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Ask Slashdot: Computer Test Lab Set-Up For Home?

timothy posted about 3 years ago | from the why-we-didn't-have-homes-or-feet dept.

Cloud 142

An anonymous reader writes "For as long as I've been playing around with computers I've had a home test lab. I found it to be a great learning tool. However, I haven't invested much money into it lately and because of aging hardware I can't get what I want out of it anymore. So a revamp is in order. I've looked into several cloud vendors for a box I can rent to do some virtualization, but it doesn't seem to be cost effective or practical. What are your thoughts on it? What set-up do you have at home for tinkering? Have you looked into hosted solutions for this?"

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Suggestion (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37777094)

A virtual box for you! []

Re:Suggestion (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37777650)

That is very clever. How long have you been huffing?

Hugs and kisses,

Juan Epstein

Re:Suggestion (2)

fotoflojoe (982885) | about 3 years ago | (#37778062)

Hey, at least it wasn't goatse.

Virtualize (5, Insightful)

QuantumRiff (120817) | about 3 years ago | (#37777102)

Buy a computer.. Put >8GB of ram in it (i would recommend 2GB per VM, and 2GB for the host). Maybe some nice fast disks..

Load VMWare ESXi, or another OS and virtual machine software of your choice..

The ability to snapshot and restore things will save you so much time testing things, you'll wonder how you used to get things done before. Maybe, setup a second system or laptop for things like wireless testing, drivers, etc.. things you can't simulate in a VM.. but with the virtual networks in most VM's, you can setup some very, very complex networks...

Re:Virtualize (4, Informative)

addikt10 (461932) | about 3 years ago | (#37777396)

I agree with Virtualization (really, it is a must for any lab).
If your budget is low, crank up the specs on your desktop machine, and use VMWare Workstation (or some such).

If you budget is a bit higher, get that machine and dedicate it with Xen Server or vSphere (or whatever)

Higher yet? Get a couple of boxes, and an iSCSI solution so that you can support clusters (iSCSI is much cheaper than fibrechannel, and you can do windows clustering as well as your virtualization platform clustering.)

You want brands? I did it with generic computing hardware (24GB core i7 boxes) and a Thecus iSCSI solution (because I didn't want to take the time to build the iSCSI myself). WD RE4 drives. Get funky with quad-port Intel NICS and a linksys switch that supports VLANS.
Make sure to get a Microsoft TechNet subscription if you are working with Microsoft platforms.
Have fun.

Gonna grow it? Start with VMware Workstation. The VMs you create can migrate to dedicated virtualization platforms as you move up in expenditures.

Re:Virtualize (4, Informative)

jtdennis (77869) | about 3 years ago | (#37778484)

ESXi is free for a basic featureset. For a low budget, I'd recommend it over Workstation which isn't free. If you're working on the same box as your VM host, then maybe Virtualbox would work for a free solution.

I give ESXi the thumbs down for driver support (2)

Gazzonyx (982402) | about 3 years ago | (#37783156)

I've had nothing but problems getting network hardware to work under ESXi. Three different NICs and none would work. It's very particular about what it will and will not support in my experience. If you're going to run ESXi, use Intel hardware all the way (chipset, CPU, NICs).

Re:Virtualize (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37779714)

Technet blows nowadays with their reduced licenses. It doesn't even give you enough for a decent test or home environment.

Re:Virtualize (1)

black6host (469985) | about 3 years ago | (#37780750)

When I last renewed my Technet subscription, (last May maybe), the reduced license count was an option. You could still pay the regular cost for the same number of licenses they offered previously. Have things changed?

Re:Virtualize (1)

Synerg1y (2169962) | about 3 years ago | (#37782222)

I can post all day on any of these posts, but I'll chose to start with... YOU!

Virtualization is not be utilized heavily because... it lags like a stuck boar. On a crappy "test" box vitalization will run 101%, it will only be about 10% usable. RAM has as much to do with this as something buried deeper in comp. spec. such as FSB and registered vs unregistered memory. of course. Servers just run bigger badder gear even on the low end. A low end server is like 10x a low end desktop. So don't talk budget pc + virtualization, it's just not usable. It's usable for test case scenarios that don't involve using the VM heavily or doing any work in it, even esxi server lags, the web server version is just vicious.

That's not to say don't have VM enabled technology available, install vmware web server or w/e and use it ONLY when you need it, do all your dev / test work off the base install of w/e you put on it.

Where your post is kind of lacking is what kind of testing are you looking to do? Circuits? electronics? appliance / device programming? .NET? You know? this list can be as long as this discussion thread easily.

Your environment setup depends on that. Get the minimum of what you need to upgrade and then expand. I have a desktop and a laptop as well as a dusty compaq I don't use, the desktop is for gaming, no AV even for performance, the laptop is hardened and is for work, the compaq if I ever get off my ass can be a linux router, a crappy vm server, a media PC, a linux box (I miss these sometimes), or anything of that nature. I got mine for free from work, but you can get something comparable off ebay (don't go to a pawn shop for hardware please).

The biggest thing I found a challenge with is not the equipment, but the space in which you set your gear up, you want stuff to be easily accessible for reconfigurations and all your tools around you so you don't have to say walk down to the basement to grab the network tester.

hope that helps, I'm not bashing virtualization here (every server at work is virtualized on esx4.0 w vcenter management and those fags haven't even figured out how to fully utilize the awesome flex of this), but it's not the one size fits all solution slashdotters are portraying it to be.

Re:Virtualize (2)

Billly Gates (198444) | about 3 years ago | (#37777576)

I will also add to buy an AMD dekstop to do this since he mentioned cost effective. For $499 you can get a Llamo with virtualization instructions with 8 gigs of ram. That can run 4 VMs for cheap. Intel chipsets tend to support ICores with virtualization instructions but disable them in the bios on purpose forcing you to pay more. All AMDs have the ability to turn them on by default.

For that price it is a great deal. Also if you hate virtualbox you can download a trial of VMWare workstation and create the VMs and then uninstall the trial and use the free VM Player to run the images you just created too which is nice.

On my system that is only $699, I can run 4 VMs of XP or CentOS with 1.5 gigs per VM as XP and Linux are not resource intensive which is a 6 core system. It is sweet I can compile code, run XP and play World of Warcraft for that price with it all working flawlessly. It is silly as I do this just to test HTML for obsolete browser from some popular company in the Pacific Northwest, which would be laughable in an ideal universie but that is life until business finally ditches it and the 10 year old kernels. UGH

But with cheap hardware and 1 gig of ram costing $15 each it is inexpensive to do and you feel like you own a mainframe.
But VMs all the way

Re:Virtualize (1)

fast turtle (1118037) | about 3 years ago | (#37778642)

I'll second the Llano suggestion but go with 16GB of ram (4GB Sticks are cheap nuff now) and you can upgrade to 32 when the price drops further. You can skimp a bit on the CPU by going with the A3650 instead of the 3850 and have decent performance along with reasonable power.

Re:Virtualize (1)

Bill_the_Engineer (772575) | about 3 years ago | (#37778942)

Intel chipsets tend to support ICores with virtualization instructions but disable them in the bios on purpose forcing you to pay more.

This is news to me. Please explain.

Re:Virtualize (1)

Billly Gates (198444) | about 3 years ago | (#37779356)

Some of the iCore 5s have hyperthreading, some have virtualization instructions, while others do not. Even if you select a CPU that has them you could end up with a bios wont let you turn them on. HP has been known for example of doing this since the P4 days. They sell 2 identical ones but the flash wiht the hyperthreading turned on costs $300 more. They are the same otherwise.You really do not know if you buy such a system that it can run VMware or Virtualbox because of this so look out a head of time.

AMD has a better track record in my experience.

Re:Virtualize (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37779680)

Buy your Intel system from a different vendor then. I've yet to see this on our iCore Lenovo systems. I also imagine a custom build system wouldn't have this limitation imposed either.

Re:Virtualize (1)

Bill_the_Engineer (772575) | about 3 years ago | (#37779970)

So you should avoid HP.

Case in point, the latest complaint about disabling the virtualization permanently in BIOS that found from HP is the HP Pavilion DV2 which sports a AMD Athlon Neo MV-40.

I think you unfairly blamed Intel for the actions of HP.

Reflash (1)

stooo (2202012) | about 3 years ago | (#37781206)

Just reflash the bios, if ever you get a HP then...

You can create VMs using the Free VMware Player (1)

cyclocommuter (762131) | about 3 years ago | (#37778962)

... since VMware Player version 3.1.3 you can create VMs using the free VMware Player.

Re:You can create VMs using the Free VMware Player (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37779336)

I had to upgrade to VMWare Workstation in order to install Windows 8 on a VM.

Re:Virtualize (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37780284)

I have a HP DC7700ES (A dual core slim business desktop) I got from free from work. I added an additional 2TB SATA HD, 8GB of cheap ram, and an additional $15 GB NIC (not technically required but it gives more flexibility). It easily runs ESXi 4.1 with 4-6 virtual machines (some windows and Linux). Not a great powerhouse but for the money, it is very capable. An equivalent desktop can be had for about $120-150 on fleabay or craiglist and the 8GB ram and 1TB should be $150 new. Being a business type desktop, it runs very cool and very quiet as well.

Re:Virtualize (1)

JabrTheHut (640719) | about 3 years ago | (#37777614)

As long as you're not testing hardware, parent is right. I've got two boxes running VMWare, and between them there isn't a network/OS/app setup I'm interested in that I haven't been able to simulate...

Re:Virtualize (1)

mx+b (2078162) | about 3 years ago | (#37777704)

If the original submitter has time/money to put together a computer from the parts, I would recommend this. I bought a crazy machine for maybe $300 total, similar in specs to what you suggest. 8 GB of RAM is cheap these days, get a good efficient multi-core of some kind, fast drives. I recommend NewEgg but perhaps you can find better deals shopping around more. I have several HDD in my tower and switch between them as needed to install different OSes and tinker.

Re:Virtualize (1)

drama (32059) | about 3 years ago | (#37777772)

agreed. I do this and use ESXi, and it's a great little setup. The only problem I've had is making sure to use supported hardware. If you use an intel motherboard you should be good to go. Just check to make sure the storage controller is supported. Most of the intel based stuff is (hence, the suggestion to just get one of their boards). If you want to be able to install a card and direct it at a particular VM, make sure you get a board that supports VMDirectPath (or something like that). That's the VMware name, I think in the BIOS it tends to be called VT-d for intel boards, or IOMMU on amd boards. VT-x is the support for virtualization in the CPU.

As for the other virtualization options. I've tried doing this in my setup with VirtualBox. It's nice I guess, but you have the problem of the host OS needing maintenance too. Xen and KVM might not be as bad, but again there is some host maintenance. Personally I've never had trouble with VMware products and have always found them to be the easiest to accomplish what you want, and ESXi is free and has a crap-ton of features. Don't forget you'll never interact with this other than to setup your VM's.

Finally, RAM is cheap these days, especially the DDR3 stuff. 8GB is nice, 16GB might be better depending on how much "testing" you wanna be able to do at once. Hard drives are equally cheap these days. A couple of 1-2TB's should do you well enough. The beauty of virtualization is that you can "pause" machines and shuffle them depending on the work you wanna do with the machine.

Re:Virtualize (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37777824)

I recommend using VirtualBox 64-bit on Debian GNU/Linux host with at least 8GB RAM total system memory and 3TB hard drive storage preferably 2 1.5TB disks in a RAID-1 configuration. Then you can run VMs for any operating system supported by VirtualBox and allocate memory and disk space as warranted. There is no need multiple physical servers for a home lab environment, although a fully duplicated environment is convenient for redundancy.

Re:Virtualize (1)

fwice (841569) | about 3 years ago | (#37778074)

Maybe, setup a second system or laptop for things like wireless testing, drivers, etc.. things you can't simulate in a VM..

you can definitely simulate wireless testing in VMs. Set up instances of linux in a UML, connect them with tuntaps, and modify/drop packets between the tuntaps accordingly according to the probabilistic model for the wireless network you're hoping to test.

I've developed a (proprietary) system for my employer that does just this -- pathloss is calculated using the Friis equation according to geographic distances between nodes. Nodes `move' on a controlling interface, which relays packets to a google-maps (or earth) server for visualization. The interface adds and drops packets between hosts according to characteristics based upon the transmission loss.

Re:Virtualize (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37778210)

(Woo! My first Slashdot post!)
I agree with QuantumRiff.

When I telecommuted as a QA, I had the exact same problem. I needed to test software and I needed a "Test Lab" to do it, especially to run automation.

So (This was in 2008) I built an Intel 920 system with 12 Gig of RAM running 64-bit Win7. Had I had the money, I'd've gone for 24 gig.

Then I used Sun's VirtualBox and our MSDN licenses (you can accomplish the same with an MS TechNet license) and created several custom VMs running 32-bit XP. I was testing a Web Based system, so I needed quantity over quality. This allowed me to run about 8 Virtual Machines during our crunch time, for minimal cost and my system would hardly blink an eye.

Of course, because this was a home system, that meant that outside of work hours, I had a rather nice gaming machine.

Re:Virtualize (1)

PW2 (410411) | about 3 years ago | (#37778430)

I agree with building a computer with 8GB or more of memory.

I use VirtualBox for my home test system and set the disk image to be written to a 16GB Ram Drive -- this makes it very fast to format and load a new guest OS from ISO or DVD -- I usually set and name the disk images in VirtualBox to be 4GB or 10GB in size. I back up the disk images off-site and on a small raid5 server, and have one local copy in a folder called "ComputerStore" -- set up a shared folder (and network share to something like C:\vshare\readonly, C:\vshare\readwrite for work you need to save)

Windows Ram Drives -- google:
superspeed ram drive
drdataram ram drive
softperfect ram drive

Re:Virtualize (1)

Sipper (462582) | about 3 years ago | (#37779064)

Basically the answer is a HOME COMPUTER is a better and more flexible virtualization platform than a CLOUD machine will be.

If you want a solution that is online and accessible to the rest of the world for some reason, you can rent a server to do virtualization on, but it does NOT need to be a CLOUD machine if that is all you're interested in. In addition, one of the more expensive items to get on rented servers is RAM dedicated to your machine or VM instance, and you need as much RAM as you can get on a box that is going to be doing heavy virtualization.

Re:Virtualize (1)

canipeal (1063334) | about 3 years ago | (#37779294)

ESX-I ftw. Ignore any recommendations for VM Player/Workstation, you'll lose a lot of resources to system operating system over head. I built a ESX-i server for less than $200 bucks 16GB of ram with Phenom II 945. This included 3TB of storage and an Antec case. On this set up I virtualize 45-50 OS's simultaneously with no problems.

Re:Virtualize (2)

jdastrup (1075795) | about 3 years ago | (#37779846)

Does it bug anyone else around here when they boast about how they built systems for as cheap as they claim?

You really built a server for less than $200 with the specs you suggest? Maybe you upgraded an older system, or scrounged around different parts, and you had to dish out $200 for the extra parts, but not a complete system for that price.

Re:Virtualize (2)

nabsltd (1313397) | about 3 years ago | (#37780596)

Does it bug anyone else around here when they boast about how they built systems for as cheap as they claim?

Yes, especially when they also claim the system is about 10x as powerful as it really is.

With 16GB of RAM and 12GHz of total CPU, each of his "45-50 OS's" gets about 364MB of RAM and 266MHz of CPU, with no accounting for overhead. I have 8-core/16-thread ESX servers that run 10-15 VMs at pretty much bare-metal speed, but that's the limit if there is any real CPU use on those VMs. Then, too, there's I/O contention. 40 VMs all writing to one SATA disk would be painfully slow (and you don't get hardware RAID that ESXi can use in a box for less than $200).

Re:Virtualize (1)

mikestew (1483105) | about 3 years ago | (#37782062)

Does it bug anyone else around here when they boast about how they built systems for as cheap as they claim?

You mean every time anyone dares type the words "Mac Pro"?

The storage alone is going to be over $100, I'm guessing the RAM is going to put it over the $200 mark. No CPU, no case, nothing else. Oh, and it runs 50 VMs at once? VMs running DOS, maybe.

Exaggerated claims help no one. Let's say that ESX hardware really costs $1000. Okay, now a person can make an educated decision on whether that's the way to go. Stating that one can build such a machine for $200 just wastes the research time of anyone that goes to Newegg and finds out the one making the claim is exaggerating or just flat out lying.

Re:Virtualize (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37779720)

+1 for a simple vmware box. I use this at home for my firewall (2 nics), Windows 2008 AD server, 6 linux instances, and my NAS as well. Pick a computer that supports VMware though (don't go super cheap, spend at least $400 ;) )

I've used other VM's in the past, but when something didn't work it was hard to guide me wife remote on how to restart something (like the firewall) with xen. For vmware she had the client installed on her laptop.

I'm running a quad core 8200 with 8gb. I was thinking of switching in my i7 with 18gb ram, but it's not even pushing the 8200 chip.

I'm running ESXi 4.1, free edition. You can do the ESXi 5 now as well.

Re:Virtualize (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37779932)

Try Graphic Network Simulator too ....

To allow complete simulations, GNS3 is strongly linked with :

        Dynamips, a Cisco IOS emulator.
        Qemu, a generic and open source machine emulator and virtualizer.
        VirtualBox, a free and powerful virtualization software.

Re:Virtualize (1)

TheCarp (96830) | about 3 years ago | (#37780062)

Wow 2 GB per vm? My default is 512 MB and I am yet to need to make an exception.

Of course, I run linux, with KVM and only linux guests (what good is I mean windows on a VM? games would run very poorly over VNC)

In fact, the whole setup, as is, with the same 4-6 VMs at any given time was recently running with 4 GB total system memory. I only upgraded because my wife wanted to upgrade her desktop and we wanted to keep matching sets of RAM so I got 8 more for her and took her old 4 that was the same as the host box and tossed it in.

If its production, doing business....yes...go overboard. If performance really matters, go overboard. However,....for a test lab? Nah.

Re:Virtualize (1)

bobcat7677 (561727) | about 3 years ago | (#37782656)

Obviously you are not running much in the way of windows guests. There are quite a few micro$oft products that require >= 1GB RAM to even install. Some require >=2GB now or more. Windows 7, SQL Server 2008R2, System Center and TMG Server come to mind as examples...

re: Computer Test Lab Set-Up For Home? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37777122)

I'm guessing Virtualbox ( is somehow not viable? Have one nice computer, and run quite a few virtual machines running on it?

Re: Computer Test Lab Set-Up For Home? (1)

CheshireDragon (1183095) | about 3 years ago | (#37779482)

VirtualBox is nice if you don't plan on doing anything intense as it is not as robust as VMWare.
I have also heard about some driver issues, but can't remember the details.

Not nearly enough information (2)

i kan reed (749298) | about 3 years ago | (#37777124)

It is not entirely clear what you want to tinker with. What do you want to test? Are you wanting to tinker with hardware? Using different software? Writing software? If the latter, what kind? To what end? This is a useless summary of your question.

Re:Not nearly enough information (1)

MichaelKristopeitBro (2488396) | about 3 years ago | (#37777406)

I agree there. Until you know what you want to do, there is little point in setting up anything.

In any case, here is my setup at home:
45U in the garage. In the bay:
- 1 server "NAS": Dual core i5, 10TB RAID-5 array. Ubuntu server
- 1 server "Media center": Quand core i5, one old 10GB HDD, 4GB) Windows + Media Portal
- 1 server "production" hosting a mail server and a webserver. Quad core i5, 4GB, 2TB. Ubuntu-Server.

In the attic: An old eeepc901 with a 2TB USB HDD for automated backups. Ubuntu.

In my office: 1 Quad core 8GB dual screen 2TB computer as a desktop. Ubuntu.
In 4 rooms: Low profile (mini-ITX) machines as media center clients.. Windows + Media Portal.

My kids don't have their computers yet. I'm overdue on that one. Still wondering what to get them though.

Re:Not nearly enough information (1)

sgt scrub (869860) | about 3 years ago | (#37777838)

This is a useless summary of your question

Agreed. There isn't even enough there to guess.

Re:Not nearly enough information (1)

icebraining (1313345) | about 3 years ago | (#37778924)

Since he was looking into "cloud" vendors, I don't think he wants to tinker with the hardware ;)

Details, details, details. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37777140)

What kind of 'test lab'?

What software will these be running, and what kind of hardware will they require?

What are you wanting to do with them? Run a neural network, run cluster computing?

Too many details left out to even begin.

ESXi (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37777158)

Get a decent PC with, say, 4GB of RAM
Install VMware ESXi (free) and tinker with virtual machines all day long

-- / .- / - / -

VMs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37777178)

Get a box with sufficient resources to run xen, kvm, vmware, virtualbox, or whatever virtualization product meets your need. Most support virtual networking and vlans if you need to hook up routers and equipment that can not be virtualized.

Do it! (1)

Anrego (830717) | about 3 years ago | (#37777208)

Would imagine it depends very heavily on what you are actually doing

I’ve got:

- A powerful desktop,
- Large fairly expensive file server and a cheap backup file server (same capacity, but cheap hardware and drives)
- Several old boxes (mostly previous desktops and stuff I rescued from people who were going to throw them out) one of which is acting as a virtual machine host..
- Two intel atom based boxes. One I use for a whole bunch of random stuff (for instance, all the various UPSen I have are plugged into it, and it coordinates a shutdown of everything when any of them run low on battery. The other I use as my hardware tinkering box.. when playing with stuff I don’t want to plug into my actual computers (I’ve been playing around with USB based electronics).

I have and 2 network switches and essentially have two separate networks.. an internal and external.

People sometimes give me a hard time about spending this much money on hardware (also a lot of this is rackmount.. I got the rack for free, but I do pay the rackmount tax on the hardware) .. but the way I see it, it’s my hobby.. and dollar for enjoyment, it’s actually not bad. Compared to people who spend the same money to spend 2 weeks on a boat .. I think it’s a good investment.

My point is, if you are trying to save money for something, ok, look for cost effective. If you’ve got the money though.. this is your hobby.. don’t be afraid to spend some cash if you know it’ll make you happy.

Rent a VPS (1)

tramp (68773) | about 3 years ago | (#37777232)

For as little as 18 euro pro month I have a VPS with 2 Gb memory and 80 Gb diskstorage and a terabyte networktraffic. At this price you can not have a suitable inhouse testlab.

Re:Rent a VPS (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37777788)

For as little as 18 euro pro month I have a VPS with 2 Gb memory and 80 Gb diskstorage and a terabyte networktraffic. At this price you can not have a suitable inhouse testlab.

Where at?

My setup (0)

Murdoch5 (1563847) | about 3 years ago | (#37777268)

I have a pretty powerful home system.

Core i5-2500k OC to 5.0GH
16GB RipJaw 1600Mhz DDR3
7TB Hard drive total
1 60 GB SSD Vertex 2 and 1 30 GB Vertex SSD
2 x 5830 XFire
Dual GB Lan
Gigabit Wireless
XFi Titanium Sound card
Blueray Burner and Reader
750Watt 80A Professional Grad Powersupply

This is both my desktop and test system, I just do what I want on it and when I want on it. It runs Gentoo Linux with several cross environments installed for embedded development. I don't see the point on keeping a second computer for tinkering with when you can do all of that on a good desktop computer.

Re:My setup (1)

Billly Gates (198444) | about 3 years ago | (#37777708)

Sounds like I could trade your system for a nice car.

If he is trying to save cash I do not think your solution is cost effective. However, you can get systems now for cheap with 8 gigs of ram and at least a hex core that could run software development fine. I do admit simulating server loads wont work but that is why you try to get the boss to pay for it then :-)

Re:My setup (1)

Murdoch5 (1563847) | about 3 years ago | (#37778226)

Oh I agree cost does sound to be something to think of, but he did ask what we have for setups :-), On a completely pointless rating my system is a 7.6 on Windows Experience.

Re:My setup (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37778170)

"I have a pretty powerful home system.

Core i5-2500k OC to 5.0GH "

FAIL Core i5 is not "pretty powerful" it's upper low end.

8 cores (2 4 core Xeons) is the entry level of "pretty powerful". All you have is consumer grade with lipstick on it.

Re:My setup (1)

Murdoch5 (1563847) | about 3 years ago | (#37778516)

Wrong, the Xeon is entirely meant for server side computing which is not relevant to desktop computing. Comparing the i5 and i7 series to the Xeon's is like comparing a 18 wheeler to a sports car. Both are meant for different tasks.

For home tinkering? (1)

ackthpt (218170) | about 3 years ago | (#37777312)

I get old, cheap hardware. Lots of it available. Install Linux on it and do what I want with it. If it breaks I can get replacements for next to nothing.

I'm not exactly the Department of Energy.

You can also find some really neat stuff to work with old hardware in salvage sales - Data Acquisition stuff, cameras, etc.

Don't write off the old stuff, not unless you actually need a super computer for something.

Re:For home tinkering? (1)

undercanopy (565001) | about 3 years ago | (#37779998)

only problem with that is that power consumption becomes non-trivial with multiple boxen, esp if they're older tech. for starting up now and then it's not so bad, but if you wanna keep 4 machines running all the time it start to add up, whereas a single i5 with a bunch of ram would consume less power than one of the old P4(?) machines that might be lying around.

Power Cost vs. Uptime (1)

sys_mast (452486) | about 3 years ago | (#37782188)

This is something the original post didn't really address. However it's critical. The two situations for this I see are as follows:

1) Uptime is minimal, only when Playing...then get the cheapest hardware that you can, old whatever.
2) Uptime is Always. I don't see a list of computing power needed. But a laptop with dual core, maxed out on ram, with Vmware will have about the lowest Amp draw around. Of course you'll be limited to a handful of VM's up at a time, but if you only need 1 or 2 up ALL the time, the the rest are once and a while...this might work OK for you. Also, your host OS could be used for something like a webserver that your not playing with and breaking all the time, but want running all the time.
c) Need lots of computing power which none off the above address...sorry

(no time for spelling or grammar.....sorry) (oh and 1,2,c it's a joke laugh)

Need more details, but .... (1)

King_TJ (85913) | about 3 years ago | (#37777390)

Off-hand, I'd say a big determining factor is going to be whether or not this "testing" has a lot of do with networking.

If part of what you're doing revolves around configuring routers or switches, or even a lot of tinkering related to how workstations interact with a server or servers, I don't think you want to look at the cloud as a viable option. In my opinion, hosted applications/servers in the cloud only make sense for production systems ready for deployment and regular use (which equates to said configuration providing some sort of cost savings or profit generation), *or* scenarios where multiple people need to collaborate on some sort of software project. A team working on coding an app might find hosting it in the cloud very beneficial, as different individuals sign in, contribute their work/changes to the code-base, and let everyone see and test the results.

When a core part of what you're trying to observe or experiment with has to do with the infrastructure (LAN network) and what's being seen on the client/server side as things are manipulated, I think you'd be better off having all of it on-site to work with it physically. I mean, sure, you could virtualize both a server and a workstation on some cloud-hosted system and test them remotely -- but the LAN network between the two would be completely virtual/simulated since they're both really on the same piece of hardware.....

2 machines and lots of VM (1)

rickb928 (945187) | about 3 years ago | (#37777482)

I've had as many as 9 individual machines at home for testing, development, and support. If I had to do it today, I would:

- Build one honking machine to host servers and network resources. 8-16GB RAM, 4 or more cores, Maybe an SSD to help perk things up.

- Build another honking machine for emulating the various desktop-type stuff you'll want to do. 8GB RAM might work here, but why scrimp?

Choosing the VM environments is the hard part. Virtualbox and Xen are obvious choices, though if you're in Windows all the time you can use machine #2 with Virtual PC. The server machine would benefit from true VM, not just a hypervisor, I think, but you'll get a hundred responses praising one and damning the others.

And of course a GbE switch. I might add in a fairly simple machine to do admin with, and for DR. This machine might store images, depending on how things work. You will be doing lots of images. My simple VPC disk images run up to 12+GB real quick, and I keep 6-7 around all the time, with a dozen more I drop in for special projects. This is at work, where things ahve come full circle - I once again have more storage at home than I do at work, and my Internet is faster. Oh, and I can barely send anyone any data due to security, which is not entirely bad.

You may become enamored of a SAN. This should be a fourth machine if you spin your own. Don't virtualize it.

Off lease hardware and ebay. (1)

bleh-of-the-huns (17740) | about 3 years ago | (#37777568)

I purchase older generation off lease equipment off of ebay for use in my own home lab.

I currently have around 4 2u servers with dual dualcore or quadcore cpu's. About the only thing you need to purchase are hard drives. For that I picked up 1 3u 15 bay drive chassis with dual amd dualcore cpus, 16G ram and running about 8 500G drives and 8 1TB drives. It has 4 gig network adapters that I use lacp with for link aggregation on a cheap managed switch that supports lacp.

The only problem is my switch, I paid around $60 for a dell 24port gig switch, but the dell switch kind of sucks, I should have spent a little more (okay a lot) and picked up a cisco.

Re:Off lease hardware and ebay. (1)

AlienIntelligence (1184493) | about 3 years ago | (#37782960)

I currently have around 4 2u servers with dual dualcore or quadcore cpu's.

Around? Either you have 4 2u servers or you don't.

-AI (I have around 20TB of data storage)

test lab (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37777584)

It basically depends on what you are trying to do.

I have to test software on a variety of platforms. This includes Win2k to Win7, OS X 10.5-10.7 and various *nix platforms so I have a ton of VMs, something like 40 I think.

I've got a Dell Precision 490 with dual xeons, 32GB ram and 3 TB of space. I picked it up without the hard drives off of Craigslist for $500.

I am running Win7 with VMware workstation, but I am about to switch to ESXi so that I lose the Win7 overhead.

It does most of what I need, but I have to have a couple of MacBooks due to OS X licensing. I suppose I am technically out of compliance because I moved my Lion VM from my MBP to the Dell, but it works better for what I need to do.

Beefy Server (1)

thechemic (1329333) | about 3 years ago | (#37777620)

I use a poweredge 2900 with 24gb of ram and 10tb. Loaded with VMware ESXi (free). It can handle multiple servers and workstations running at the same time. Initial cost was high, but a better solution for us long term versus cloud or renting, etc. credit card payments were lower than other solutions and I own it. there are trial editions of just about every server OS out there. So other than the hardware, its been free to tinker otherwise.

Hardware? for testing? (1)

sl4shd0rk (755837) | about 3 years ago | (#37777642)

There's really no point in having a mashup of hardware collecting dust in the basement anymore. Linux KVM (kernel based virtualization) is free and quite stable. Other options abound by Vmware and Oracle too if you like to click EULAs.

Not quite sure why anyone would want to go the hardware route anymore unless they are developing for specific architectures that are not supported by the hypervisor.

Re:Hardware? for testing? (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | about 3 years ago | (#37777764)

it would be nice to know what the lab is for.
VMs sound like the way to go. Unless you are doing heavy lifting at home any AMD64 system with a lot of ram should work fine.
I suggest AMD because of the low cost and the fact that all of them have hardware VM support unlike Intel.
With Intel you have to check which CPU you have.

Re:Hardware? for testing? (1)

pclminion (145572) | about 3 years ago | (#37782798)

Not quite sure why anyone would want to go the hardware route anymore unless they are developing for specific architectures that are not supported by the hypervisor.

Anybody whose software will be deployed on physical boxes should test their software on physical boxes. The idea of testing your stuff in the environment and configuration it will actually run in might sound a bit odd, but amazingly enough it turns out to be a good practice. </sarcasm>

Seriously though, VMs can speed development tremendously, and they're awesome for deployment, but as QA platforms they aren't a replacement for testing on actual iron, just a supplement to it.

It really looks bad when something does happen, happens only in the customer's configuration, and you have to say "I've never actually tested the configuration you are using." In fact it makes you look like a serious moron.

Spend what you are comfortable with (1)

MikeB0Lton (962403) | about 3 years ago | (#37777652)

When I learned SharePoint, I used a dedicated low-end PC with Linux and VMware Server. I installed a second hard drive to dedicate to the virtual machines. It took some time to boot the environments, but it worked. If I were to do it today, I'd go with a better desktop, load up on memory and use multiple hard drives in whatever RAID configuration made sense. This can scale out to multiple desktops, NAS, managed switches, etc. I'd probably use VMware Hypervisor instead of Server as well. Boot it off a USB flash drive or SD card if you want. Consider power, cooling, noise, and space in your hardware selection.

Virtual Machines (1)

SSpade (549608) | about 3 years ago | (#37777786)

I have around 30 virtual machines running on a single tower server running ESXi. Solaris/x86, Windows XP, 7, server. A dozen different Linux installations. (Mostly used for software development, with a Jenkins-based continuous integration system building code across different platforms, spinning VMs up as needed).

Pretty much anything I could do with a rack of servers, I can do remotely with a bunch of VMs. I can access the console remotely, reboot, power-on, power-off virtual machines remotely. I can create a new VM and install an OS on it remotely. Add network switches, replumb the network between them. Mount or eject ISO images.

And there's stuff you can't do easily with physical servers that you can with VMs. Take a system snapshot, change something or test something, then roll back to the snapshot.

For "production" use there are a lot of tradeoffs between hardware and virtualization, but to play with or develop on it's hard to beat.

I have 8 cores, 16 gigs of RAM and a bit under 3 terabytes of disk. It cost a lot less, burns less power and makes *much* less noise than the rack of servers it replaced. You could get by with a lot less than that if you limited the number of VMs you had running concurrently.

Re:Virtual Machines (1)

nabsltd (1313397) | about 3 years ago | (#37780914)

And there's stuff you can't do easily with physical servers that you can with VMs. Take a system snapshot, change something or test something, then roll back to the snapshot.

One of the other cool things is that you can pull the plug on the VM (i.e., hard power off) without any chance of damage to physical hardware but still see how your application reacts.

I also found that prolonged disconnection from the disk drive doesn't make much difference to most operating systems (when I had a 2-hour SAN outage). This was a shock, as when the SAN came back up, the VMs resumed running with no issues.

Clouds require a different perspective (1)

bamstead (593464) | about 3 years ago | (#37777816)

You may want to re-look at the clouds, for around $500 a year you can really have a nice lab, spin up and down systems till your heart is content. The big issue is you need to be aware of your usage. Power off systems your not playing with. It is a play ground, don't leave them running just because. Virtual Box is a great idea if you want to buy a new box. but you will spend more in two years on that PC, 4core minimum and 16GB of ram, (my minimum) and power, then you will renting a little slice of a cloud. It's computing in a new way, and need to be looked at differently. Plus you have easy access to it from anywhere.

Re:Clouds require a different perspective (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37778150)

Yea, I tried the whole Lab in the cloud thing. I bought it hook-line-and-sinker. FAIL!

It gets very expensive very quickly. I just finished decomming my EC2 lab because it's costing me like 275/mo. At that rate, I can have a killer hypervisor running VMs all the time for about the same cost as a years worth of lab time in EC2. After that experience, I'll take my home lab, a good firewall and a decent ISP over the cloud lab concept any day.

Re:Clouds require a different perspective (1)

icebraining (1313345) | about 3 years ago | (#37779016)

Yeap. EC2 is nice if you have a public service that you might need to scale very rapidly, or just for a short while, but for constant demand it's not worth it.

Find an Open Source Cloud (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37777948)

CloudI is an example of a BSD licensed cloud (PaaS type). To read more about it: .

I prefer a portable Lab (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37777984)

I decided on a portable lab myself. I got tired of being stuck in one place while tinkering, testing and learning various software and operating systems.
I bought an ASUS republic of gamers mode # g74sx-bbk7 from BestBuy for my lab setup. It has 17.3" screen, laptop iCore 7, 8GB of Ram (Expandable to 16) Nvidia GTX 560m 2GB? , HDMI, DVDRW drive, built in cooling system. backlit keyboard. 4G Wimax embedded.

I installed VMWare Workstation. I Run Server 2008 R2 with two Windows 7 Clients in VMWare and it works great also have virtualized Server 2003, Windows XP, Ubuntu. I can make imagse in the virtual envrionment. I can have the 2008 server act as a domain server with the Windows XP and 7 virtual workstations as clients. I have also setup several ubuntu test servers as web servers. I find the 8gb of ram is plenty. I also use this same computer to run my Traktor S4 with Traktor Pro 2 Software. I havent found anything it cant do yet. Best of all I can take it to the coffee house, my backyard whereever I want and not have to worry about wires, a spaghetti or a mess of network equipment and power cords.

If you dont want to spend the money on VMWare Workstation you could use VirtualBox but I will say it does do some strange things at times and it is not 100% stable with Windows 8 developer preview.

You could also experiment with virtual appliances as well if you got VMWare though

If you want to run a web server to run a website this probably would not be a solution for you.

It actually is on clearance at best buy right now for 1049.99 they started at 1199.99 if you want a desktop unit they also have a beefy Asus Desktop for 799.99

Get three cisco switches.. (1)

HockeyPuck (141947) | about 3 years ago | (#37778008)

Get three small cat3k L2/L3 capable switches from say eBay. You'll be able to do most LAN topologies with those at both layer2 and layer3.

Re:Get three cisco switches.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37778548)

GNS3 is a graphical network simulator that allows simulation of complex networks.

To allow complete simulations, GNS3 is strongly linked with :
    Dynamips, a Cisco IOS emulator.
  Qemu, a generic and open source machine emulator and virtualizer.
  VirtualBox, a free and powerful virtualization software.

Use older hardware (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37778508)

You can pick up not-so-dead socket 775 procs, ddr2, boards, used power supplies from recycling centers, I've always been able to get this crap for free from restaurants doing jobs for em', I find it, and offer to haul it away. They think the stuff is broken, but I've seen that they usually have one issue (Dead psu, hard drive for some reason causing a short, improperly seated memory from Carlos trying to copulate with it.) You get 6 of these old PoS's, strip em' apart and you get 3-4 good ones. Word of the wise: Chain restaurants usually waste the most money on having new hardware (Where Software changes occur once every 2-3 years), so you can usually get the best hardware from them.

Throw in some entry-level gaming video cards (Which you'll need to buy), and you've got yourself a nice little farm to run everything on, in a much sexier way than vm-ing it up.

You could probably cut your losses by selling the com port PCI cards that are likely to be in the PoS machines, unless you really need a null modem network.

Re:Use older hardware (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37780350)

So instead of telling them the stuff really works and there's value to it, you let them believe it's broken and offer to scrap it for them? Yet you keep it? That's cool.

Re:Use older hardware (1)

AlienIntelligence (1184493) | about 3 years ago | (#37783092)

So instead of telling them the stuff really works and there's value to it, you let them believe it's broken and offer to scrap it for them? Yet you keep it? That's cool.

He mentioned chain restaurants, not mom n pop on a budget restaurants.

Not sure if you've had the opportunity to WORK for ANYONE yet... but
franchises do not give a fuck about throwing away equipment. And they
give a fuck less... whether it works or not. Home office says, upgrade,
they upgrade.

Then there's H&R Block... lol, that had tube monitors until a year ago.


Cheap laptops (1)

Drunkulus (920976) | about 3 years ago | (#37778606)

I have two broken display Thinkpads with duocore cpu's. You can get these for cheap on craigslist or perhaps free from your friendly IT department. Laptops are ideal because they have greatly reduced power consumption compared to desktops, and have built-in battery backup. Set them up with your preferred linux distro and either eucalyptus or openstack, and bam! you have your own private cloud. Eucalyptus can run EC2 machine images if that's what you're lab testing. Plus, even with typical 5 year old laptops, you'll have more compute power than four basic EC2 instances.

Extra hard drive (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37779050)

Get a custom build and put in a few extra hard drives to play with. That's it.

Used Rackable (1)

Gyorg_Lavode (520114) | about 3 years ago | (#37779054)

I normally buy used rackable systems (from somewhere like For $400 you can get 4 cores ( a couple years old) and 8GB of ram. That should be enough to run a small lab at very little cost.

Re:Used Rackable (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | about 3 years ago | (#37782658)

Only downside is that most rackmount systems tend to be LOUD.

Get a proper server class system for your lab (1)

uksv29 (167362) | about 3 years ago | (#37779072)

After a long time using standard PCs in the home for development I've finally splashed out on a HP DL160 G6.

I've done this because I'm fed up with replacing power supplies, fans and running out of motherboard memory capacity. In my experience the HP rackmount servers (almost) never break down and you can stuff serious amounts of memory into them (the DL160 G6 has 18 SIMM sockets). My server spec is 2 x quad core cpu + 4 x 3.5 inch disks + 40GB RAM. Paid about GBP 1000 for the server (second user) off EBAY then added 32GB RAM. Its a good deal if you compare it with a standard size motherboard which can take that sort of memory and a pair of CPUs and you add in the cost of a good case and power supply.

With a good server you can concentrate on virtulisation and your testing and be not forever repairing things. Quality always pays off in the long term.


Visit dumpsters. Wear old clothes. (1)

Medievalist (16032) | about 3 years ago | (#37779282)

Right now I am seeing quad-core Xeon 1U Dell rackmounts with 146 GB hard drives and 2GB or more of RAM in corporate dumpsters. Lots of desktop stuff too.

Hardware is free as long as you can afford to spend your labor & time on it.

Re:Visit dumpsters. Wear old clothes. (1)

s.whiplash (1810776) | about 3 years ago | (#37779668)

I would agree with this, as I have found some hardware that was good enough for my purposes where it may not have been good enough for the service provider. I have also found decent hardware at the local electronics recycling center for the county. It is amazing what some people throw away. Of course there is a lot of junk also.

ESX on VMware Workstation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37779600)

I have an AMD Phenom II with 6 cores and 16 GB of RAM. I believe the CPU, motherboard and memory cost me like 400$. You can grab latest release of VMware Workstation which supports running ESX/ESXi as VMs. You can grab EMC Celerra VSA or FreeNAS for iSCSI solution to present some disks to the ESX VM.

Proxmox VE 32bit FTW (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37779692)

You can run it on 32bit cheap x86 hardware and have "containers" to run whatever you want on it. I run most of my personal lab stuff of of it without the investment of an expensive piece of hardware. The containers can be any Linux distro. If you need Kernel control there's a KVM element of it if you have hardware that supports VT.

A word of wisdom. Don't fall into the buying lots of hardware trap like I did. Before long you will end up with a full rack of equipment in your basement with multiple SAN's and networks supporting lots of crazy stuff. It's a huge time hole in itself.

vbox is king shit, and free. (1)

jampola (1994582) | about 3 years ago | (#37779710)

Virtual box (non ose) and spend your money on physical hardware and play with iSCSI. If you had some spare dough, buy some Cisco switches to play with also. This will keep you busy for a while.

Build an ESXi lab (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37779892)

Much the same as echoed here

Buy a nice processor, more cores the better, speed per core isn't such a huge issue, mainly making sure things stay repsonsive and nothing saturates the cores is what you are after (more cores means less chance of that happening). An AMD Phenom X6 would be ideal. Getting a dual CPU board puts prices much higher and is probably not worth it.

Buy as much RAM as you can. 16GB is nice, more would probably not be wasted. Most desktop motherboards only have 4 DIMM slots and so you will likely be limited to 4 x 4GB chips. 8GB are great but cost a small fortune. Check to see what a board can support.

The hard disks would be best RAID'd up in some fashion. It probably is worth spending the money on a PERC5/6 RAID card from Dell. This can take normal SATA disks. get 3 or 4 cheap 1TB disks at £35 each and RAID01 them or RAID5 them. Or, have two RAID 1 arrays and split VMs and potential SAN data. If SSD prices continue to fall sharply, get a 240GB one and on it's own with thin provisioning it should be scary fast and not wobble under load.

I think a 1 port gigabyte network card would suffice but if you want to play with switches then get a 4 port one. Gb NICs and switches would be nice but really, 100Mb is likely fine in a test lab (unless you do VMotion externally). A virtual machine running something like Vyatta can do routing for you very well and is free. You only really miss physically cabling things (which is useful) and cisco commands. For concept learning it is more than fine.

Software wise I would go with ESXi5. Works on basic SATA drives (unlike ESXi4) if you don't want a RAID card and is the leader by a mile at the moment. Installing it also give 60 days free trial of all the licenceed features. Install this to an SD card, boot from it and create the data stores. In 60 days simply reinstall to the SD card, mount the data stores again and carry on as normal. A bit of a pain but doable. The free version is fine also one it expires, has features that others don't like 'as needed' memory allocation and thin provisioning which saves massive amounts of disk space. You can also do virtual ESXi hosts inside esxi to test things as you need to in Virtual Center (vmotion, emotion HA etc) without hosing your 'real' box every two months.

So, a basic box of a 4 core machine, 16GB RAM, two RAID1 arrays and ESXi5 gives amazing potential. Create a SAN only datastore on one array, use the other for VMs. You can install ESXi inside itself, migrate machines using the SAN VM you setup earlier (open filer etc..). You can create multiple subnets and route traffic using Vyatta to simulate an enterprise network with many sites. You can create fairly complex windows environments and configurations. You can test link failures by powering off Vyatta and see what happens to your Exchange 2010 DAG groups etc

Really, with such a small outlay (£500-£600 really) you can do almost anything. Such a powerful and flexible setup even 5 years ago would have cost much more. Buy a microsoft technet licence and there is literally nothing you can't test or play around with. Even if the machine isn't being used and you have an interest in other computing hobbies (i.e. 3d rendering) you can create a 'do-it-all' vm that you can remotely connect to and use as a machine to install trial software, run render nodes, convert your flags to MP3's etc It really will be very useful. Just as long as you had another PC to use to connect to it.

If you can wait, some Intel Z68 motherboards will support 8 DIMM slots, giving even more RAM potential. RAM will be the first thing to run out, so it might be worth waiting to see how that goes. Or, try one of these boards, takes cosumer RAM and can handle 2 opteron 6 core CPUs. Not a bad place to start!

mini itx! (1)

romainp (1847598) | about 3 years ago | (#37780008)

Hi, Maybe I do not have the same needs as you but I create my own lab at home with some mini itx motherboard and small factor cases and I am very happy with them. I use Xen as server and a lot of vms. I use a mini itx/small box for my pfsense router/firewall (and wireless access point) and a small 8 ports vlan aware switch from hp. I can give here more detailed information if you want. Also, it depends on what you want to test at home (clustering, cloud, ha, security, web, etc)

Re:mini itx! - with ecc :) (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37780660)

S1200KP seems to have ECC support in mini itx form factor. Any downsides to that one besides having only two memory slots?

Mixture of Physical, Virtual and Cloud (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37780352)

I use a combination of physical, virtual and cloud infrastructure to meet my needs. As a Windows developer / consultant I use:

- Budget Asus Laptop with a Pentium Dual core CPU, upgraded to 8GB of memory and a 120GB SSD with wireless keyboard/mouse and 24" LCD monitor
- Azure hosted TFS in the cloud
- Hosted DNN CRM portal for my website and Email, Blogger for my Blog
-- Drop box for file sharing, Mozy for offsite backup
- Homebuilt i7-2600K with 16GB or memory and 4 300GB Raptor HDD's in RAID 1+0 running Hyper-V for my VM's
--- VM's include Domain Controllers, Build Controller/Agents and integration test machines which I can snapshot and restore at will

I've spent around $1500 for all of my hardware and around $100/mo for all of my various online services and registration fees including code signing certs and 30/5 internet service. This gives me everything I need to code / build / deploy /test / repeat in a very small and affordable package.

Virtualization Server @ Reasonable Cost... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37780456)

NewEgg Wishlist I had sitting around...

$429 (1) ASUS KGPE-D16 SSI EEB 3.61 Server Motherboard Dual Socket G34 AMD SR5690 DDR3 800/1066/1333
$184 (1) CORSAIR Professional Series Gold AX850 (CMPSU-850AX) 850W ATX12V v2.31 / EPS12V v2.92 80 PLUS GOLD Certified Modular Active ...
$499 (2) AMD Opteron 6128 Magny-Cours 2.0GHz Socket G34 115W 8-Core Server Processor OS6128WKT8EGOWOF
$775 (8) Kingston 8GB 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 ECC Registered Server Memory Model KVR1333D3D4R9S/8G
$798 (8) Western Digital RE4 WD5003ABYX 500GB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive -Bare Drive

Add a server chassis that can hold the SSI EEB board form factor... I think the memory is compatible...

So for around $2600 you can build one hell of a server... Plus that board can add a 'PIKE' board for SAS drives and SATA 3.0 even...

Re:Virtualization Server @ Reasonable Cost... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37780618)

Also failed to mention...

That board's memory is only 1/2 populated in the config above... and the 8gb DIMMS are actually only 1/2 of the max size per DIMM socket ( I think )...
That board also provides multiple NIC's including a dedicated management port with iKVM..... Sweet for a home lab or otherwise...
Addding the PIKE board would allow for a total of 16 SATA/SAS devices....

And I believe it did support the 16 core chips as well... so you could make this a 32 core beast...

Comment subject (1)

slaker (53818) | about 3 years ago | (#37780858)

My home "test machine" is a Xeon E1220, which ironically is the least expensive (at retail) i7 system by around $80. I stuck 16GB of (admittedly expensive fully buffered) RAM in a Supermicro motherboard and added an IBM ServerRAID M1015 (8 port SAS card that supports 3TB drives, they sell on Ebay for $75 - $100). It all sits in a nice 3U chassis that I've had for years. Most of the hardware in the machine is devoted to running one little FreeBSD VM that supports ZFS for all the drives I have in that machine, but since the RAM/CPU needs of that machine are so small, relatively speaking, the same box is home to a couple full-time Windows Servers and a Centos VM and I'm still only using half the CPU and RAM resources available to that system.

The interesting thing about that setup is that it's really not as ridiculous as it sounds: $200 for the CPU, $150 for the motherboard, $200 worth of RAM.

The thing I use at work for my virtual machine needs uses a couple quad core Xeon 5000-series CPUs and has 8GB RAM. It's an Intel-branded server that I picked up off Craigslist for $250. I use it to run four Server 2003 guests and it's more than adequate for the use it has been given. It's probably a little too loud to leave running in a home (2U servers generally are), but I suspect someone with sufficient motivation could find a workaround for that.

KVM (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37781908)

Why do so many slashdotters suggest proprietary software? I had a co-worker in the same situation tell me about his plans for a vmware server. I replied by having him come to my desk and typing two lines to start a vm in KVM on debian:

sudo apt-get install qemu-kvm
sudo kvm -m 1024 --cdrom

Install virt-manager to get a GUI to do the same thing.

I am amazed at how easy it is to use free software, yet what sits at the tip of everyone's tongue is proprietary.

Amazon, Rackspace... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37782456)

We recently moved our servers to rackspace and so far that has worked out really well. You have to do a bit of research and figure out what works for you, but for us this was awesome. We can push from local dev machines up to the server and run tests there. It won't work for everyone, but those it does work for, it removes a lot of hassle in dealing with hardware. ~Ben

GNS3 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37783010)

Utilize GNS3 for your networking labs. Learning how GNS3 and Dynamips (the brains behind GNS3) works will make it a resource viable option. The newest version (0.8.1) brings VirtualBox support as well.

Virtualize, but set up good storage (1)

tachijuan (557826) | about 3 years ago | (#37783586)

Virtualization is the thing. I was fortunate to be able to do this early on (5+ years ago) and I learned a few things along the way:

1) Memory is the thing. VMware and the other hypervisors are really good at making the most out of memory (ballooning, shared memory, de-dupe, etc.), but RAM is cheap now. My setup has 16GB and I can do just about anything I want with this.

2) Disk is even more the thing. My setup is a cluster, but even if it wasn't I'd still use some sort of external disk solution. I have two in my environment. For my "dev and cheap" stuff I use a cheapo windpc+opensolaris/indiana ZFS based NAS box. You can build yourself something that rivals enterprise class stuff for dirt cheap. My other solution is a discard from one of my customer. I have an (older) netapp array. It's clustered and does all sorts of fun stuff. At one point it was an enterprise class solution, so for my lab it's more than enough. You use external storage because your VM's then become transportable. The server you use today, might not be the same tomorrow. Moving the bits around from one server to another is a pain. Having them on external storage makes it really easy: fire up the new server, connect it to the storage, shut down the VM's on the old server, start them up again on the new server, retire the old server. And if you have compatible architectures, you might not even need to do the shutdown the VM's at all.

3) Get your servers from the company you work for (or a friend works for). My lab is Dell 2950 based. I was able to get the servers for next to nothing from a company that had depreciated them and was willing to sell them for nothing. They are not the most current, bestest, fastest thing, but guess what - the time when CPU and memory are the bottlenecks for most stuff is over. Even three year old hardware can run most current OSs more than adequately for a home lab. Granted, if you are going to playing games in your "lab", then this isn't going to work. But then again, it would turn this whole discussion moot anyways.
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