Scaling down the home lab, slightly

Since my last post about my new Zion 4U storage server I have been more and more impressed by Unraid and have started using Docker and KVM virtualization on it.

Since then I have moved some VMs over to KVM virtualization on Unraid. That left my Domain Controllers, IPAM, and VCSA left on my VMware environment. My secondary DC was also broken so I was running with just a single DC. This made me re-think how the home lab was configured and decided to simplify some of the many moving parts.

The main hassle is recovering from a power outage. Typically I have to manually intervene to get most things back online. Having systems more consolidated will allow a faster and more hands-off recovery.

So what’s changing:

  • Microsoft DC/DNS is going away completely.
  • Rest of VMs being migrated to KVM.
  • VMware hosts are being shutoff, for now. NAS3 unused.
  • Using Docker containers when available.

No more AD-DNS: This is a big one and required me to rebuild some of my machines to get them off the domain cleanly. I now use my custom built Firewall as the DNS and DHCP server. This means no VM dependency for the mission critical DNS service which will allow for faster recovery from power outages.

Moving away from VMware: This was a tough decision. I’ve been a loyal VMware home labber for the past 10+ years. The problem now is that VMware is not making it easy for home labs by not allowing version upgrades because of CPU incompatibilities and the likes. In my case I also need to run NFS storage because there is no easy way to do local raid or disk pooling on a vanilla VMware server without going down the route of vSAN (which I avoid at all costs). This means VM storage, while SSD, is bottle-necking on my 1Gbps backplane and requires another server just for storage (NAS3). For the case of power-loss this means I have to startup NAS3 first, then the VMware hosts which takes a considerable amount of time. So for now VMware is being benched until I can find another use for it in the future. Turning off the VMware hosts and NAS3 has reduced my power usage considerably as well. Sorry VMware :'(

Using Docker: I have fully embraced containers. Less overhead from VMs and much simpler to configure and run. My NZB setup is now full blown Docker. If there is a docker container available for an app then I will be using that over setting up a full VM.

Simplified End State

Recovering from a power loss is now much faster and hands off. I just need to simply turn on the Firewall and turn on the Zion server. And even if Zion is having issues then the Internet is at least available once the Firewall is online. Not having to run AD is also a fresh breath of air. I will be looking into LDAP solutions instead.

The second win from this is my power usage is down by about 300W which during the summer is very nice.

My plan is to rebuild the current “VMH02” server which is a dual socket Intel board into a similar Unraid build to Zion. Moving the SSDs from NAS3 into it and buying a bit of bulk storage.

Still waiting on 10Gbps networking to drop a bit and that is also coming down the pipe as one of my home lab upgrades.

Thanks for reading!

Karl has been involved in the virtualization, server, web development and web hosting industry for over 15 years. In his current role at a managed service provider, he is focused on cloud-based solutions for enterprise clients. His diverse background of sales, management, and architectural/technical expertise bring a unique perspective to the virtualization practice.