“If only I knew how XYZ works before I introduce it to my production environment.” Replace “XYZ” with any new or updated end-user computing technology and you understand why EUC labs exist.
Throughout my entire career in IT, I’ve seen (and built) many such lab environments, all serving one or multiple purposes: Deploy proof-of-concept setups, provide reference environments, reproduce failure situations, benchmark performance, and learn about new products, tools, and settings. Most technical experts I know love labs; many are lab enthusiasts.
When designing or extending EUC labs, ControlUp can be a great addition, allowing you to get better visibility and control of all your lab components.
The range of EUC lab builds spans a broad spectrum from a virtual mini lab hosted on a laptop to a cloud-based IaaS lab to physical labs of all sizes. The high end is defined by massive multi-node home labs or company-owned labs. Building a good lab of any size requires expertise; it’s hard, time-consuming, and sometimes expensive. Therefore, we thought it’d be interesting to learn about the EUC labs designed by ControlUp customers, partners, and staff members—and share their knowledge and our findings with you.
WARNING: As a married home lab veteran, I know, for home lab projects, there are some special success criteria you cannot ignore, referred to as spouse compatibility or MIF (Marriage Interference Factor). Give ample consideration to how the lab looks, noise, heat (or cooling), cabling, location in the flat, power consumption, acceptable lab time / work hours, and budget. Do not underestimate these! One extreme solution suggests that geeks balance their large and ugly home lab equipment with gifts to the spouse based on similar expenses… Your mileage may vary.
Part of a new series, this article gives you an introduction into EUC lab fundamentals. Going forward, lab experts will share their best tips and tricks, highlighting specific aspects of their lab setups.
Now, what do EUC labs have in common? Let’s have a look at recommended hardware infrastructure, required software components and fundamental lab design concepts.
An EUC lab consists of four hardware categories: hosts, storage, network, and clients.
- In a low-cost mini lab, all four categories are combined in one device, such as a powerful laptop. The minimum hardware requirements are a powerful Intel or AMD CPU (Intel i7 category), 32GB memory and 1TB SSD storage.
- A typical mid-size lab consists of two or three single-CPU mini servers (e.g., NUCs) acting as hosts and a storage system. Sometimes, you also find PC towers with server mainboards or old (read: noisy) enterprise servers in this category. Each server should have a CPU with at least four physical cores and a minimum of 32GB of memory. One of the servers may act as a file server with external storage attached. Connectivity is provided by a simple 8- or 12-port switch and an optional wireless LAN router. Finally, add a couple of client devices, such as PCs, Macs, or thin clients.
- A large lab uses enterprise-grade servers with Intel Xeon or AMD EPYC CPUs in a rack. Memory is in the range of 64 and 512GB. Storage is based on arrays of SSDs and HDD. Connectivity is provided by enterprise switches allowing network segregation into multiple VLANs, including a DMZ environment. A range of client devices…
- Keyboard/Video/Mouse (KVM) Switch
- Optional hardware: Frame grabbers, WAN emulators…
So let’s get started! Stay tuned for my first installment of ControlUp Ultimate Labs, where I’ll interview Marcel Calef, ControlUp super-technologist and all-around great guy. Until then, happy “labbing”!