Building the Ultimate VirtualBox Lab Introduction
In my never-ending quest to continue learning as much as I can in the IT industry, one thing has always caused me some headaches until now. Setting up the proper foundation for my testing in the form of a virtual test lab where I can install multiple servers and clients easily without having to worry about taking up 40GB+ for each virtual machine.
I have received a lot of comments, private messages, and emails from the community asking me what I suggest for them to do in order to learn System Administrator topics in order to help them in job interviews or to help them in their current job if they are already working in the field.
Join me in this super fun adventure and get our virtual test lab created!
Introduction: Ultimate VBox Setup
One answer always comes to mind with these types of questions; Virtualization. Setup a virtual test lab by configuring a virtual server (virtual pc), download the trial versions of Microsoft s operating systems, install them and practice practice practice. Setup a domain controller or two. Take one offline and practice bringing another one online to simulate a down domain controller, Setup SQL server, WSUS, and so on.
This article is part 1 of 6 in the series:
In the past, I have setup many different virtual lab environments including:
For this article, I chose to go with Oracle VirtualBox. If money wasn t an issue, I would probably choose VMWare Workstation. Actually, if money really wasn t an issue, I would buy a nice server with a SAN and setup VMWare ESXi. Ok, enough dreaming.
One of the issues I faced was having enough resources on the host s computer where I can run 3 or 4 servers along with a couple of client computers at the same time while not worrying about CPU, RAM, and hard drive space.
Since I recently built a new computer as my main box to handle video editing (and anything else I want to throw at it), I finally decided to search out the best methods for hosting all of my virtual machines on this box. These days, I use my laptop about 95% of the time and only touch my big desktop for video editing. Why not put this computer s horsepower to use since I m hardly using it as is.
The specs of this machine are as follows:
At this point what I want to do is give you a visual of what I have in mind. I am not an artist by any means so hopefully you can understand what I m illustrating here. This is just a basic idea of the SSD/HDD configuration:
To help better explain the drawing, here is what is going on. We are going to be using Linked Clones to setup many virtual machines. The main reason I am using Linked Clones is to save on hard drive space.
A brief description of Linked Clones: Setup a base virtual machine, install all patches/updates, sysprep and shutdown the machine (You will not turn this machine back on). This will be the base image that all future machines (same OS) will use when setting them up. Any changes made to the Linked Clones will be saved in their own .vdi in their own folder.
This is a HUGE plus for me since my SSDs are not very large. Also, using SSDs for this task is a huge advantage. Since I will be having multiple virtual machines running at the same time, they will all be using the base image so having the fast read/write speed will help with performance. I have not tried it using non SSDs but am curious how well it works.
As a side note: You can still have a standard HDD for things like SQL Databases, WSUS updates storage, network share storage, and more where speed is not as crucial.
Download the software and ISO images to prepare for the setup:
This article was only the beginning, introducing you to building the ultimate VirtualBox test lab.
In the next article(coming soon). we will be setting up the environment. I will walk you step-by-step in the entire process and by the end of the series, you should have a well-rounded and stable virtual test lab. From there on, you can go wild with setting up different servers, clients, testing group policies, pushing out software, breaking servers and learning how to handle disaster recovery and so on.
Happy self-education guys and girls! Please post your comments/questions down below and I will try to answer them as quickly as possible.
About Chris Davis
Systems Administrator (SysAdmin). I enjoy helping others reach their goals. You can follow Chris on Google+ if you’d like.
I’d like to assemble a pc which has to deal with these two tasks (in order of importance):
1: running multiple virtual machine instances in a virtual test lab.
2: running finite element simulations by using Autodesk Inventor.
The problem is that I don’t know which CPU to choose among the i7-3770K, i7-3770S and i7-3770.
The i7-3770K is designed for over-clocking and I think the extra speed I d get from over-clocking would help with FEM simulations. However, K version does not support VT-d technology which leads to faster I/O and improved processor utilisation while dealing with VMs.
The i7-3770S is very similar to i7-3770, apart from the clock speed that leads to lower comsumption.
Since running multiple VMs will be the main task in my new pc, which CPU do you recommend? Is i7-3770 the best one?
Thanks in advance for the help!
I apologize for my English…I’m from Italy!
Hey there Matteo,
To be honest, I did not know the K version doesn t support VT-d. I know it supports VT-x, but still strange.
I actually run the i7-3770S in my big machine without any problems (granted I m not running the same type of setup/tests as you want to).
The last time I went to an Intel conference, I asked the speaker about overclocking. My main question was: Is it worth overclocking since these CPUs have turbo? He said no because the CPU will only clock as high as it s turbo would go.
I haven t done any further research/testing so I can t confirm with experience.
Kumar Selvaraj says
I m learning a lot by watching your videos on Youtube. Thank you so much for educating folks like me trying to gain knowledge on basic system administration skills.
I have a CCNA but wanted forever to learn windows server. This lab you setup was fantastic the teaching and all. But I had one problem with the last step setting up the remote desktop. I allowed access on the virtual machine per video and went through the steps exactly with the setup and port forwarding but cant get it to hook up on the wan address which I use 192.168.10.200 with my home router setup to 192.168.10.254. I was able to remote in through the lan address if 192.168.1.10 but thats lan. Any ideas? Are the servers suppose to be able to ping each other?