Setting up your virtual computer lab

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I personally do a lot of testing on my own personal computer, some of the things I regularly do are:

  • Install different operating systems for testing
  • Deploy servers
  • Configure servers to do different things
  • Test out software

One of the things that allow me to do this is that I have a computer that is capable of running a complete lab environment for testing.

This came in really handy when I was studying but is also good now I am working, I can test out new technologies and see how they actually work before deploying them in the real world.

The best way I have found to do this is by using virtualisation and just spinning up the virtual machines when they are needed. This means you don’t need a heap of physical computers for testing and also once you are done you can just delete them and they are gone.

What will you need for your Virtual Computer Lab?

You will need to have a computer that is both powerful enough and has the ability to do virtualisation. Below are some of my recommendations for your virtual computer lab workstation.

Processor

Basic requirements for virtualisation is a processor that supports it, if you have an intel processor it will need to have Intel Virtualisation Technology(Intel VT) and if you have an AMD processor you will need to have AMD Visualisation(AMD-V).

You will need to enable the Virtualisation Technology in your BIOS to be able to use the the processor for virtualisation this will be different for each mainboard.

RAM

Because your computer will actually be running two or more computers you will need enough RAM to support it. I recommend at lease 8GB of RAM, look up the recommend amount RAM for what you are going to test and add it up with the recommended amount or RAM for your OS.

I personally have 32GB of RAM in my computer so then I can run a few at a time.

Disk Speed

One of the big killers for virtualisation is actually the read speed of the disks. If you have one HDD and want to run three servers at a time off it you will have serious performance issues. I recommend using an SSD for storage or keeping each virtual machine on its own physical hard drive. This will ensure that you are not waiting for ever every time you click the mouse.

Virtualisation software

There are some different ones to choose from, if you are looking for a free software to do this Windows now comes with Hyper-V for free but you can also use VMWare Player or Virtual Box. If you are just going to be testing Microsoft OSs then Hyper-V is fine but if you want to test out and configure Linux VMs then it may cause issues and you will be better off using VMWare Player or Virtual Box.

You can also used paid Virtualisation software such as VMWare workstation which gives you a few more features.

FYI – VMware Workstation and Fusion is provided at no cost to all Diploma of IT and VMware Students attending IT Futures.

What to do with your new virtual computer lab?

With your virtual computer lab you can practice installing different operating systems and test out server configurations. It offers a good way for you to get experience and doesn’t matter if you break things because you can just delete it and start again.

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