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Hello Fellow Members of Cemetech. It has been quite some time since I have shared what I am working on with the community here, outside of some of my works on the Minecraft Server, it doesn't mean I don't have things I have worked on. Talking with a couple people on the Cemetech Discord and other places, I thought it would be neat to share something a bit different from the software and IoT type projects we tend to see here on Cemetech.

I am IT Technician in my day to day life. Part of that is working with a number of PC and Server systems on a daily basis. I am looking to further my career into self study, and with that, one needs some hands on practice. Trying to configure a clients server and seeing what happens is not really best practice. They have a business to run, and we can't impede that.

With that said, I have setup a home lab in which to practice on. I have built a small rack to house the equipment I test with, and run some depending on what needs progress. Some of it I only run when I need to test something on that hardware.

The two biggest pieces of equipment I do have to help run things are an older Dell Enterprise Server. and a Synology NAS.

I have acquired a used Dell PowerEdge R710 Server. Inside, one will find Dual Xeon X5650 CPUs runing at 2.67Ghz. These are 6 Core Processors with Hyperthreading enabled on them for a total of 24 threads available to me. Memory wise, I am currently running 64GB of DDR3 1333 ECC Registered Memory (8 * 8GB), with the ability if the need arises to go up to 192 GB quite easily (Server is equipped with 18 slots for memory).

Storage wise, the server is currently running internally with 4x 1TB Hard Drives running in RAID 10 on a dedicated Hardware RAID card. In the NAS, I have installed 4x 6 TB IronWolf Pro drives to provide backups for my PCs, the lab configuration, and additional storage if required.

Additionally, while not in current use as my focus lately is on Server Certifications, I have also acquired several pieces of networking hardware. In the rack, one will 5x Cisco Catalyst 2950 Switches, 2x Cisco 1841 Routers, 2x Cisco 2621XM Routers, 1x Cisco 2811 Router, and 2x Cisco ASA 5505 Firewalls.

Software Wise on the server, is where the magic happens. Installed on the server directly is VMWare vSphere to run the Virtual Machines I have running. This allows one server to act as many. For one Lab I was working on, I had 15 different VMs running at one point to server as different functions. However, needs change depending on what I am working on. My Core VM set are as follows:

2x Domain Controllers (Windows Server 2016)
1x HyperV Server (Windows Server 2016)
1x Windows Deployment Services (Windows Server 2016)
1x Windows Server Update Services (Windows Server 2016)
1x Veeam Backup and Replication Server (Windows Server 2012 R2)
1x Management Workstation (Windows 10 Enterprise)

There are running on either trial versions that have to be reinstalled every 6 months (a good opportunity to refresh ones knowledge of the system), or have Not for Retail keys provided to professionals or students for learning purposes.

In the future, I do have plans to upgrade the lab and expand on its functionality. I am looking at picking up a 2nd smaller server that I can move certain critical functions over to. A second version of vSphere would be installed on it, and on there I would run a Firewall, DNS, DHCP, and Printer Server, and maybe even another VM or two depending on needs. This can be in a more central location in the house. To assist with this, I would also look at some additional managed switches that are capable of switching at 1Gbps (The 2950s mentioned above are 10/100 only). These don't need to be full Cisco Catalyst either. I have already replaced the Wireless infrastructure with a pair of Ubiquiti Mesh Access points to help provide better coverage and link speeds, plus be ready for future upgrade place.

If anyone has any questions about what the lab, or what it would take to start leaning some of these products for yourself, feel free to post below. I will try and upload some pictures in the near future to give a visual on this equipment. I will also take lab suggestions you may have to work on (I always look forward to a new challenge). Thank You!
Thanks for sharing this river! I've always wanted to explore this a bit more seriously once I move away from my Synology NAS; but my distaste of CLI makes this a bit difficult. Haha. I am hoping to get a DNS server running soon though.

Can you explain why you have two domain controllers? I assume it's for two separate networks?
There really isn't that much command line involved in setting this stuff up. vSphere installs fairly easily, and after a few moments of config like any operating system, everything is done either with the vSphere client on your normal desktop, or through the web interface (depending on the version, you may only have the web UI available). I am not sure if I have touched the CLI once in setting that up.

For Windows Server 2016, we still have Desktop Experience available giving you a full GUI in which to manage the operating system. While the recommendation is to run Server Core, which is CLI driven, it is not a requirement. In addition, even if you decide to run Server Core, you can still install the Remote Server Administration Tools on a Windows Client OS to manage the servers with a GUI interface. Both of my Domain Controllers are also DNS servers, and the only PowerShell I have had to touch on them was some advanced configuration for working on a Server Exam topic. Most instances, it can once again be done in the GUI.

As for why I am running two DCs, it came down to a design decision. When I set this up, I was working in a slightly larger environment that had multiple DCs running for redundancy and performance. As I wanted to learn on a similar system, I went with that. At this point, I could probably demote one of the servers and retire it, but there are some learning points that it is handy. Watching replication across sites and which server has which FSMO roles is valuable when learning Active Directory. If you are concerned, a single DC is enough to get a lab running. Most of the client my work deals with only have one DC as well.

DCs are also network independent. You can have sites with no DCs in them and still authenticate, as well as sites that have multiple DCs installed. Let alone how vLANs are configured for an organization at a site.
  
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