Homelab – Requirements

After Multiple bad Homelab builds I sat down this time to look at what I Really need and also what fits my Budget and most importantly what my Family Will accept a a Minimum Viable Product.

As my Homelab will form part of my home network and there will inevitably be some crossover between the two I would need to ensure that anything used by my Family are Both Secure and Reliable while my homelab could be a bit more in flux (aka Broken).My primary use case for my Lab is to learn new Technologies and also test solutions before implementing them at work. a Lot of my design considerations revolved around creating a Lab to resemble a enterprise network as close as I could without having a six figure budget. The Technologies I will focus on for my design will include

  • ESXi as a Hypervisor using vSAN and iSCSI as Storage Solutions.
  • Distributed Switches to start with to be enhanced using NSX-t.
  • Microsoft Active Directory for DNS/Users/Certificates to be extended to Azure AD later on.
  • Ubuntu Linux for all services where possible.
  • Docker for Applications instead of dedicated VM’s.
  • Kubernetes for Applications based of Rancher or Tanzu Clusters instead of Docker.
  • Monitoring thru vRealize Operations and Grafana/Prometheus.
  • Logging into vRealize LogInsight and Splunk.
  • Configuration Management thru Saltstack and Ansible with Terraform for any other use cases.
  • User Frontend thru vRealize Automation.

As for budget I set myself a Growth Budget of $2000 plus whatever I could get for my old lab hardware and clearing out any old Gear and stuff I had laying around.

My List of requirements was.

  • Separation between Services used for Home/Family and Lab.
  • Ability to Expose services to the Internet.
  • Network Segregation.
  • Redundancy for Storage and Networking in Lab.
  • Redundancy for Home Services where Possible.
  • Mix of Redundant iSCSI/NFS as a possible solution for Kubernetes Storage.
  • vSAN for vSphere Environment.
  • Microsoft AD Environment.
  • Internal and External Certificate Support.
  • Selfhosted where possible


And as all designs there must always be some Constraints as well.

  • Low Power Consumption and low Noise
  • Limited Backup Availability.
  • As close to VMware HCL as I can get on Hardware.
  • Changes to my Lab should not impact Family
  • New Under Warranty hardware where possible

I also decided that some compromises would need to be made. Unfortunately I do not have a unlimited budget and the hardware should have a usable lifespan of about 2 years. I tend to sell my old hardware while they are still a bit relevant. I found that this gives me the lowest cost of ownership and also the ability to have a fairly modern lab.

Part of any lab build will be the cost for software. Now most of the software out there you could use on a trial basis but that requires a constant rebuild of solutions. For my Software Requirements I went for the below.

  • Microsoft – I got a Microsoft Visual Studio Dev Essentials Subscription. This works out to about $45pm. My reasoning behind it is that I get all this back in Azure Credits which I could use to expand my Azure Cloud Experience. This would then Cover all my Microsoft licensing, from SQL to Server to desktops.
  • VMware – VMUG advantage is the solution here. With nearly every On prem Product covered at $200pa this was a No Brainer for me.
  • Linux – I decided to go for Ubuntu as far as possible.

With Work from Home now the norm in our House Internet/WiFi stability is critical, not to mention the User anger I need to face when Youtube just thinks about buffering.

In the next part I will go over the Hardware Choices and Pricing for my Homelab.

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