VCAP-DCA Lab Setup – #1 – Prerequisites

I’ve been looking around for a good lab setup using either ESXi or Workstation, and despite that a lot of people tell you “how to do it”, there really isn’t a solid how-to on setting a up a lab for getting hands on experience with the things you’ll need to know for VCAP-DCA. So, that being said, I’m going to start a “This is how I did my lab” post series and walk you through how exactly I set up my lab and whether or not it worked.

So for starters, there are quite a few prerequisites, and here they are:

Hardware:

  1. A CPU that has some horsepower – I would say that for this setup you want at least a quad core, and the newer the better (i3, i5, i7 series have Intel VT). If you have an older processor that’s fine too, it just means that you won’t be able to run 64 bit VMs on Nested ESXi (which is what we are going to, nested ESXi). This isn’t a huge deal though because running VMs is the easy part of this – not to mention that 32 bit VMs will be fine for the lab.
  2. RAM – You’ll want at least 16 gigs, 32 gigs preferable and anything above that is even better
  3. Storage – You’ll want at least 200GB of pretty fast storage. You could probably get by with a single 7200 RPM disk, but I promise you that it will not run very well, and that your labs will remind of the labs at VMworld. You’ll probably want an SSD or at least some type of RAID array for your lab. The faster the disks, the better as well (10k, 15k). I think 200GB is minimum, you’ll probably want closer to 400GB.

You’ll need some software, and we can probably get away with “trial” versions of everything, provided you work at it every day (since most trials, especially VMware, will only last 60 days), but you’ll still need some ISOs to do all this with, and you’ll want those before you start the lab. I’ll lay those out really quick and why you need them.

Windows:

  1. Windows Server (at least 2008 R2 x86 or x64). This will be used as a domain controller. You’ll want Active Directory integrated when we start working with stuff. It only takes a few minutes to set up Active Directory, so you are best of just doing it.
  2. Windows Server (at least 2008 R2 x64). This will be for vCenter Server. We will need vCenter Server.
  3. Windows 7 or 8 (x86 or x64) as your “Control Center”. This will basically be your management box. You can use the physical host if you want, though I am going to whip up a VM for it.

VMware:

  1. vCenter Server (Standard). We’ll need this. Obvsiously.
  2. vMA (VMware Management Assistant). This is a OVA you can download and deploy.
  3. VMware Workstation – I’ll be doing this all on Workstation 10, but if you want to a nested lab on ESXi, you absolutely can, it may just be set up slightly differently (especially the networking).
  4. VMware vSphere PowerCLI – this gets installed on your Control Center box.
  5. VMware ESXi 5.5.0 – latest revision. We’ll use update manager to get it all up to date, so the latest one you can download from VMware will work.

Others:

  1. Your choice of OpenFiler or FreeNAS.

For this particular setup, I’m going to use an older HP DL360 G5 (that I just happen to have lying around) with 2x Intel Xeon 5430 (quad core, so 8 cores all day), 48 GB of RAM, 2x 10k 146GB disks in RAID 1 for the OS, and 4x 146GB disks in RAID 5. Yes, RAID 5 is not the best choice for writes, but I am using a little program called Primo Cache as a RAM write cache. If you have spare memory and want a RAM write cache, I would highly suggest getting that program – it’s optional, so I’m not going to call it a requirement, but it definitely helps.

For software, I’ll be using VMware Workstation 10, OpenFiler, and Server 2012 for all Windows Server based stuff. I’ll get to configuring these in the next post, but this is what you will need at this point to get started.

I’ll get to the configuration