GNS3 V1 First Release Video

Looks like GNS3 1.0 is coming along smoothly.

The GNS team just relased an preview of the upcoming (soon) alpha release. Video looks great and does an excelent job highlighting some new features:

Dynamic Linking
IOU Support
Switching
Easy Idle PC Configuration
Super Simple Save Features

Really excited for the New Dynamips IOS Support & Dynamic Linking. This should bring the tool much closer to the ease of use of packet tracer.

Cant wait!

 

 

 

VMware Home Lab Guide Part 2: Nested ESXi Hosts

 

This is Part 2 of a 3 part series of the most common built virtual home labs. Check here for Part 1 and the Complete Guide.

 

In part one of our Home Lab guide we discussed using a software hypervisor on top of an already existing operating system. In this part we will discuss a Type 1 Hypervisor running on a bare metal server. We will be again using nested ESXi hosts to form a ‘simulated’ environment using only one server. This is the setup I’m currently using. I believe it gives you the most bang for your buck. It allows you to save on hardware as well as power. But compared to the Multiple hosts solution in Part 3 of our guide you will be simulating some conditions virtually. For example, most networking will take place “inside” your servers ESXi virtual switches.

The setup and buildout is similar to a Type 2 Hypervisor with the difference of adding a third ESXi host. What? Yes! A third ESXi host. Think of it this way, in Part 1 of the guide we used VMware Workstation to ‘host’ our two ESXi hosts that would server our guest operating machines. The same is true with Nested ESXi Hosts except in lieu of Workstation we will be using a clean install of ESXi on top of a bare metal server. For example: physical sever with ESXi  > ESXi Virtual Machine> Windows Server 2008. Our server with ESXi will be given all of the system resources and then distributed to each of the nested virtual ESXi hosts running on top. Confused? Hopefully the below diagram under Setup helps explain. If you still have trouble wrapping your head around the concept please feel free to ask away in the comments.

The most important issue to be aware of this setup is the strict hardware requirements. You will need to do a fair amount of research into the parts (or server) you buy. Simple features like 64bit virtual machines or USB passthrough will not be possible without compatible hardware. For instance to run 64bit Guest OS a CPU with  EPT (Intel) or RVI (AMD) is required. Also, for USB passthrough a CPU with  Intel VT-d or AMD-VI. Some further tweaks to ESXi may also be necessary depending on hardware choices.

Setup

List of software and virtual machines that will be used to create our nested environment on a bare metal physical server.

System Requirements:

  • VMware ESXi 5.1 or 5.5 .iso with free license
  • Intel VT-D and AMD-VI capable 64 bit processor
  • 16 GB ram (min) 32 GB suggested
  • 500 gigabytes free disk space
  • VMware supported Network Interface Card (NIC) (recommended Intel)

Virtual Machines:

  • 2 x ESXi hosts running version 5.1 or 5.5
  • 1 x Windows Server 2003/2008/2012 for Domain Controller & DNS
  • 1 x Windows Server 2003/2008 for vCenter
  • 1 x FreeNAS Server for iSCSI or NAS storage
  • Various VM’s like CUCM or MS Exchange (optional)

 

Pros

  • Persistent
  • Easily upgradable
  • Closer to enterprise setup
  • Rebuild easily

Cons

  • Need compatible hardware (research a must_
  • Limited Resources
  • Fault Tolerance requires special considerations
  • Semi-Simulated

VMware Home Lab Guide Part 1: Nested Virtual Home Lab

There are so many choices/routes possible when designing a Virtual home lab it is very easy to get overwhelmed. Depending on what you want to accomplish and your budget the possibilities are near endless. There are cheap options for fully nested ESXi hosts using VMware Workstation deployed on old or spare equipment. There are very complex and expensive builds that rival enterprise or SMB solutions with full datacenter like capabilities. They both have pros and cons. The solution you eventually settle for will need to fall within your budget while providing you the features you wish to implement. You will ask yourself questions at every step of the way. Do I really need an environment with high availability? Does using a virtual NAS appliance give me slightly less performance than a physical NAS but at zero cost? Do I need low power always on hosts and devices so my energy bill doesn’t skyrocket? The list is endless. But is extremely important you ask yourself these questions as you begin to design your virtual lab. Looking around the internet will yield tons of blog entries for whitebox build outs for home lab use. In almost every example you will notice people have made design decisions and sacrifices mostly based on budget. Having a baseline of hardware and keeping an eye out for deals while determining your build and topology could make a huge difference in your lab. I am going to cover the three most common VMware home lab solutions and the reasons for choosing each one: A lot of the best features using vSphere come from using multiple ESXi hosts controlled by vCenter. Sure, you could just install ESXi on workstation or a bare metal host and install a bunch of virtual machines. But you will miss out on a lot of the advancements made possible with multiple hosts in your environment. All three solutions below will focus on having the following as a bare minimum:

  • two ESXi hosts
  • vCenter Server
  • NFS or iSCSI shared storage
  • Active Directory and DNS

Once the initial setup is complete you will be able to experience and setup advanced features using vCenter. You can clone machines to use as a quick launch template with preconfigured settings (no more installing upgrades and patches on every machine individually). You can migrate running virtual machines from one host to the other in real time using vMotion. There is a ton to explore here, so lets get started.    

Solution 1: Nested VMware Workstation

Workstation9

VMware Workstation is a type 2 hypervisor (virtualization layer) that runs above an existing operating system. In simple, you install VMware Workstation on top of Windows Server or Windows 7 or 8. Type 1 hypervisorsworkstation run directly on top of bare metal hardware. I will talk about those solutions below. Type 2 hypervisors like VMware Workstation & Player and Oracle VirtualBox rely on the operating system to schedule hardware resource usage. They are typically easy to install and can be running a virtual machine within minutes. Network settings and virtual network adapters may be a little confusing at first but often the default settings will work for most needs. Workstation is not free but does have a free trial. If you pass the VMware VCP, you get a free license! Both VMplayer and VirtulaBox are free and I highly suggest installing one if you are new to virtualization. You can do quite a bit using a simple setup.I have done lab simulations with Microsoft Server 2008 simulating a complete Active Directory and end user environment. These are very powerful tools that are simple and easy enough to dive in and get swimming. The real point of using Workstation is that you can utilize your existing desktop/server to build a “nested ESXi environment” or virtual hardware virtualization. People most commonly refer to this concept using the movie Inception. A dream within a dream. After installing Workstation on your windows computer you would then install two ESXi virtual machines and then you will install guest operating systems on those ESXi hosts. For example Windows 7 > VMware Workstation > ESXi VM > Windows Server 2008. Cool right?

 

Setup

List of software and virtual machines that will be used to create our nested environment on VMware Workstation. You can check the official product faq or getting started guide for exact details. System Requirements:

  • Windows or Linux 64 bit Operating System
  • Intel VT-D and AMD-VI capable 64 bit processor
  • 8 GB ram (min) 16 GB suggested
  • 150 gigabytes free disk space
  • VMware Workstation 9 installed on above

Virtual Machines:

  • 2 x ESXi hosts running version 5.0 or 5.1
  • 1 x Windows Server 2003/2008/2012 for Domain Controller & DNS
  • 1 x Windows Server 2003/2008 for vCenter
  • 1 x FreeNAS Server for iSCSI or NAS storage
  • Various VM’s like CUCM or MS Exchange (optional)

You will have all that running on just one computer. Years ago that would have taken a lot of hardware to replicate. These days it just takes a powerful computer with plenty of resources to share with the virtual machines. Depending on what you are working with you may need to upgrade RAM and disk space. RAM is really cheap these days and is probably the easiest to upgrade your system with. Most of the testing and labs I will focus on will require more RAM than CPU. A lot of your machines will be idle or hardly reserving CPU time. But RAM is always handy as more RAM = more VM’s! With this setup you can use vCenter to manage your two ESXi hosts that will have a windows server running on each. The FreeNAS will provide disk storage to your windows server but will actually use hard drive space on your physical computer. You will be able to use and test advanced features like vMotion, Resource Provisioning but you will not be able to use features like storage vMotion or Fault Tolerance. You are also limited to upgradeability of your mainboard and system. Also, this is probably not a setup you will 24 hours. When I used this setup I would bring everything up (in a required specific order) and complete my testing and labs then power down until next time. But this is the most affordable and easy to setup. If you already have the software and hardware, you could be using your lab in a few hours.  

Pros

  • Cheap
  • Easy Setup
  • Use existing hardware
  • Rebuild easily

Cons

  • Limited Resources
  • Not Persistent
  • Simulated

 

Check out:
Part 2 of the VMware Home Lab Comparison Guide

 

Hi – Looking Forward!

Hey everyone, in the next couple of weeks I will attempt to detail the start to finish process of building a home/small office lab for CCNA Voice, CCNA Video & Vmware VCP.

This guide will be aimed at students and professionals who are looking to do more hands on testing and do not have access to a laboratory environment or just want a deeper dive into Cisco and VMware instructional lab exercises. I have already assembled the necessary equipment per the test standards and I am already into the initial process of documenting the lab build out and starting configurations. This weekend I plan to update the first lesson in this tutorial – Min & Max hardware & software requirements. Check back – Or RSS subscribe!

-JB