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I, as well as two other students, are creating curriculum for a new datacenter course at our university. We have 16 Sun servers that are several years old with decent specs (2x Dual-Core AMD Opterons with 4 or 8GB RAM) and ESXi 5.0 installed that we want to setup as a small, test datacenter environment for students to use.

An example of a task the students would go tackle: configuration of LAMP servers.

Students would VPN into the local network to then access their virtual machine of Ubuntu.

VMware's documentation is one of the most egregious I have worked with. We have the idea to run a Windows Server 2008 R2 VM that would then run vCenter. The second VM would run Ubuntu 12.04 with OpenVPN. I have seen several recommendations to build a SAN from one of the machines to host the OSs. Does anyone have experience setting something up that is similar?

  • If you are trying to teach topics related to datacenters I'd think I'd I want them to learn how to use somebody else's datacenter (cloud) since that is the way of the future. – tony roth Mar 28 '13 at 19:35
  • 16 physical hosts, thats quite a lot. I'd suggest to start with about 5 ESXi hosts. One holds your vCenter VM and the OpenVPN VM.The other ESXi hosts are for the students. Configure a separate SAN network on all ESXi hosts and install FreeNAS on another host for the storage (expecting that this machine got some disk space). Attach that storage to the SAN network via iSCSI. If you'd like to experiment with storage replication too, you could give open-e/dss a try - they offer free licenses for small storages but with full functionality (e.g. active/active replication). – desasteralex Mar 28 '13 at 21:35
  • @tonyroth That would be ideal. Unfortunately we lack the resources necessary for that. We are receiving these Sun servers for free as they are being taken from production. – Mac Gatlin Mar 28 '13 at 23:19
  • @desasteralex Thanks! We'll definitely look into installing FreeNAS and using it as a SAN. We had one of the 16 machines which contained two 250GB HDDs. More than enough storage for these purposes. We're planning on starting simple. Once we have it up and running, we'd branch out to the other machines. – Mac Gatlin Mar 28 '13 at 23:33
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You seem to be set on using vmware. I find vmware's hardware requirments for their SAN's a bit prohibative (they want fibre LAN)I recommend openstack, especailly for an acedemic setting -

Devstack has a really nice getting started giude and config script which can easily be deployed on any modern (2.6+) linux kernel.

Just run the script and your ready to start deploying VMs - it also has nice provisioning tools to help manage students machine images in the class

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    iscsi and nfs are 1st class storage options for vmware, not quite sure where you got these ideas from. – tony roth Mar 28 '13 at 20:31
  • Its in their documentation that storage lun's should be over fiber - however its not a requirement. -icsi and nfs are protocol layer; im talking link layer – JERiv Mar 29 '13 at 4:58

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