I have been somewhat lucky in my life when it comes to office test labs....
Many, many years ago, I started off having a test server and an MSDN subscription on which I spent hours of my unpaid OT learning via installing, configuring and testing many different Microsoft softwares. And playing around with a Sparc5? workstation back then. When you make a mistake, it was to refer to the physical manual or to call someone who has done it before.
Years later, I joined Shell IT which gave me access to the best ever test lab I used. I missed that lab. It was bigger and better equipped than many SME data centers of the day. I had fun there learning about SAN storage arrays, advanced server management, scripted deployment and the early days of VMWare 4.x and Linux 5.x. I spent a lot of time on my main role setting up and testing the HP storage boxes in different configurations in order to get the best performance possible. And when possible, went to learn on OS management, file distribution etc...
Those were fun days and learnt a good deal of knowledge which I have used over the years.
Sometime back I found a few spare servers in my office. Specs were decent and no one else seemed to claim them so it became 'mine'. But what ensued to get it up and running took many months and I am happy to say it works now and I will improve on it over time.
Just sharing on some of the things to think about when setting it up
1. I got the power!!!
Finding power and a place to host it was a challenge. Getting the rack shipped, installed, ensuring the necessary PDU and power sockets are available... testing it so we don't trip the electrical board.
2. Be Cool!
And related to this is the air conditioning! Although the room I chose is connected to central air conditioning and is pretty well isolated from noise, it does get warm after a few hours with 5 servers running! Definitely need to look at some improvements for this.
3. Unwanted Sound Management
It does get noisy! Once the equipment starts spinning up to max fan speed, it does get on your ears. A good pair of headphones work wonders in keeping you sane! And also, luckily for me, the servers allow me to manage the fan speed to be quieter.... Now if I can get the switch to do the same as well, I would be a happy guy
4. Offline all the time
A major realization I had is that because the lab is going to be offline all the time, there was no way for me to easily download and install software. Simple things we take for granted like Chrome, JRE, flash (because older software still uses it), and the other myriad of tools which we usually just download as we go. This posed a challenge initially because we had to keep going back and forth to download stuff.
5. Building up my repository
Not just on skills but on my software repository. Linux is great in a way, I just need to do a RepoSync and upload the VM to my test lab and this will get me most of the frequently used software. Just remember to sync epel as well! But for Windows and VMWare, downloading all the ISO and OVAs take time but getting access to the correct accounts and sources takes much longer. Luckily I work for a company which I can request MSDN platform access and VMWare partner accounts. :)
Now that I have gotten the basics all completed in the last few weeks, I need to get some time to set up what I want... I do dream that my test lab will be fully scripted and I plan to use Ansible and vRA to do it. If I have time, I wont mind trying out other SW as well to do all of this,
I will also need to have some stuff to demo so I will have to relearn Cloudera again and install it so that I can load some data sets (probably the airline one) and write some code to show how it works... Maybe this time I will add in some of the visualization tools as well.
And lastly, to configure all the advanced VMWare stuff on my little lab since I am allowed to use it and it would be interesting to see how easy it is to deploy, use and maintain a full vCloud solution.
In the meantime, I am waiting for some equipment to arrive for my new home project with my RPI. I'll share more on this in another post once they arrive. I am sure someone has done it and done it well but you can only learn so much by cloning other people's repositories!