Lab setup

The draft for this project has changed three times since starting – mostly due to resource constraints on my end.  I’ve bounced between hardware, hypervisors, and focus but I’ve settled on an approach.  My immediate needs outweighed the need for a full VMWare stack.  What I really needed was a FreeNAS replacement, and after trying a few different options I’ve ended up right back on FreeNAS 11.  This platform will support most of my storage, media, and VM needs for a year or so.  It will also support several options for backing up and securing my data, allowing me to get off the cloud as much as possible.

The entire system is setup on a Dell Precision T7500 currently running 2 Intel Xeon E5520, 12 GB RAM, and almost 2 TB of storage across 6 SATA hard drives.  This hardware comes with some downsides however:  the server is so physically large it has it’s own gravity; the processors lack the UG functionality required by bhyve to support virtualization; and the hardware draws a fair amount of power under the current configuration; and the hardware is old.  I’m correcting the UG support issue by ordering a couple E5620 processors, and possibly add additional RAM at a later date.  I might be able to cut power usage by configuring FreeNAS power management and migrating to smaller drives or SSD’s as well.

As a side note, I had considered going with an online lab or picking up an Intel NUC.  Both would have saved me a fair amount on my electrical bill, however at the end of the day I have two drivers.  The first was to ensure a minimum impact to my checking account right now, the second was to ensure a solid platform platform to ensure the privacy and security of my family files.  Since everything in this lab has been cobbled together from discarded hardware, I have little investment other than time.  Additionally, there is more than enough support bringing all of my information back down from the cloud. Once things get situated, I’ll likely migrate to a Intel NUC platform and a Synology NAS.

My current plan is to migrate everything hosted on other machines back on to either a FreeNAS jail until the CPU upgrade is complete.  This should be fairly straightforward as I am only migrating a Plex server and VPN gateway.  I also want to setup a Splunk jail for log collection, but I am debating on setting up ELK instead as a learning experience.  Once these are done and operational, I will be configuring at few different lab machines depending on what skills I am trying to hone.

After the consolidation is complete, I’ll have just the pfSense and FreeNAS physical boxes instead of four different machines.  I am assuming my security will be more robust as some functions are running on one box instead of a VM or jail.  The setup won’t help my power bills much but I can fix that by moving to newer hardware later.  I’ll document the process as I go.

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