In the IT world, apart from strategic design, you have to get your hands dirty. Unfortunately it's not always easy to test everything at work, even if you have a staging environment. The best thing to do before testing on production is to test at home! VMware often comes to the rescue.
Either you are on Windows , Linux on MAC, VMWare can be installed so as to virtualize everything. VMware workstation is an " industry standard for running multiple operating systems as virtual machines on a single Windows, Linux PC". For MAC users the product is VMWare Fusion.
It's a hypervisor or virtual machine monitor, that creates and runs virtual machines1. At first i have to say that you can do the same things, more or less with the free Oracle Virtual Box. For me VMWare is a more mature software, a leader in it's field and with way better feature-set and GUI.
Initial Design - Scope of Work
You have to answer the following questions before starting:
- Does my hardware support virtualization?
- Do I want to virtualize resource-heavy stuff? [like games or 3D/video editing apps]
- How many virtual machines will I create and with what resource? [hdd space, cpu, ram, network cards/speed]
- Do I want to have the virtual machines always online?
- Will it be installed only on one desktop machine and/or a laptop for portability?
- Do I want to use it on trial basis for 60 days or do I want to buy it?
Well that's some questions you have to answer yourself prior to beginning. Surely we can ask double the questions, but after all it's not production, it's only for learning and getting hands on experience.
Questions - Break down
1 .Does my hardware support virtualization?
Well that's an easy question. You have to check whether your cpu supports virtualization .Intel has "Intel VirtualizationTechnology" (Intel VT), and AMD has "AMD-V". Check what CPU you have and with a simple online search you have the answer. By all means the whole Virtual home lab is based on the hypothesis that you have a main PC/laptop or other PC that has resources and a pretty good CPU/RAM combination.
2. Do I want to virtualize resource-heavy stuff?
Another simple question. If you want to check whether a 3D editing tool or game works on linux you need to have a latest GPU. Well it's easier to install a Linux distro of choice and test it but installing heavy gpu-hungry software on a virtual machine can be a challenging game! Before installing them though, please mind the fact that even native installs have problems on non-windows systems, think about when they are virtual. Moreover in case you want to have a pretty good PC with virtual desktops and not separate computers, that will be another guide probably with Unraid software.
3. How many virtual machines will I create and with what resource?
That's definitely a tricky question? Do you want to install the last OS or a beta version of it? Do you want to make a virtual network with server and client OSes in a domain? Probably see how a multiOS network can work, testing file shares and/or video streaming for example? You have to write down why you are doing this and be as future-proof as you want. You answer may mean you have to purchase more RAM and storage. Moreover, your reply will actually is based on how much time are you going to spend on it, so keep that in mind also.
4. Do I want to have the virtual machines always online?
So the answer is based on 2 things:
a. Are you going to use your own machine ?
b. Will you use a dedicated virtualization machine?
If you use your own machine and want the virtual machines to always be online, you need to have your PC on 24/7. if you casually want to open the VMs, you can still do it on your main desktop PC or laptop (if it can handle the loads). In the case that you want a dedicated machine only for virtualization, the best option is ti use ESXi which is actually free in the basic version. The only problem is that you have to research a lot in order to find out if it supports your hardware.
5. Will it be installed only on one desktop machine and/or a laptop for portability?
That's actually not an important question but is one of the things I wish I had thought before going gown this "virtual home-lab"road. You may have installed 20+ virtual machines, organized in groups and you are testing things out. Then you may go to a meetup, conference with your laptop and you find a guy or 2 that you want to show or ask them sth. If you don't have it with you, imagine how frustrated you may be.
Well let's continue on Part B - stay tuned.