenter appliance, 1 DC, and a 1 or 2 Win10 VMs). vCenter is such a memory hog that I’ll need a system with 32 GB or more. I currently have a 2017 MacBook Pro 15 with 16 GB of RAM. I plan on selling this and using that money toward the purchase of a new system. I was wondering is anyone has any recommendations for such an environment. I would prefer a laptop, but if an iMac or Mac Mini would be a better solution, I’d certainly look at those options. Below is what I had in mind:



    iMac 27", 3.1 GHz 6-Core, 8 GB, 512 GB SSD + OWC 32.0GB from Amazon (40 GB total) = $2508

    Mac Mini, 3.0 GHz 6-Core, 32 GB, 512 GB SSD = $1899 + monitor/keyboard/mouse = $2427

    MacBook Pro 15, 2.6 GHz 6-Core, 32 GB, 512 GB SSD = $2999.00

    MacBook Pro 15, 2.3 GHz 8-Core, 32 GB, 512 GB SSD = $3199.00


    I read there are thermal issues with an 8-Core MacBook Pro. Would a 6-Core be just as good?


    Thanks for your help!
     
  2. CrashTestWalrus macrumors regular

    CrashTestWalrus

    Joined:
    Mar 1, 2018
    #2
    Since you are willing to build a desktop I take it that you don’t need the lab to be mobile. I run a lot of VMs for various certifications, what I tend to do is I have some servers, full size pizza box ones, I got off eBay to do the heavy lifting. I installed ESXi on those and connect to it from my MacBook to do any labs I need with nested virtualization. I have three servers that have dual hexacore Xeon processors, six NICs, 2 TB of storage, and 144GB of RAM each. All of them cost me less than $3500. Combined. So I would go with that. Get an old server from eBay, add some RAM to it if needed and do your labs there.
     
  3. chrfr macrumors 604

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2009
    #3
    Be aware that while ESXi will run on the 2018 Mini, it has no access to internal storage, so you have to run everything off USB.
     
  4. darkstar710 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2017
    #4
    Thanks CrashTestWalrus for the reply. I guess I was looking more at a self-contained lab via desktop or laptop using Fusion Pro. I wanted to get an idea if the specs I provided was sufficient. I would prefer mobile if the 6-core or 8-core MacBook 15 would work reasonably well. I never have had a Mac desktop so I’m not familiar with them.
    --- Post Merged, May 31, 2019 ---
    I will be running the ESXi servers as VMs within Fusion Pro.
     
  5. chrfr macrumors 604

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2009
    #5
    Ahh, not a problem then! It's a shame they can't get the internal storage working.
     
  6. LogicalApex macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Nov 13, 2015
    #6
    I have a very decent home lab that I use for my various projects. I'm a Software Engineer so I don't setup mine focused on certs, but that doesn't matter really the overall process is the same...

    I'd recommend you skip Mac hardware for your lab unless you specifically need to virtualize macOS (such as for iOS development build servers or the like). You'll get far better value for your dollar going with either "real" servers or a white box PC running ESXi.

    You don't need a "ton" of RAM depending on what you're doing with the lab (as you can likely run ESXi and others on minimal RAM). I would recommend something like a Dell R620 picked up used via Craigslist or eBay.
     
  7. darkstar710 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2017
    #7
    I don't have a lot of space and looking for more of a contained environment. Unfortunately, vCenter requires 10 GB to run properly. There are tweaks to get it to run around 8 GB without compromising performance.
     
  8. LogicalApex macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Nov 13, 2015
    #8
    In that case I'd suggest looking at Intel NUCs. You'll get the small form factor without the "Apple Tax" in an area where it isn't needed.

    For example:
    https://www.reddit.com/r/homelab/comments/aocmyo/beginner_home_lab_intel_nuc_vs_other_option/
     
  9. darkstar710 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2017
    #9
    That looks like an interesting product. I think I'll still go forward with my original plan and sell my current 2017 MacBook Pro and purchase another Mac product. I definitely prefer MacOS.
     
  10. CrashTestWalrus macrumors regular

    CrashTestWalrus

    Joined:
    Mar 1, 2018
    #10
    I have a MacBook Pro with 32GB of RAM and prior to that I had one with 16GB of RAM. I used both pretty successfully to do labs on the go. Fusion isn’t great at oversubscription of RAM, though. So keep that in mind when you are making labs on VMs using it.
     
  11. darkstar710 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2017
    #11
    Thanks for the tip. Do you think a 6-core is adequate or do you think I should go for the 8-core if I go the MacBook route?
     
  12. duervo, May 31, 2019
    Last edited: May 31, 2019

    duervo macrumors 68020

    duervo

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2011
    #12
    VMware uses a mix of HTML5 and Flash for the interface with its GUI management. With 2 interfaces to choose from, newer one uses HTML5, older uses Flash. Flash one is in process of being deprecated in favour of the HTML5 one.

    My advice? I'd look at 2 options. I say 2 because it relies on either keeping your current system (1st option) or selling it and getting more Mac stuff (2nd option.)

    Option 1:

    1. Keep your current system, because for using it as a client to access the external VMware bits (see #2), it will work just fine.

    2. Take the money you would add for the new Mac, and instead invest in something like the Intel NUC that was mentioned, or get 1 or 2 used Enterprise 2u server(s) off eBay that has the necessary CPU and RAM. (Check r/homelab for more info.) If you get the NUC or 1 used server, then also get a NAS (see #2 in Option 2 below.) If you get 2 used servers, it will probably blow your budget out of the water.

    3. Join VMUG, and look at purchasing an annual VMUG Advantage membership. It includes licenses to most, if not all, of VMware's software for the annual term.

    Option 2 (seems like your best option for you, due to space):

    1. Sell your current system, and get some Mac "stuff" that can use 32GB RAM. 6 or 8 core CPU ... doesn't matter. You won't find yourself very constrained on CPU with either of them. Disk IOPS will be your biggest bottleneck, even with a PCIe NVMe SSD (albeit just not as much as it used to be with HDDs,) but don't spend too much on those upgrades. 512GB is what I'd probably go with, and then take the money that would've gone to a 1TB upgrade, and use it for #2 ...

    2. Get an external NAS, one that supports 10GbE and NVMe SSDs, like the QNAP TBS-453DX (it's small, so physical space shouldn't be an issue,) and then buy the SSDs to put in it. Then, install QNAP's VAAI driver for either iSCSI or NAS (NFS), and use it for datastore(s) on your nested ESXi hosts. You will need some type of shared storage solution if you are you trying to learn VMware, and especially if you're trying to prepare for any certs. Although shared storage is not "required" anymore, if trying to get a job, or a cert, you need to know how to work within that setup. You could virtualize the shared storage, but doing so in a nested ESXi infrastructure will use up a lot of space on your local disk, reduce the amount of RAM on your Mac that could be used for ESXi or other things, and increase the complexity of its setup and maintenance. Reason why I suggest 10GbE is because you can also get a QNAP Thunderbolt 3 to 10GbE adapter, or it can be used with a Mac mini, plus it can still be used on your LAN for other things besides your VMware lab (with the 1GbE port that it also has.).

    3. Join VMUG, and look at purchasing an annual VMUG Advantage membership. It includes licenses to most, if not all, of VMware's software for the annual term.
     
  13. darkstar710 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2017
    #13

    Wow duervo, Thank you for all the good detailed information! I appreciate that you took the time to post all that. I think option 2 is what I may be looking for. Definitely joining VMUG is the way to go. Reinstalling every 60 days is a pain.
     
  14. duervo macrumors 68020

    duervo

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2011
    #14
    No problem. Also, with that NAS, keep in mind it takes NVMe SATA SSDs, not PCIe. However, with 4 of them combined in a RAID, and the TB3/10GbE pipe, it should be fine. VMware disk workloads tend to be small and random, so IOPS is king, more than pipe size. I'd probably put 4 x 1TB SSDs in it if it were me. That seems to be the sweet spot at the moment for price, but even 4 x 512/500/480GB ones will give you enough space to work with in a lab.
     

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13 May 31, 2019