The perfect nested virtualization-based demo LAB: Basics, vCenter, vSphere, shared storage, networking

I am building my lab to support testing cloud migration tools. It is not only for “legacy” VMs but cloud native workloads as well. I deployed ESXi7 on nested Workstation 16, added Synology NAS via NFS to store ISOs, built core infra like DC on Windows Server 2022, and thought about the proper diagramming tool supports the hybrid design and automated deployment.

My on-premises LAB is obviously a VMware-based virtualized environment. Various OS VMs, databased, app servers, web front end, everything. Later, will I add Kubernetes in various ways, not only Tanzu but Ubuntu, Red Hat planned. First thing first, let’s get the binaries from VMware.

Download VMware vSphere 7.0 Evaluation – Free Managed Virtualization for 60 Days

Today, the versions are

Hypervisor: VMware vSphere Hypervisor (ESXi ISO) image (2022-01-27) | 7.0U3c | 395.34 MB | iso
Management appliance: VMware vCenter Server Appliance (2022-01-27) | 7.0U3c | 9.02 GB | iso

You need to get these files via product EVAL from VMware to start building your lab.

Essential files to deploy vSphere environment.

Previously I deployed 7.0.2, but let’s redo it together, so I wipe everything and redo.

My “old” lab from January 2022.

Let’s create a VM on VMware Workstation using the ISO.

Note, ESXi7 detected.
I have 128GB RAM on the desktop PC, so I can add 48GB RAM to each host.

Virtualization engine enabled. In the past, it was hard to enable nested virtualization, hack VMX files, etc.
vSphere boots in Workstation 16 like any other guest OS. Easy VM installation detected and there is a note below.
I think it’s a good idea to store your LAB passwords in a safe place.

I used free KeePass Password Safe for my lab. However, I can’t wait to see integrations and have one password or no password. This is an amazing company that might bring this to the world Meet our team | 1Password.

Before any deployment, you should start with the design and diagrams of networking, nodes, etc. Do not worry, I will have it for you. As our lab gets more complex, I will share both documentation and automation scripts to get something similar done by yourself.

Installation completed in no time, after reboot, vSphere Web console works. Remember, there is no Windows-based thick UI console anymore, VMware dropped that at version 6.7. We have only web-based, but that’s OK. Younger people will not miss the old Windows App (*.exe) GUI.

Done. It works. Got IP from DHCP, don’t like it, will change to static and add to DNS.
Probably it is not optimal to have DHCP on your home router. I will have my DNS/DHCP servers ready on Windows Domain Controller VM. Ideally, you need to have CA servers for certificates and AD in place. Network Policy server talks RADIUS to Mikrotik for VPN, etc. Design, design, design as I said before.

I have a home NAS here as are probably many other people. Actually, I have 2 of them and they replicate their raid arrays. The good news is that Synology can do NFS and you can mount it on nested vSphere. This makes your life a bit easier with ISO images.

ISO files uploaded to NAS

NFS support enabled

I used an IP range since I will change the ESXi IP address (or add more nodes) and I do not want the NFS connection to break due to changes or new IPs. This is how to do that.

This is how to mount the NFS server on vSphere.

It is super easy. Mount path is /volume1/ISO in my case. I use the IP address to Synology in case DNS temporarily fails. I need to fix IP addresses and DNS ASAP, ideally before vCenter deployment. Planning, planning, planning.

Hurray. It works. Obviously, it works. No firewalls etc. at home. Will upload more ISOs later.

Documentation? I love building documentation. But only nice and useful ones. I found Brainboard – Visually build your Cloud infrastructure and manage your Terraform workflows recently, and I like it because it supports 3 clouds and generates Terraform to automate deployments. The issue is I can’t model my physical source system here, yet. Hopefully, more people will see potential in having a Hybrid design tool Terraform Provider: VMware | Brainboard , Docs overview | hashicorp/vsphere | Terraform Registry

This is a modern diagramming tool. As you draw, you can generate a TF script to run on the top 3 public clouds. First time I hear about About US | Scaleway from this UI. I rather focus on Alibaba or Oracle Cloud.

One day, I will generate my entire lab from a diagram. Both on-prem and cloud, including VMware in Hybrid deployment.

This is boring basic infra stuff. I tried Windows Server 2022 at the same time. Can’t wait to play with the new Windows Admin Center and such. I was installing System Center products for years including Windows Azure Pack. OMG. Life is short for not automating things.
This is not Microsoft Visio. But draw.io. Free. I have Google Drive behind to save my work. I am going to make this diagram as cool as my previous works in Visio.

That’s it for today. I will continue the deployment as time permits and keep you posted. Add vCenter, NSX-T, everything. I am going to deploy Terraform and try to automate source system deployment, will see how much time I can save by adding DevOps to lab automation.

Next time I continue to work from macOS and see if I can be as productive as on my Windows box. I want my blog and lab administration platform-independent to make sure I am not excluding people using different from Windows 10/11. DIB stands for Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging for All (linkedin.com) in my vocabulary.

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