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My Home Lab

Hi everyone,

I just built out my home lab and thought I would share what I did. It was a pain so I figured I would help out in case anyone wanted to do something similar to me.

Here it is:

HP Z800, 2xXeon X5650 processors, 96gb of ram, 1tb hhd, Quadro 600 1gb video card. This cost me $655 on Ebay

I installed ESXi 5.5 on it and use both the desktop client and the web client. The web client is absolutely necessary for my situation. I found a guy on Ebay selling ligit 5.1 license keys and bought one. 5.5 upgraded seamlessly with no license issues.

I downloaded 5.5 vCenter .ova so I could have the web client and installed it as its own VM. I did have to use my corporate account to get the vCenter, but I am not using my work licensing. It actually is showing as an evaluation, but with an expiration date of "never", so I am just leaving it alone. I put a static IP on ESXi and connected it to my home router that is not connected to the internet. I left the username as root and set a password.

Here is why I needed web client - I have a subscription to VIRL and downloaded the IOSv and IOSvL2 files. I installed GNS3 VM on ESXi, downloaded GNS3 appliances for IOSv images, and installed it all into the GNS3 VM. If you are only using the desktop client, you cannot turn on the hardware vitualization feature GNS3 needs to run the IOSv images. You have to use the web client to do this. At least that is the only way I could get the full hardware vitualization settings applied without it. This is set under the CPU settings for the VM. If this is not turned on, GNS3 with give you and error of: Hardware Virtualization Support: False. Once it was all configured right, I found I don't need the web client anymore and just use the regular client to start up the GNS3 VM. You don't even need to start the vCenter VM.

I used GNS3 VM and GNS3 client version 1.5.2. You could probably use 1.5.4, but I was having that vitualization problem and I saw online where someone used 1.5.2 with success. Once I figured it all out, I just stuck with it rather than change it. At least for now anyway. The more you tinker with your lab, the less labbing gets done.

I set the GNS3 VM settings to use 12 vitual sockets and 1 core per socket. My CPUs are 6 core CPUs. I set the memory at 64gb also. 

Ok, all that being said, with the GNS3 VM on the Z800 ESXi box, I downloaded the regular GNS3 program for the front end client of the GNS3 VM. I connected it to the GNS3 VM in Preferences-Server-GNS3 VM server tab. If you look at the console of the GNS3 VM, you will see the IP address. You will need this and port number 3080. At the bottom of the window you will see a place to put the IP and port number in this way: Use whatever IP the GNS3 VM is using in place of the Check the "Use GNS3 VM" box. Also, on the Local server tab, make sure you uncheck the "Use local server" box.

Then I went to File-Import Appliance, and imported the IOSv and IOSvL2 appliances from GNS3 the GNS3 marketplace. When installing the appliances you will point them to the IOSv images which I had placed in the GNS3 images folder.

From there you build out your topology just like the old GNS3, but use the IOSv and IOSvL2 routers and switches. I have INE's toplogy of 10 routers and 4 switches built and it works superbly. I did have to add another IOSvL2 switch that all the routers connect to and then the switch connects to SW1, but that was just a preference for now.

I tried to add more ports on the devices, but it made them unusable until I changed it back. Also, the IOSv images are less resource intensive than the CSR1000V image. You could use CSR and the IOSvl2 I suppose though. 

I also changed the settings in PuTTy using this: https://www.linux.com/blog/improving-putty-settings-windows. Make sure when you are done, you type "Default Settings" in the Saved Sessions box and click Save. Navigate to PuTTy in C:-Programs-GNS3. At least that is my path to it. I am also using Super PuTTy for tabs and set it up using: 

For the first time I have a complete lab that is virtual with virtual switches and the only physical hardware I am using is the Z800 for the server and my laptop for the client. This has turned out to be a really sweet lab! Post any questions if you have any. Time to get labbing!



  • Great and thanks for sharing.

  • I was going through the first of the Adv Tech switching labs and I thought I had some anomolies going on....until I realized it was Spanning-Tree! Silly me. LOL

    So far though it is working great. I had a physical rack before and spent more time goofing off with it than labbing. I need to get this knocked out, I have been dragging this out too long.


  • Do you think the Quadro 600 is really necessary?

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