New Year New Lab

I’m a bit late to the party with this one but for a good reason. Back in the new year we all sat down and thought about what technology would be good to learn about this year. The short answer from me was a lot, there is so much going on right now with all the vendors we work with and I needed a way to test and evaluate new software, build proof of concepts and provide demos to use in our webinars and events. My new year’s resolution was to up my game on the blogging side as this is also a good way of documenting some of the processes.  Also, if it’s useful to at least one other person then it’s worthwhile.   

Ok I know it’s now March, but it quickly dawned on me I needed a decent lab to build this all on so this was the first task. Here at ComputerWorld we are fortunate enough to have access to a vSphere lab that I share with my colleagues. Whilst the hardware spec is good it’s a shared lab and I needed something I could call my own, something I could break and fix all without giving my colleagues a headache. So, the easiest option was to create a nested lab and since January I have been (slowly) building this up to a point where I should be able to evaluate software and create blog content. My intentions are to focus on the products below for this year, but as with anything technology related this is subject to change.

  • Veeam Backup and Replication 9.5 Update 3 (including agents)
  • Zerto Virtual Replication 6.0
  • VMware NSX 6.4
  • Dell EMC Unity Virtual Storage Appliance
  • EMC Recover Point for VMs 5.1
  • vSAN 6.6.1

I soon realised of lots of software would require at least two vCenter servers with multiple clusters, many hosts and separate sites. It’s reasonably straight-forward to deploy a nested ESXi hosts and there is a lot of content already available on how to do this with a quick google search. Personally, I used a pre-configured ESXi template created by William Lam who has put a tremendous amount of effort into automation scripts that work really well. Rather than reinvent the wheel I’m using these templates to build out my base environment. More information can be found on these templates below.

New Year New Lab.png

To fully test backup and replication software I’ve ended up with a primary site and a secondary site. This will also be useful for later posts when I look at stretched L2 networking with VMware NSX.


  • A vCenter Server Appliance with an external Platform Services Controller (PSC)
  • A management cluster with 3 nested ESXi hosts
  • A compute cluster with 3 nested ESXi hosts


  • A vCenter Server Appliance with an external Platform Services Controller (PSC)
  • A compute cluster with 2 nested ESXi hosts

I’m sure as time passes this topology of the lab will change but for now having this configuration will allow me to evaluate things like Zerto Virtual Replication and Cross Site NSX. The first few posts will be around the vCenter configuration and how to install and setup the appliance.

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