Hardware to setup a VM MSCA 2012 testing / learning box

Danielm7Danielm7 Posts: 2,268Member ■■■■■■■■□□
I'd like to start studying for the 2012 MSCA over the next few months. I'd like to build a cheap, quiet VM box to run labs and such. It doesn't have to be very powerful, it'll have all of 1 active user. I imagine at most it'll have 3 VMs at once, 2 servers and a client to test GPs, account things, maybe load and test Exchange since I don't get to touch as much of that at my current job. It won't be internet facing, just a simple, low load machine.

Could I pick something up like an old Dell Optiplex and put more memory in it? I currently have one of those as my regular desktop and it works fine for the VMs I've been running on it. Quiet is an issue because it's at my desk, near my very light sleeping wife and keeping her up with fan noise all the time wouldn't be awesome. I love new tech toys as much as the next nerd but price is definitely an issue, that's why I was thinking an older desktop class machine that I can pickup for $100 or so and throw more memory in it.

My current system maxes at 8 GB of memory, would that be enough to run ESXi and a couple small test VMs if I got another of a similar system? Also, I haven't followed cpu tech as much for awhile, would a core2duo be compatible with EXSi and later Hyper-V so I could learn that too?

Thanks.
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Comments

  • jmasterj206jmasterj206 Posts: 471Member
    You could probably virtualize on the local machine. The one problem you will run into is that you can't run hyper-v in a virtualized environment and configuring Hyper-V is part of the exam objectives. I ended up picking up this Lenovo ThinkServer on the cheap and adding some more RAM and used an old hard drive I had around the house. Is it lightning fast by any means? No, but works fine for labbing purposes.
    WGU grad
  • Danielm7Danielm7 Posts: 2,268Member ■■■■■■■■□□
    Hm, I have extra drives. What about if I swapped out drives to learn VMWare and Hyper-V?

    To clarify, I'm talking about picking up another one of these machines and using it only for lab stuff, not using my current desktop for it.
  • krjaykrjay Posts: 290Member
    I'd probably throw another hard drive in your machine and dual boot. I did that for a while when I was on a budget.

    If you can shell out a few dollars at some point I'd pick up one of these: GIGABYTE Launches the BRIX Ultra Compact PC Kit . I threw an SSD and 16gb ram in it and have a portable lab. I bring it to work, give it power, and remote desktop into it as its connected to wifi. Great device for my situation.
    2014 Certification Goals: 70-410 [ ] CCNA:S [ ] Linux+ [ ]
  • MrJimbo19MrJimbo19 Posts: 49Member ■■□□□□□□□□
    HP is not my favorite brand at this moment with their recent changes on bios patches but you can't beat the consistent price on this lower end quiet box. HP ProLiant G7 N54L MicroServer Server System AMD Turion II Model Neo N54L 2GB 250GB LFF Operating System None 704941-001 - Newegg.com

    You will need some additional Ram which you can find for not to much, add in an additional drive and you have a Hyper-V host you can play with for less than $350. You can probably build something better at around the same price but if you don't want to futz with it this is a good option.

    Install Hyper-v on PROLIANT N54L
  • krjaykrjay Posts: 290Member
    I have a few of those HP boxes as well. They are definitely quiet and work very well for a lab environment.
    2014 Certification Goals: 70-410 [ ] CCNA:S [ ] Linux+ [ ]
  • clubrizaclubriza Posts: 6Member ■□□□□□□□□□
    Just for info:
    Win8.1 has hyper-v but you have to install it via enabling windows features

    also currently server 2012 r2 does not support exchange but will soon
    Exchange 2013 SP1 Will Run on Windows Server 2012 R2 -- Redmondmag.com
  • SamMerlotteSamMerlotte Posts: 44Member ■■□□□□□□□□
    krjay wrote: »
    If you can shell out a few dollars at some point I'd pick up one of these: GIGABYTE Launches the BRIX Ultra Compact PC Kit . I threw an SSD and 16gb ram in it and have a portable lab. I bring it to work, give it power, and remote desktop into it as its connected to wifi. Great device for my situation.

    What OS/hypervisor are you using on that?
  • stryder144stryder144 Posts: 1,596Member ■■■■■■■■□□
    Windows 8/8.1 does, indeed, have Hyper-V but it must be the Pro edition, if I remember correctly. I was lucky enough when I purchased my HP laptop that it was less than a month before the release of 8. As such, I was able to score the Pro version of 8 for less than $50. That has allowed me to work with Hyper-V without having to access a trial version of Windows Server. Very convenient for me.

    Cheers
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  • goldenlightgoldenlight Posts: 378Member
    hmmm....I feel more comfortable with 16gb of Ram..

    I highly reccomend using something like Virtualbox to load the os. At least you don't have to worry about accidentally messing up your current OS.

    You might be able to get it to work..
    The Only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it keep looking. Don't settle - Steve Jobs
  • Danielm7Danielm7 Posts: 2,268Member ■■■■■■■■□□
    Looking at that HP Microserver that was linked above. I see that Server 2012 says it has a min requirement of 512 memory, is that realistic? If I get that base HP unit to start with 2 gigs of memory and put ESXi and 2-3 VMs on there. I realize it wouldn't be screaming, but would it even be feasable until I upgrade the memory further?
  • MrJimbo19MrJimbo19 Posts: 49Member ■■□□□□□□□□
    Danielm7 wrote: »
    Looking at that HP Microserver that was linked above. I see that Server 2012 says it has a min requirement of 512 memory, is that realistic? If I get that base HP unit to start with 2 gigs of memory and put ESXi and 2-3 VMs on there. I realize it wouldn't be screaming, but would it even be feasable until I upgrade the memory further?

    I really think they look at minimum spec on the server OS as this is what you need to just turn the thing on and have it sit there thinking about the world around it. If you want it to do some domain duties and maybe setup DHCP on it you need at least 1-2gb of ram minimum. With the processor being on the more anemic side I would say more ram is going to be a must, grab at least 8gb to make it run with 2-3 vm's.
  • Danielm7Danielm7 Posts: 2,268Member ■■■■■■■■□□
    Good to know, thanks.
  • spuddy1spuddy1 Posts: 5Member ■□□□□□□□□□
    I run a virtual lab through VMware 9 and yes you can run hyper v within it. I just can not get DHCP to work throught the server itself, it uses vmware DHCP.

    Cheers
    Jon
  • sbhawksbhawk Posts: 27Member ■□□□□□□□□□
    To be honest... studying for the exam means going out and spending money a lot less. Start bringing lunch to work. You will most likely save up $300-$400 in one month. Two months double that. You will have about $400-$600 to spend on a server for a virtual lab. In addition you can use that to create a media server. on top of that you can write off those expenses for taxes since it's for education. :)

    Best $600 investment in my opinion. I put it off for a while but eventually I pulled a trigger and was happy I made that decision.
  • Danielm7Danielm7 Posts: 2,268Member ■■■■■■■■□□
    Hah, I WISH I had that kind of fat in my budget to cut out. Already bring lunch every day. $400 a month is around the entire food budget for myself, my wife and my daughter.
  • sbhawksbhawk Posts: 27Member ■□□□□□□□□□
    Danielm7 wrote: »
    Hah, I WISH I had that kind of fat in my budget to cut out. Already bring lunch every day. $400 a month is around the entire food budget for myself, my wife and my daughter.

    Whole family.. I feel yah. Here is your other alternative. I did this before:

    use amazon free tier. Slower resources but all free. You will need t learn how to utilize VPC.
    http://aws.amazon.com/free/

    if you want you can also purchase more storage volumes. You may need it. Or create multiple accounts. But to be honest, you can put together a cheap rig using used components on eBay or Craigslist for under $200. Some people just wanna get rid of their crap.

  • nosytlotnosytlot Posts: 1Registered Users ■□□□□□□□□□
    Do all models of the Brix work "out of the box" with Windows Server 2012 R2? I'm looking at purchasing either a Brix or one of the Intel NUCs, but I'm worried that the NIC drivers (or something else) won't be compatible with 2012 R2.

    Any pointers or suggestions would be greatly appreciated!
  • krjaykrjay Posts: 290Member
    I had to battle with the Brix to get the nic drivers installed with Server 2012 in order to use Hyper-V. Worth it in my opinion, I love that thing.
    2014 Certification Goals: 70-410 [ ] CCNA:S [ ] Linux+ [ ]
  • Danielm7Danielm7 Posts: 2,268Member ■■■■■■■■□□
    sbhawk wrote: »
    Whole family.. I feel yah.

    Yeah it's really not very difficult. If you almost never out to eat, don't mind cooking and bring your own lunch to work it's a totally reasonable food budget for a couple people. I used to spend more when I was single, but I also went out to lunch every day, would go out to dinner often, etc.

    Anyway, I'm probably going to end up just using an older computer for now. Looking at the NUC and other micro computers, they're cool and I'll probably get one later but my wife just started school so the cool new toys vs. just works decision will be based on that.
  • sbhawksbhawk Posts: 27Member ■□□□□□□□□□
    Danielm7 wrote: »
    Yeah it's really not very difficult. If you almost never out to eat, don't mind cooking and bring your own lunch to work it's a totally reasonable food budget for a couple people. I used to spend more when I was single, but I also went out to lunch every day, would go out to dinner often, etc.

    Anyway, I'm probably going to end up just using an older computer for now. Looking at the NUC and other micro computers, they're cool and I'll probably get one later but my wife just started school so the cool new toys vs. just works decision will be based on that.

    You know what.. considering your situation, definitely take a look into Amazon Web Services. It'll be just enough to get the lab going. Also Windows Azure is great with their free services. Although, you'd be surprised how much power a retired/old computer has. 8GB should be more than enough on your current system. I definitely do not think 2GB is enough for a VM host. It's enough for one of the VMs though.

    Are you planning on using VMware vSphere Hypervisor? http://www.vmware.com/products/vsphere-hypervisor I've been reading about its free usage minus a few features used in the licensed version. Though, we won't have to utilize those features considering this is a lab.

    Be sure to note ESXi vSphere Hypervisor limitations. 1) Only install ESXi 5.1 or later as it supports Windows 8 and Server 2012. Earlier versions do not support. 2) Also ESXi will be your host. So you will be installing server 2012 VMs. As part of the Windows Server 2012 examination, you will need to work with Hyper-V. This can cause problems with ESXi (nested VM). I am very cautious of this myself. Take a look at these forums.. it'll be very useful in your virtual lab configuration. I know it'll be for me: https://communities.vmware.com/community/vmtn/bestpractices/nested
  • pistolpete31pistolpete31 Posts: 19Member ■□□□□□□□□□
    sbhawk wrote: »
    To be honest... studying for the exam means going out and spending money a lot less. Start bringing lunch to work. You will most likely save up $300-$400 in one month. Two months double that. You will have about $400-$600 to spend on a server for a virtual lab. In addition you can use that to create a media server. on top of that you can write off those expenses for taxes since it's for education. :)

    Best $600 investment in my opinion. I put it off for a while but eventually I pulled a trigger and was happy I made that decision.

    What is your setup?
  • pistolpete31pistolpete31 Posts: 19Member ■□□□□□□□□□
    25a3gg0.png

    Thought about getting that Lenovo server but figured I would throw one together, any thoughts on that for a server 2012 box? I want to put exchange on their too, either hyper-v or esxi setup. Thought about getting the i3 for $125 but that i5 is only $180 at newegg.
  • pjd007pjd007 Posts: 277Member ■■■□□□□□□□
    25a3gg0.png

    Thought about getting that Lenovo server but figured I would throw one together, any thoughts on that for a server 2012 box? I want to put exchange on their too, either hyper-v or esxi setup. Thought about getting the i3 for $125 but that i5 is only $180 at newegg.
    When you run multiple VM's disk IO becomes an issue, I'd get an SSD drive as well as the HDD as 64GB or 128GB SSD's are getting cheaper so you could run your VM's off that which will help performance.

    Or just buy what you've listed then add an SSD or another HDD later if performance becomes an issue.
  • kriscamaro68kriscamaro68 A+, Net+, Server+, Security+, Win7 MCP, Server 2012 Virtualization Specialist, MCSA 2012 Posts: 1,186Member ■■■■■■■□□□
    bypass all that and get this: HP Proliant DL160 G6 1U 2X Xeon QC L5520 2 26GHz No HDD 72GB RAM Special Qty 000491532004 | eBay

    Then buy a couple cheap ssd's

    I have 2 of those servers running a single ssd each with server 2012R2. I then had another quad core desktop laying around so I set it up with 4 ssd's and 2 500gb hdd's and made a 2012R2 DC\SMB3 file share using storage pools. I have the HP DL160's in a Hyper-V Cluster and have VMM running in a vm on the DC. Its obviously not what you would do in Prod but it more then gets the job done at home and is epic to have 32 cores and 144GB of ram to use with storage tiering via ssd's and hdd.

    In the end you just need one and can setup a nested solution I just wanted to setup a bunch of crap at home so that is what happened.
  • pistolpete31pistolpete31 Posts: 19Member ■□□□□□□□□□
    Hmm that looks interesting. Your setup is a bit confusing to me but I am pretty new to studying Server 2012-how did you come to that setup? how loud is that server? I may just throw it in a separate room. Feel free to PM me as I would like to order something soon.
  • tprice5tprice5 Posts: 770Member
    krjay wrote: »
    I'd probably throw another hard drive in your machine and dual boot. I did that for a while when I was on a budget.

    If you can shell out a few dollars at some point I'd pick up one of these: GIGABYTE Launches the BRIX Ultra Compact PC Kit . I threw an SSD and 16gb ram in it and have a portable lab. I bring it to work, give it power, and remote desktop into it as its connected to wifi. Great device for my situation.

    I seriously challenge the notion that this is a viable option for a virtualized lab. I checked out the specs on it and it's only means of storage is an mSATA SSD. At $75 you can get 120GB mSATA off Amazon. With these limited resources he is no better off than he would be loading VMware Workstation on his system now. krjay maybe only need 2 VMs and that may work for him, but you're going to want room to build out a few more virtual servers.

    The cheapest way to go is piece it together yourself. There are numerous sites to help with different builds. One of my favorites, and one I have mentioned multiple times is TheHomerServerBlog. Great site with tons of advice/tutorials on how to build cost effective, GOOD hosts.

    Best of luck.

    Edit: Here is a look at a build I finished this past weekend. I am using it as a htpc but it would function, and does, as a ESXi host. All brand new components for < $300 (not counting the mouse/keyboard). Also If you want to see how I built my host you can see that HERE.
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  • kriscamaro68kriscamaro68 A+, Net+, Server+, Security+, Win7 MCP, Server 2012 Virtualization Specialist, MCSA 2012 Posts: 1,186Member ■■■■■■■□□□
    Well I wanted a physical DC to use and in order to setup a Hyper-V Cluster correctly you need AD. So the quadcore desktop is my primary DC. I then installed a bunch of drives in that server and setup a storage pool and made it a file server. The file server is for the Hyper-V Cluster and is used as the VM Cluster Shared Volume where the VHD's will be stored for the VM's. I then setup Hyper-V on the DC so I could use that VM to run the VMM server to manage the Hyper-V Cluster (the cluster is the 2 DL160's). All in all this worked great for my lab. The Storage in the desktop that was my fileserver\DC acted more or less as a cheap SAN to my Hyper-V Cluster.

    I have a few quad port and dual port nics in NIC Teams to make all this pan out as well. As for the servers. They aren't too loud. Maybe slightly louder then and aircooled gaming rig. They also don't draw a ton of power as they are the lower voltage CPU's and the ssd's help as well since they don't draw much power and run cooler then 15k sas drives so the fan's aren't going full bore.

    I also bought a 24port gigabit switch that could do LACP and jumbo frames. Hooked everything up to that and had 1 or 2 ports to spare.

    Let me know if you have any more questions.
  • tprice5tprice5 Posts: 770Member
    MrJimbo19 wrote: »
    You will need some additional Ram which you can find for not to much

    This is simply not true. RAM prices have doubled since 2013. Here is an article for why.
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  • J.TotJ.Tot Posts: 84Member ■■□□□□□□□□
    My Lab :
    My home machine is an i7-2700k, 32GB ram, 3x 240+GB SSD's

    Currently my labs are not directly run under Hyper-v for one reason alone, you can't nest hyper-v easily. If you want to play with clustering you have to do some workarounds. Here is my solution.

    I run the following in a nested VM enviornment. In order to do this you need to run VM workstation and modify the vmx file in order to allow nesting Hyper-V. If you don't then the hyper-v role will not enable. I assign it 24GBs when I'm doing Lab work.

    Inside VM Workstation :
    • Inside 3x Hyper-V Hosts
    • Each Hyper-V Host has 6x VMDK "Luns", Which are separate 50GB Thin provisioned vmdk's on the SSD's
    • Deduplication is enabled on the Hyper-V Hosts (Amazing Savings)
    • Clustering is Enabled
    • 1x PFSENSE Firewall
    Inside the Hyper-V Cluster I run :
    • 3x Domain Controllers, 2 run MinWin.
    • 1x Print server, DHCP, MDT/WDS
    • 2x Exchange Servers
    • 1x SQL (8GBs ram)
    • 1x VMM/Orchestrator/SCCM
    • 1x DPM Server
    I run server core or minwin wherever possible, dedupe saves me a ton of space. Most of my servers are making use of a parent differencing disk to save space. Since I'm routing in and out of my lab with pfsense I can connect using my Workstations RSAT\Servermanager

    I have a freenas box which I connect the Hyper-V Hosts to via iSCSI, this is where I store all my install files. The speed isn't bad(I'm can push 130Mb/s through CIFS and 152Mb/s through iSCSI) But it doesn't compare to the SSD's)
    VCP5 : [X] | VCP6 : [X] | MCSE : 70-412 [X] , 70-417 [ ] , 70-413 [ ] , 70-414 [ ] | VCAP : [ ]
  • atari37atari37 Posts: 29Member ■□□□□□□□□□
    Well I wanted a physical DC to use and in order to setup a Hyper-V Cluster correctly you need AD. So the quadcore desktop is my primary DC. I then installed a bunch of drives in that server and setup a storage pool and made it a file server. The file server is for the Hyper-V Cluster and is used as the VM Cluster Shared Volume where the VHD's will be stored for the VM's. I then setup Hyper-V on the DC so I could use that VM to run the VMM server to manage the Hyper-V Cluster (the cluster is the 2 DL160's). All in all this worked great for my lab. The Storage in the desktop that was my fileserver\DC acted more or less as a cheap SAN to my Hyper-V Cluster.

    I have a few quad port and dual port nics in NIC Teams to make all this pan out as well. As for the servers. They aren't too loud. Maybe slightly louder then and aircooled gaming rig. They also don't draw a ton of power as they are the lower voltage CPU's and the ssd's help as well since they don't draw much power and run cooler then 15k sas drives so the fan's aren't going full bore.

    I also bought a 24port gigabit switch that could do LACP and jumbo frames. Hooked everything up to that and had 1 or 2 ports to spare.

    Let me know if you have any more questions.

    Nice setup. I have a similar setup using Dell C6100 in my basement. It's a 2U but comes with 4 servers in the 2U chassis (4 in 1). The density is great for running an MCSE lab. Two Quad core Xeons w/24GB of RAM in each server. 96GB total RAM and 8 quad cores seem like an overkill but it worked great for my MCSE 2012. I paid $600 for it and I have no regrets. Some people online complain that it's too loud but I have mine in a rack down in my basement and we don't hear it up on the first floor. It doesn't bother us when we are down in the basement either.
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