In this post I will be setting up a VMware home lab server using a very cheap Dell Optiplex 7010 PC with 8GB of ram and a 280Gb hard drive.
What you will need:
- Bare Metal Device to install VMware esxi 6.5 onto
- VMware esxi 6.5 image
- VMware esxi 6.5 license key
Vmware Home Lab Hardware
You can install VMware esxi onto so many different bare metal devices from a very cheap PC up to a high end server.
A lot of devices will work despite them not officially being supported by VMWare. i.e the Intel NUC is a widely used device but is not on the approved hardware list.
To see if your chosen device is on the list check the link below.
This tutorial is going to show you how to setup a cheap esxi server for home. The purpose of this server is to run a few virtual machines and so you can learn the process of installation and how to use vmware sphere 6.5.
If you are looking for the best desktop for vmware lab, this one is pretty good.
You also need to do some research on how loud this server is going to be, you can buy ultra quiet home servers or servers with really loud fans, it all depends where you going to put it.
My Dell Optilplex PC lives in a cupboard in the spare room and you can hardly hear it.
The term “Bare Metal” just means a PC or server with no operating system installed on it, VMware esxi will be the operating system for this device
This is the PC I will be using, and as you can see you can pick these up on ebay for under £100-£150. The main benefit to this PC is that it has 8GB of RAM, ideally you would want 16 or more but 8 is more than enough to get you started. There are many debates about the best home server, but you just need to decide what it is you are going to be doing with it. If you are just wanting to learn VMware then get the cheapest thing you can and when you outgrown it then spend a bit of money on something with more RAM and Storage.
VMware esxi 6.5 image
You need to register for a free account at https://www.vmware.com/
Once you have your account you need to click on products and then in the bottom right there is a section called Free Products – click on vSphere Hypervisor
Then click on the big green download now button
You will be asked to login with your account and then you need to download the VMware vSphere Hypervisor 6.50a – Binaries
(or later update depending on when you are reading this)
Just above this screen you will see your license key, copy the entire string of text and save it to a notepad as you will need this later.
VMware esxi 6.5 will run for 60 days with an evaluation license, after that it will stop working unless you have entered your license key.
You are then free to use VMware esix 6.5 for as long as you want. There are obviously limitations to this which will be covered in more detail in a later post.
The VMware license cost is free, you do however get no support from VMware and are not able to run VCentre or setup datacentres, but for the purpose of learning, that’s fine.
Installing VMware Home Lab Server using USB bootable drive
The easiest way to install VMware is to put the downloaded ISO image onto a bootable USB drive.
I use rufus to create the bootable drive – simply download the rufus software and start it up, you will see this screen
Once you have inserted a USB drive into your computer you will see it register at the top, then you need to point Rufus to your downloaded ISO image as highlighted above. Change the bootable disk to ISO image and clicking the Disk icon browse to where you downloaded the image. Then click start, the process should take less than a minute.
Now take your USB drive and put it into your bare metal PC/Server
Boot the PC / Server using the USB drive
Power on your PC / Server, you want the device to boot from the USB drive so if it doesn’t and it just starts up you will need to go into your BIOS settings and change the boot order.
On my Dell PC I had to press F12 at boot up to access the BIOS, I then just selected the USB drive as the boot device and hit enter.
If this works then VMware Esxi 6.5 will start to install on your device.
This video will setup you through the process.
VIDEO to go HERE
Once the installation has completed you will need to connect your server to your home network and then browse to the IP address you set.
In my case I have set the IP to 192.168.1.2 so will open my browser and go to https://192.168.1.2
You should get to this screen
Log in with User name: Root and the password you created during install, and the final step you should now be looking at this.
Congratulations, you have now completed your VMware lab setup for home.
I am not sure if this is the best home esxi server, but it serves a purpose for me, the only downside is that it lives in the spare room and does make a bit of noise, I am considering an Intel NUC my next project which can supposedly take 64Gb of RAM according to virtuallyghetto.com
In the following posts we will be covering how to install virtual machines and the limitations of the free version.
Remember, this is the exact software that is running all of the virtual machines running VMware in enterprise networks around the world. The main difference is the storage, in your home lab you are using the local hard drive. In an enterprise environment, they would typically be using external storage with much greater capacity.
But learning VMware 6.5 is a great way to improve your IT career with skills in virtualisation.