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Homelab Considerations: Storage Simulators for Your Homelab

Part 1: Homelab Considerations: Software Licensing for Your Homelab
Part 2: Homelab Considerations: Storage Simulators for Your Homelab

In Part 2 of the Homelab Considerations series, we’ll be talking about storage simulators. Storage simulators will help you familiarize yourself with various enterprise storage offerings that you would typically see attached to a vSphere environment. We’re going to cover each Virtual Storage Appliance (VSA) I’ve been able to find, where and how to download those VSAs, and how to set them up in an environment.

In any virtual environment, you need a few key things:

  • Servers, or compute
  • Networking, or routers and switching
  • Storage, or a centralized box of hard disks to store all of the infrastructure on

If you’re testing an application, OS or the network infrastructure in your environment, you’re probably fine putting the infrastructure on local storage if you have a decently sized hard drive and can thin provision the disk. If you’re in the market to learn how enterprise data centers and cloud technologies work, especially with VMware vSphere, you will need dedicated shared storage for your homelab infrastructure in order to use most of those enterprise features. Not all of us can build out a homelab with a dedicated NAS, let alone an enterprise SAN, so we look to leverage solutions that can simulate enterprise storage in a nested virtual homelab environment.

Even if you’re using a nested virtualized homelab, you have to shell out for the compute and any network infrastructure systems that cannot be built in a virtual environment. If you don’t want to spend a ridiculous amount of money on your storage infrastructures in support of your homelab, keep your costs down by using a Virtual Storage Appliance (VSA). If you have more money than you know what to do with, and want to buy a NAS or SAN solution that will give you the features you need for your virtual environment, feel free to send some of that money my way.

Choosing a VSA

When you choose your VSA, consider what your organization is currently using in production, or what you personally want to focus on going forward. If you’re using Dell EMC Isilon at the office, consider deploying the Dell EMC Isilon VSA to more closely mirror what you see in the production environment at work. If you’re interested in learning about NetApp ONTAP, consider deploying the NetApp ONTAP Simulator to familiarize yourself with NetApp ONTAP. You probably see where I’m going with this. If you want the simplist option that is quick to deploy and use with a hypervisor, take a look at something like FreeNAS or StarWind.

I’ll also be including some GUI demos for those of you who are interested in familiarizing themselves with a specific vendors storage GUI. The GUI demos aren’t going to work in a lab environment, but they might be useful for some people looking for new jobs, or something similar.

Disclaimer: While all of the VSAs and GUI demos listed on this page are free, some of them do require a customer or partner account through a vendor to be able to download.

Storage Simulators and VSAs

Dell EMC Data Domain Virtual Edition – Community Edition
DownloadDocumentation
  • Supported on:
    • VMware ESXi 5.5 ,6.0,6.5. 9.0 and after
    • Hyper-V (Windows Server 2012 R2, Windows 2016)
    • AWS and Azure in commercial regions
    • KVM Linux distributions from Ubuntu, RedHat, SUSE, and CentOS
  • 0.5 TB Community Edition, Up to 96TB capacity paid version
  • NFS, CIFS, DD Boost and BoostFS protocols supported. (Please check specifications for each platform)
  • Includes DD Boost, DD Replicator, and DD Encryption software
  • Secure Multi-tenancy
  • Supports Data Domain Cloud Tier for LTR (Only available in the paid version and only supported for DD VE on VMware and Hyper-v)
  • Multiple replication topologies: virtual to physical, physical to virtual, and virtual to virtual, Virtual to cloud
  • VMware vSphere High Availability and Fault Tolerance support
  • Data Domain System Manager and Data Domain Management Center (DD MC) support for manageability
  • Current in cloud application support: NetWorker, Avamar Virtual Edition, and DD Boost for Enterprise Applications

Note: The trial is limited to 0.5TB of capacity. The paid version allows up to 96TB of capacity.

 

Dell EMC Isilon Simulator
DownloadDocumentation
System Requirements:

  • Microsoft Windows (recommended), Ubuntu, or CentOS
  • 42 GB of disk space per virtual node for a fully populated virtual cluster
  • Minimum of 2 GB RAM for a virtual node, 6 GB RAM recommended per virtual node Processor
  • VT-capable processor

Note: Some advanced features are not available without a license.

 

Dell EMC ScaleIO
DownloadDocumentation
System Requirements:

  • Microsoft Windows, RedHat, CentOS, SUSE, VMware ESXi, Hyper-V, KVM, Citrix XenServer
  • Minimum of 3 nodes are required

 

Dell EMC Unity
DownloadDocumentation
System Requirements:

  • VMware ESXi
  • 2 vCPU
  • 16GB RAM
  • 6 vNICs
  • Centralized Management Console can be downloaded from the link above

 

Dell EMC ViPR Software Defined Storage
DownloadDocumentation
System Requirements:

  • VMware vCenter Server with DRS enabled and VMFS5 on shared block storage
  • ViPR Controller vApp:
    • 2 vCPUs
    • 8GB RAM
    • 120GB disk
  • ViPR Controller Reporting vApp:
    • 4 VCPUs
    • 32GB RAM
    • 600GB disk

 

Dell EMC VNX
DownloadDocumentation
System Requirements:

  • Microsoft Windows

Note: The default EMC Unisphere Logon Credentials:

Username: admin
Password: Password123#

 

Dell EMC VNXe 3200
DownloadDocumentation
System Requirements:

  • VMware vSphere

Note: This requires an EMC Support Portal Login Account.

 

FreeNAS
DownloadDocumentation
Supports both iSCSI SAN and NAS protocols.

System Requirements:

  • 64-bit CPU
  • Minimum 8GB RAM (16GB recommended)
  • 8GB Boot drive (can use external USB)

 

HDS HCS Simulator
DownloadDocumentation
System Requirements:

  • 64-bit CPU
  • Minimum 8GB RAM (16GB recommended)
  • 8GB Boot drive (can use external USB)

Note: This requires an HDS Partner Login Account.

 

HPE 3PAR StoreServ Simulator
DownloadDocumentation
Configuring the simulator requires deploying three VMs. Two simulate the cluster nodes, and the third simulates the enclosure and private network configuration to enable communication between all of the VMs.

System Requirements:

  • VMware ESXi or Workstation
  • 1 vCPU (single core)
  • 3 vNICs
  • 2GB RAM
  • 50GB disk space (full or thin-provisioned)

 

HPE Nimble Virtual Array
DownloadDocumentation
System Requirements:

  • VMware ESXi
  • 2 vCPUs
  • 4GB RAM

Note: This requires a Nimble Employee or Partner Login Account.

 

HPE StoreVirtual
DownloadDocumentation
StorVirtual deploys as a 3 year, 1TB evaluation.

System Requirements:

  • VMware vSphere, Hyper-V or KVM
  • 2 vCPU
  • 5GB RAM
  • Centralised Management Console for Windows or Linux can be downloaded from the link above

 

NetApp ONTAP Select
DownloadDocumentation
The simulator configuration requires deploying two VMs; the Select Node and the Select Deploy Administration Utility. The evaluation lasts for 90 days, and allows 2TB of capacity.

System Requirements:

  • VMware vCenter Server with DRS enabled and VMFS5 on shared block storage
  • ONTAP Select Node:
    • Intel CPU 25xx v3 (Haswell) or higher with 6 physical cores or greater
    • 24GB RAM
    • 2 10Gbps ethernet ports
  • ONTAP Select Deploy Administration Utility:
    • 2 VCPUs
    • 4GB RAM
    • 40GB disk

Note: This requires a NetApp Customer or Partner Login Account.

 

NetApp ONTAP Simulator
DownloadDocumentation
The simulator configuration requires deploying two VMs; the Select Node and the Select Deploy Administration Utility.

System Requirements:

  • VMware vCenter Server with DRS enabled and VMFS5 on shared block storage
  • ONTAP Select Node:
    • Intel CPU 25xx v3 (Haswell) or higher with 6 physical cores or greater
    • 24GB RAM
    • 2 10Gbps ethernet ports
  • ONTAP Select Deploy Administration Utility:
    • 2 VCPUs
    • 4GB RAM
    • 40GB disk

Note: This requires a NetApp Customer or Partner Login Account.

 

NexentaStor Community Edition
DownloadDocumentation
NexentaStor provides a unified file and block storage solution for NFS, SMB and iSCSI storage. The Community Edition is free, but is limited to 10TB of capacity. A 45 day trial of the full enterprise product is also available.

System Requirements:

  • 64-bit CPU
  • 4GB RAM (8GB recommended)
  • 12GB Boot drive minimum (20GB-30GB recommended)

Note: This requires a free Login Account.

 

Nutanix Community Edition
DownloadDocumentation
System Requirements:

  • Runs on 1, 3 or 4 phyical servers
  • Each server must have:
    • Intel CPU with 4 cores minimum
    • 16GB RAM
    • 200GB SSD for Hot Tier
    • 500GB HDD for Cold Tier

Note: This requires a Nimble Employee or Partner Login Account.

 

OpenFiler Unified Storage
DownloadDocumentation
System Requirements:

  • VMware ESXi, VMware Workstation, or Citrix XenServer
  • Minimum 4GB RAM
  • 12GB capacity

 

Oracle ZFS Storage Simulator
DownloadDocumentation
System Requirements:

  • VMware Workstation, or VirtualBox
  • Minimum 2.5GB RAM
  • 125GB capacity

Note: This requires a free Login Account.

 

StarWind Virtual SAN
DownloadDocumentation
System Requirements:

  • VMware Workstation
  • Minimum 2GB RAM (6GB recommended)
  • 42GB capacity per node

Note: This requires a free Login Account.

 

Synology DSM XPEnology Simulator
DownloadDocumentation
System Requirements:

  • VMware ESXi or VMware Workstation
  • 2 vCPU
  • 4GB RAM
  • 16GB capacity

 

Storage GUI Demos

Dell EMC Unity All Flash Simulator
Demo
This demo is web-based. The Dell EMC Unity GUI normally runs from a Windows thick client.

Note: This requires a free Login Account.

 

Dell EMC VNXe
Demo
This demo is flash-based. The Dell EMC VNXe GUI normally runs from a Windows thick client.

 

IBM StorWize V-Series
V7000 DemoV5000 Demo
This demo is web-based. The IBM StorWize V-Series GUI normally runs from a Windows thick client.

Note: This requires a free IBMid Login Account.

 

NetGear ReadyNAS (NAS)
Demo
This is a web-based demo of the NetGear ReadyNAS GUI.

 

QNAP QTS (NAS)
Demo
This is a web-based demo of the QNAP QTS GUI.

 

Synology DSM (NAS)
Demo
This is a web-based demo of the Synology DSM GUI.

 

Thecus (NAS)
Demo
This is a web-based demo of the TecusOS GUI.

And that’s all I’ve found. If you’ve found something that’s missing from this list, feel free to reach out and I’ll add it. Happy storing!

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Scott Forehand

Scott Forehand is an accomplished systems architect, engineer, and administrator with over a decade of experience designing and managing virtual environments, networks, storage and server infrastructures and operations with a proven ability to create and automate solutions to improve productivity, reliability and performance. He has achieved multiple certifications in virtualization, networking, cloud, storage and other technologies, and is honored to be a VMware vExpert in 2018.

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