VMware Portable Training Lab Physical Build

VMware Portable Lab

I have been stalking home/training lab posts from significant contributors to the VMware community like @ChrisWahl and @virten  for quite some time. Finally, I decided it was time to pull the trigger on a lab for the IT Division where I work. We are a three-person IT group and have virtualized 100% of our servers on VMware. I have the most experience in our division with virtualization and have built or rebuild nearly all of our physical and virtual infrastructure over the past six years. The other two members of our Division are taking on more and more responsibilities and having a training lab will enable us all to increase vSphere skills and hands-on knowledge.

The three hosts in our cluster are new fifth generation Intel NUC barebone kits. The parts lists are as follows:

Because this is a shared lab, I wanted to make the lab portable. I thought about only mounting everything to a Melamine board and then remembered that we had rescued a rugged shipping/transportation container that held mobile meter reading handhelds. Our Water Division had upgraded to newer units, and the equipment case had ended up in our basement surplus pile.

Sidenote: If anyone from VMware reads this, I would love a nice VMware decal to cover up the Itron silk screening.

Re-purposed shipping container frontRe-purposed shipping container backRe-purposed shipping container open

We stripped the fitted foam liner out of the case and quickly realized that our Ubiquiti EdgeSwitch ES-24-250W spare unit fit perfectly. We use Ubiquiti hardware for wirelessly linking ten locations (buildings and remote cameras) back into our fiber connected buildings and then into our core. We had a StarTech 4U RK419WALLV 19in vertical wall mount in our surplus pile from a building that had been remodeled and ended up with a larger enclosed wall mount.

4U Wall Mount Bracket


With those building blocks in place, we tried to figure out an elegant way to attach the NUCs in a clean fashion. It was decided to use a flat surface perpendicular to the switch so that all cables are hidden under the new “false bottom” of the case. Our Building Maintenance Division has an employee that is amazing with fabrication, and he had a remnant piece of aluminum sheeting. He installed brackets for the aluminum, cut the scrap down to size, drilled the mount holes and a finger hole to remove the shelf when needed.

4U rack and aluminum brackets

We mounted Scotch Outdoor Fasteners, Clear 1 in x 4 ft Velcro to the bottom for cable management. The switch required a 90 degree power cord in order to fit the way we wanted. The NUCs mount to the aluminum shelf with the same Velcro fasteners.

Portable Lab Velcro Wire Management




A company that I do some consulting for recently changed from horizontal PDUs to vertical zero space PDUs and gave me a nice APC AP7802 PDU for the portable lab. We had to swap the twist lock end for a standard three prong end. The PDU is complete overkill, but it was free and fit perfectly in the 4U wall mount rack.

Portable Lab Complete closeup

Portable Lab closeup angle

We wanted to be able to connect to the lab environment wirelessly, so we added a UniFi 802.11ac Access Point inside the lid of the case.

Portable Lab Complete

With the build complete, it is time to move on to installing and configuring. I will add a blog post or two on those topics, trying not to duplicate any of the great write-ups that are already out there. If you have any questions feel free to hit me up on Twitter @vmChad, or in the comments section below.

High-resolution photos here.