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

My ramblings on the stuff that holds it all together

What I use

I often get asked what kit I use for my work, so I thought I’d use this page to give a high-level view of my home/lab environment as its grown quite large now, and if nothing else this is a place to remind me not to spend so much on tech..

Internet Connection

Virgin Media 200Mbps cable broadband, Useless vendor-supplied router in ‘modem’ mode and attached to a Unifi USG 3P (DHCP for home network) the USG also runs a couple of VPN connections into Azure for lab-work.

The Internet connection is shared by two distinct networks – Home (stable as possible – high SLA required, otherwise they all come and shout at me) and Lab (up and down a lot depending on what I’ve broken)

Home Network

UniFi APs (4x mix of UAP-AC-Lite & Pro) – we have an extension with lots of aluminium backed plasterboard/insulation which is a nightmare for signal coverage – my house really isn’t that large!

UniFi switches, 1 x 24 port (non-POE) + 1 x 8 Port D-Link PoE switch for some Axis CCTV cameras

UniFi switches 2 x 8 port PoE for the 2 main rooms

Alexa dots in a couple of places around the house

Some app-compatible power bricks

Logitech Harmony Elite works with the Alexa – “Alexa turn on the TV etc.”

Printer – HP M475dw – literally the best multi-function printer I’ve ever purchased, gave up on inkjet printers as they never print reliably and we’ve had this for nearly 7 years and it’s never missed a beat… prints duplex, colour, document feeder scanner and stays on the network although have now given up purchasing genuine HP toner as it was starting to look like another mortgage with the volumes of *full page colour* the kids are printing now they’re learning from home in COVID (thanks all primary school teachers!).

Work/Office

I have a dedicated 5m x 5m office-space (read: cabin/fancy shed with double glazing and insulation) in the garden which has been a god-send during the Pandemic, currently shared with my wife and one of the kids so as to have a dedicated work space away from the house; we’ve had it about 10 years and it’s brilliant – tip in the winter keep the heating (electric) on 16C-18C 24/7 and it’s cheaper and quicker than leaving it off and trying to heat-up from a cold-start – it’s well insulated but not perfect.

IKEA FLOALT LED light panels – excellent for making what is a fairly large space light during the day (how to pair multiple lights together)

IKEA motorised Bekant standing desk

Mix of Amazon branded whiteboards

IKEA Billy bookshelves – you can get these almost for free 2nd hand from eBay/FB Marketplace and they’re very flexible/versatile for keeping all my Windows-2000 era books in pride of place…or Lego.

Herman Miller Aeron chair (I got this chair 2nd hand about 15yrs ago and it’s still going strong, recently upgraded the wheels to these so I’m super-agile now!)

Headrest for chair (waaaay overpriced but I do like it)

TP-link PoE unmanaged switch for my desk which powers phones and things on my desk

Yealink Teams phone

Cisco SPA525G (VoIP)

42U rack – free many years ago

HP ML110 G7 – silent as it can be, 32GB RAM, 2 x dual port Intel NICs, HP SmartArray card, 4 x 250GB SATA

Cisco 2960G switch for all lab networking (port-channeled into the 3020s on theBORG which does all the L3 routing).

Runs vCenter 7 and can be kept switched on 24/7 and thus can power up/down my blades as required and has enough h/w to run it.. annoyingly vCenter is my biggest workload!

Windows Domain Controller, DHCP, DNS for lab and some other base Windows services (Azure AD Connect)

Apple 27″ Thunderbolt monitor (2011-ish) on VESA mount with flexible arm – great monitor, but compatbility-wise the worst purchase I ever made, despite having what looks like a standard displayport/TB connection it only works with Macs regardless of whatever contorted array of dongles you try and route the signal through.

Lego – lots of it on display and in-reserve for those long conference-calls.

I only have 1 ‘main’ laptop that I use for everything, this is a 2014 Retina MacBook Pro with 16GB of RAM and 1TB SSD – still works well and is the longest I have EVER kept a single laptop (which is just as-well, as it was err… reassuringly expensive). helps that most of my day-job work is on VDI and most lab stuff is via jump boxes on the ML110 or in the cloud so most days it’s just a fancy thin-client. I will replace it soon but it’s hanging in there for now as Chrome is finally starting to swamp its CPU more regularly than I’d like. I primarily use MacOS as I really like the virtual desktop/swipe left|right feature – although it looks like Windows 10 FancySpaces may have something similar now, and the ability to walk into any Apple store and get a spare PSU when I loose one (don’t mis-underestimate how much of a problem this is when you work away from home a lot like I used to). Also; as a Mac I can run everything alongside Windows VMs so have the fully range of capability – which is harder to do on a Windows laptop as you can’t easily virtualise MacOS.

I use (mainly for work) a Plantronics Savvi 720 headset – best headset I have ever used and works with VOiP solution I use for my day job and has a reliable HARDWARE MUTE button.

Also have a Jabra speak 710 speakerphone (and a 410 and Evo60 headset in my bag for travelling)

Garage Data-centre and car-storage, free-air cooling šŸ™‚

HP c7000 2nd hand from eBay known as theBORG, with Cisco 3020 switches – core VLAN routing (Multiple /24s 3Gb port-channel to office, 2Gb port-channel to house-network) base chassis with 2 x OA and 2 x 3020 switches. Draws ~200W

6 x Blades (unfortunate mix of AMD and Intel, some of which work with ESX7, others that go no further than 6.5 – details to follow) – powered-off most of the time, powered up when required (controlled by vCenter on ML110) configured for DPM – each blade sucks ~150-200W when they are powered on. I use these blades to run up nested ESX clusters – see this link for some really handy downloads and content libraries.

3 x AMD BL465c G7 16 core 96GB RAM (1 currently not in-use) – ESX 6.5 (no ESX7 for me šŸ˜¦ )

3 x Intel BL460c G8 32 core 128GB RAM (1 currently broken – CPU fault, maybe) – ESX 7.1

MacMini (2010-ish) 8Gb – currently just running UniFi controller, will be decommissioned at some point as it’s ancient and no longer upgradeable.

VM storage on an old EMC/Lenovo PX6 NAS connected to a dedicated storage VLAN and presenting NFS to the VMware environment.

Old Apple Timecapsule – not sure if it is working anymore as I write this, I use Dropbox for anything important.

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