Project ‘moving Lab to garage’

A couple of years ago I started my lab by buying just one server and play around with it, deploying OSes, testing software and that kind of things. Over the years a lot more hardware has been added to the lab in order to be able to test all kind of scenarios and types of deployments like Disaster Recovery, Cross-site NSX, vSAN (Stretched Clusters), multi vCenter deployments, metro clusters.. you name it! 

I have run the lab all that time in my attic or also called ‘Mancave’ 😉 Because the lab has been scaling out so much lately I have some challenges while running it in my attic room.

  • No proper airflow
  • During hot days in summer, it gets too hot which is a risk for the hardware AND the house 😉
  • It’s making too much noise for in the house
  • It is not placed in a cabinet yet since I don’t have enough space in my mancave for it. So as can you see in the picture below; my lab is a mess!


I decided to move my lab to my garage and buy a proper cabinet for it to build the hardware in. With that, I can create a proper airflow for the hardware as well. A phased approach was the way forward because I first need to comply with certain prerequisites.

  • Laying a data cable/uplink to my garage
  • Making space for the cabinet in my garage
  • Buy new 24 ports switch (managed) for in the cabinet
  • Move all the hardware piece by piece to the garage

This is the place where the cabinet needs to come, as you can see I definitely need to make some space.

6/10/2018 – Phase 1 – Laying the data cable to the garage

Today I started with laying the UTP cable to my garage. I decided to go for UTP CAT6 outdoor cable and not for a CAT6a, CAT7 or fiber cable. The choice for the CAT6 cable is made from a cost perspective. Because I think I am not living in my current house for longer than two years from now and I’m not planning to use 10 gigs in the coming 2 years. Therefore, it wasn’t worth buying more expensive cables to be ‘future-proof’.  My next house will definitely get 10gb capable cabling.

It was a quite easy task to lay the cable to the garage because I already had drilled a hole in the wall for another UTP cable towards the attic. It took me 2 hours to put the cable away in the direction of the garage. Of course, nice and tight. Up to phase 2! Which is about making space in my garage, install and fasten the cabinet and buying a new switch for inside the cabinet.

11/10/2018 – Phase 2 – Install the cabinet with switch and tested uplink connectivity

After I lay the data cable last weekend to my garage I have been making more progress on my home lab project. I made enough space in the corner of my garage where the cabinets need to fit. As you can see below the cabinet fits easily now.

The UTP cable that ends in my garage hasn’t an RJ45 connector yet, so I need to attach one myself. Like the old days. It has been a while since I’ve done that, but I still remember the color scheme. So it was quite easy to create the connector.

After I tested the cable, I installed my 24 ports Ubiquiti inside of the cabinet. Together with the UPS. Tested uplink connectivity towards my USG router and finished the switch configuration. My Synology DS416 diskstation has already been moved to the cabinet after I installed the 19-inch rack shelves. The other rack shelf is for my 3 NUC vSAN cluster, which is going to be moved in the third phase.


16/10/2018 – Phase 3 – Moving the three-node vSAN cluster to the cabinet

After phase 1 I created a conceptual design for the rack layout in the cabinet. During the creation of this conceptual design, I also decided to align the patching with a proper color scheme. I chose the following colors for the patch cables;

Red – Storage
Blue – Management/IPMI
Green – Intel NUC/vSAN Cluster nodes
Black – Other (Uplink/non vSAN ESXi host)

After all of the required patch cables were delivered, I could continue with the next phase, moving my vSAN cluster to the cabinet. Since I have a three-node vSAN cluster I was able to move the NUCs/Hosts one by one in the following sequence;  put the host in maintenance mode -> shutdown the host -> move the host to the cabinet -> power on host -> exit maintenance mode. It took me about an hour to move all the NUCs to the cabinet, do proper cabling and make sure vSAN was running like it should.


As finishing touch in this phase I already prepared the cabling for my other ESXi hosts and Storage Box which are being moved in phases four and five.

18/10/2018 – Phase 4 – Moving my ESXi host for nested virtualization to the cabinet

I will call the host that I will be moving ‘srvnested’ because that’s also the hostname of the ESXi host in my lab. It took me some time to migrate all of the VMs from the srvnested host to my NUC cluster. This was because vSphere 6.7 U1 was released, and I wanted to first upgrade my vSAN cluster to vSAN 6.7 U1. After I completed the upgrade successfully I migrated all the VMs and powered off the host.

Because the hardware of this host is now built into a ‘Tower Model Housing’ I needed to buy a 19-inch rack-based housing to put in the cabinet. I chose the Chenbro RM24100. Because this housing has much less space compared to the tower model I needed to buy a new CPU cooler and PSU as well. After I assembled all the hardware into the new housing and placed it in the cabinet this phase was also complete. I slightly adjusted the configuration of the physical switch VLAN trunk assignment to align with my DVS and NSX-T overlay switch. Now all my ESXi hosts are placed in the cabinet. My physical storage box which I use for shared storage in my home lab is the last part that needs to be moved to the cabinet.

21/10/2018 – Phase 5 –
Moving my shared storage box to the cabinet

Phase 5 was the last phase of the project with also the longest time duration. Because I needed to move every single VM which was running on that box either to my vSAN datastore or temporarily to the Synology box. It took some time to migrate everything off, but I finally managed to empty the datastores from the ‘box’ so I could power it down without interrupting the lab.

Then I moved the box to the cabinet. Did the cabling according to the patching plan, creating the LACP lag on the Unifi switch and powered on the storage box again. Did some final checks before I Storage vMotioned a bunch of VMs back to the storage box.

With this last phase completed now, I completed my whole project of moving my ‘Messy Lab’ in my mancave to a proper cabinet in the garage.

Here you can see a before and after picure… It was worth the while! And the temperature in the cabinet is now running at a decent level of 20-22 degrees Celsius (Current). Much better compared to the 26-31 degrees Celsius (summertime) in my mancave. I’m curious what the temperature will be mid-summer next year!






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