My homelab history started about 7 years ago. My first homelab had little design considerations. Maybe about a week or so of reading blogs and watching some video’s before I decided to go for Intel NUC Systems. The initial build would consist of 3 Core i3 NUC’s with 32GB ram each and no internal Storage. Storage would be Provided by a Synology 4 Bay NAS that could double as a Media and File Server for our home. Networking was provided by a single Cisco 10 Ports GBe switch.
The tab was not too bad learned a lot about iSCSI, Customizing ESXi images for use with the NUC, and How slow 4 NAS drives are in RAID 5. As a Bad fix I decided to go for VSAN as a new Storage solution. Thus bought some NVMe SSD’s and 500GB WD Black HDD’s and started up my VSAN. This taught me even more about how Networking can mess your lab up badly.
Enter Revision 3. This time adding some USB NIC’s and also a Second Switch. And that is how I learned the troubles of Interswitch Links and Bottlenecks, Single Points of failures in using my L3 Cisco switch as a router. I essentially just created a bigger problem than I originally had with iSCSI.
Revision 4 would see me move away from NUC based systems to a White Box solution. The idea was to get away from the network issues and run 3 Node Nested Clusters on NVMe. I bought 2 Hosts, both Intel Based with 128GB and 64GB Ram respectively. Moved my Lab Services to Nested vSAN Clusters. this worked Ok but the additional CPU overhead of 3 ESXi hosts on a Single Physical made all work in my Lab slow. I was also dipping my toes into vRealize Automation and NSX which meant I needed more Power!
Mistake 5 would see me throw out the Intel Systems for a Ryzen 7 and Thread ripper Hosts. Now I had more CPU cores that I could ever use, 256GB Ram and Plenty of nice Fast NVMe storage. Yet it was crap again. Stability of Ryzen under ESXi was horrible. It was so bad that I used one of my unsold old NUC’s as a “Management Cluster” to Host my Domain Controller and Virtual Center on local Disks. My NAS made a Comeback due to Storage Corruption Issues on the nested vSAN nodes caused by nearly daily random reboots.
Solution 6 For my latest iteration of my Homelab I went thru a more extensive design process. I would like to take you thru this process in the next few posts. I should have done this years ago.