My XPS 15 VMware Workstation 8 Lab


I originally intended to use my old Dell XPS 420 as a lab machine.  I installed ESXi 4.1 on it and started to load it with VM’s and it turned into my production home server.  The VM’s became too valuable to shutdown and free resources for my home lab.  And to boot it can only be expanded to 6GB of RAM.  This for an ESXi host is extremely light.

So, I decided to put my shiny new Dell XPS 15 to work using VMware Workstation 7.0.  I’ve since migrated to 8.0 and couldn’t be happier (well I could use more RAM).  I’m able to run 3 ESXi hosts, vCenter and an Openfiler SAN.

I’ve been extremely impressed with the labs I’ve been able to run with this setup.  I’ve been able to run nested VM’s within the ESXi hosts with the storage located on the virtual Openfiler SAN.  This has allowed me to do advanced scenarios including vMotion and FT and HA labs.  For the HA labs I’ve had to scale the ESXi hosts down to 2 hosts to allow 4GB of RAM for each ESXi hosts.  I’ve found you need a minimum of 4GB of RAM to do HA.

This is actually my only complaint about the lab within my production laptop.  16GB of RAM would allow me to do a great deal more within VMware workstation. Oversubscription obviously works very well within VMware workstation 8.  I have a total of 2TB of disk space thin provisioned on a laptop with a 750 GB HD and only use 100 GB total space which includes my production data.  The VM’s total 8.5 GB of RAM not including the overhead of my host OS.  And, I’ve assigned a total of 9 vCPU’s.  My total utilization rarely goes over 20% even with some of the advanced labs.

Just like production networks my bottleneck is almost always memory.  Disk I/O can be an issue at times but not as much as memory.  This is why I’m still leaning toward purchasing a desktop with a minimum of 16GB of RAM.  I’m debating because my laptop’s performance has pleasantly surprised me.  I’ve taken to using it as my primary machine and cannot complain about performance for everyday computing and it almost meets all my needs for a Virtualization lab.

13 thoughts on “My XPS 15 VMware Workstation 8 Lab”

  1. This is good. How does the network look like? One vmkernel group for vMotion and one for the storage and one for management? Can the VM access the internet via the XPS 420.

    I am trying to setup a similar home lab and is looking into how the network should look like.

    1. Yes. In ESXi you’d connect your vSwitch to your network adapter and you should be all set to get your VM’s on the network. Take a look at my post for configuring networking in a nested environment for more details.

  2. Im getting ready to setup my nested lab. I have a nice macbook pro with 16GB of ram, but it has an older dual core i7 processor. Also, in looking at the vmware fusion I have been using to run my windows 8 machine, it doesn’t seem to offer all the same things that workstation 8, or now workstation 9 offer. Should I just bite the bullet and get a new desktop?

    1. You should take a look at some of the videos from VMworld last year. Specifically the networking session by Jason Nash. He was running a MBP and Fusion. Fusion is still the same underlying hypervisor so you can still do the nested VMs. The feature I miss the most is the network editor.

      But you can still do some impressive stuff with Fusion. You could always run Bootcamp as well.

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