A decade ago, home labs were all the rage in my Twitter circle. I had home lab envy – I’m not gonna lie. Visions of Synology and servers dancing in my mind.
Thinking back to that time, it was also when Dell and others were shipping truckloads of hardware onsite to conference to run hands-on-labs. It was BC. You know, Before Cloud.
Cloud changed much of this for IT professionals. Instant, on-demand resources for learning and exploring are common. I can spin up a demo environment and take a test drive on most solutions quickly and easily. Many of those solutions are Cloud-native today.
After moving in 2016, I never rebuilt my home lab. For the last 6 years, I have had tons of hardware at my disposal to tinker, until I had no time to tinker.
But then, a change.
Last month, I started buying hardware components on eBay and Amazon to rebuild my lab. But, why did I decide to revive a home lab in 2022?
Not everything is cloud. I’m working with a lot of customers in a hybrid stance and there’s a lot of traditional IT that still needs to be maintained, lifecycled and upgraded.
Sometimes the cloud labs are missing core pieces of the process. While I could leverage vendor provided lab environments, most of these demos don’t start at square one. Some don’t even allow you to do the installs and instead simulate the screens. I believe there is value and lessons to be learned starting from the bare metal.
I am a hands-on learner. It is a byproduct of years of being hands-on-keyboard as an administrator and engineer. Classes and online learning modules are good for me, but never as good as simply installing a product, configuring it, breaking it, fixing it and eventually mastering it.
In terms of goals, I would say first is learning and gaining the knowledge to pass certifications. Second, is a place to try things and vet ideas.
I recently started a new role at XenTegra as a Solutions Architect. While I’m a long-time VMware SME, there’s a lot of technologies I want to learn and experiment with. I also need time to get into the weeds of the products to attain certifications, proving and certifying my knowledge through accreditation. I need to brush off those VMware Horizon skills, since it was called View when I last ran it.
One of the best parts of my job is trying things – coming up with strategies and then making sure that they work. To tinker. I feel like I need a place where I can make that happen without interrupting others and their work. My teammates are doing similar lab builds on hosted resources, but those environments are built not just for learning, they are also for show and demo. The environments have different goals – the shared should always be ready for show.
When the time comes, to be able to demo functionality. While I don’t expect my home lab to be ready to demo at any given time, I do want the ability to log in remotely and check something or show off a UI or concept when my shared lab environments aren’t available. As with anything shared, I don’t have full control – but for this little nugget, its all mine. (Insert some sort of bad cartoon villain here. I heard a cackle as I wrote that line.)
I’d argue that for many, it may not make sense to build a home lab in 2022. For me, maybe call me old-school. I’m looking forward to what I learn on the way and how I can use this tiny little cluster of goodness. I think that is one of my differentiators – while I can talk strategy and architecture all day long with you – I can also run the tech and know that it’ll live up to what I’m selling you. I love having both perspectives, and the ability to translate between the two.