Virtualization, Cloud, Infrastructure and all that stuff in-between

My ramblings on the stuff that holds it all together

Building a Better Test Lab

This is the outline of a number of posts on building a {relatively} low-cost accurate test lab of your production systems using P2V, VMWare, ESX, custom scripted HP voodoo, HP MSA1500 SAN, Virtual Switch Tagging (VST), Checkpoint on Sun Firewalls and Cisco switches. in order to clone a complicated multi-tier Windows based production platform with lots of DMZ segments into a VMWare farm for use as a test/dev & development environment (and possibly a DR one too in future)

This is all based on some of my recent work with customers* and I hope will help someone else to navigate the pitfalls (both business and technological) I & my team encountered in delivering this idea.

The following is a list of titles or sections and will hopefully serve as an index, but please, don’t expect them all at once I do have a day job to do! 😉

Why do this?



Isn’t this all a bit too complicated/mad-scientist/far out?

Reload lab from production process – how often?

is change control important?

What do you want a test lab to do?

Scoping/Expectation Setting

Load Testing – is VMWare right for this

Dynamic/Grid based approach to load testing

Break/Fix analysis

Release Testing

Options for disaster recovery/production failover

What won’t it do?

Storage Design

“Big” SAN’s are always better if you have them, but what if you don’t?

HP MSA 1500 – it’s not big, but it’s clever

Disk/SAN bandwidth – my practical experiences

Server Design

ESX Node specification

The RAM per VM debate

Networking Design

VLAN tagging

VST vs. Guest Tagging etc.


Clone to test lab Process

P2V Tools – VMWare Convertor vs. the rest

Changing IP addresses

HP uninstall Scripts

Build-Out Steps

Build ESX environment

Scripted VMWare installations – automatically create custom Virtual NIC’s/LANs

Adjust install paths for SAN storage

Set administrator password/create accounts

Install Networking

Configure VLAN’ing

IP Load Balancing

Install Firewall(s)

Test Communications between virtual DMZ segments and across hosts

Import Production machines

VMWare Convertor

General issues found

P2V Windows 2003 Domain Controllers – Special Notes

P2V’ing entire Windows Cluster’s – not that easy but do-able

P2V Process over a WAN – issues found & workaround.

Fresh VM 1st boot, changing IP address etc.

HP tools removal

Some further problems caused by changing IP addressing.

Into the Future

Can you use this for disaster recovery?

VMWare Lab Manager

Total Automation – Platespin products?

*This article has been deliberately made anonymous & I’m afraid I can’t disclose the name of the customer or provide any further reference materials without a commercial engagement via my employer, you can contact me for more details on this via this blog.

This article & information contained within is provided entirely without warranty.

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10 responses to “Building a Better Test Lab

  1. Pingback: VMWare Stage Manager « Virtualization, Windows, Infrastructure and all that “stuff” in-between

  2. Caitlin January 21, 2008 at 10:32 pm

    What if we are using MSVS? I’m assuming VMware Lab Manager will not support that for test lab. Who would be the next vendor to provide MSVS support?

  3. vinf January 22, 2008 at 8:40 am

    As far as I know Lab Manager is VMWare only.

    That said Microsoft have a new product that will be capable of managing VMWare and MS Virtual server + others – you should be able to use this to “manage” the VMs – but not sure how deep this management goes or how it lines up to VMWare’s offering – most of these MS products spend so much time trying to do get coverage of the market/tech sometimes they don’t go deep enough in terms of functionality, but I have not had a chance to try it out yet.

    The principals within this article are mostly the same regardless of the underlying virtualization product – as long as it supports P2V, VLAN tagging – if required.

    The MS product is called MSVMM

    some links here


    If the actual Hypervisor becomes reasonably irrelevant I would expect to see VMWare’s management products being capable of managing other Hypervisors – they’ll have to do so to stay alive, having the best technology only carries you so far in the market..

  4. Pingback: VMWare Stage Manager Beta is Open.. « Virtualization, Windows, Infrastructure and all that “stuff” in-between

  5. S.Hussain May 19, 2008 at 6:57 am

    I’m on the process to Build a Virtual Environment with ESX between Primary Site and DR Site.

    I’m worried about the IP Address of the Virtual Machines when the moved to the DR Site, how the Client will be able to reach to those VMs in Production which are located in the Primary Site?

    The Primary Site is in different subnet other than the DR Site.

    Branches are connected to the Primary Site.

    At the DR Site, we have the Same ESX Servers Setup with SAN Storage and the same Netwoking and VLAN will be used. “It’s like a Replica of Setup”.

    How the Branches will be able to reach the VMs when it’s booted from the DR Site?

    Can someone elaborate for me how this can work?

  6. vmlogix July 29, 2008 at 4:24 am

    Hi Catlin,

    You should take a look at VMLogix LabManager ( It is a virtual lab automation solution that is hypervisor agnostic and supports leading hypervisors from Citrix, Microsoft and VMware. We do support Microsoft Virtual Server, in response to your question.

    You can request for a free 30 day evaluation on our website.

    – Srihari Palangala, VMLogix

  7. paolo January 10, 2009 at 9:58 am

    Catlin hi,

    I am in the process of building a clone of my production environment and I would be very interested to see your approach during the network and server design.
    Do you have any more guide for this?

    Thanks in advance


    • vinf January 13, 2009 at 3:20 pm

      Hi, I’ve not updated this post for some time but I do mean to do so at somepoint.. in terms of our approach is there anything specific you are looking for? we basically looked at what was there and worked out how to replicate it under VMWare, using VLAN tagging and Checkpoint VSX

  8. Pingback: Building a Better Test Lab « Virtualization, Windows, Infrastructure and all that stuff in-between « Julianwood's Blog

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