Richard Bucker

Starter Homelab

Posted at — Jul 8, 2021

There is a youtube channel “My Playhouse”… I do not know much about this person but he must have $200-500K invested in hardware in his PlayHouse. Reading his bio it’s impossible to determine where the hardware comes from but it’s not representative of anything I can relate to whether it’s a beginner homelab, SOHO lab, cloud services or an enterprise solution. Keep in mind that there is a wide variation in possible solutions and as I look at my own lab I struggle to design my next-gen lab and how I can transition.

My inventory:

I’m certainly not braging as this has been an accumulation of hardware over the years rather than a one-time purchase. Sadly I’ve come to realize and appreciate that the NUCs range in price from $500 to nearly $2000. If I had to do it all over again I’m not exactly sure what I’d do. These NUCs have a premium price because of the density of the components and for the most part they are laptop class components stuffed in a small box. So they are great for VESA mounted desktops and the like but not really for server workloads. The modern 2021 Intel NUCs are not different just bigger.

Starting over… the big question. How are you going to use it? If you’re just going to collect guest operating systems for experience on those OS or if you’re going to be learning cross platform development … then that’s a minimal use-case. Even some startup clustering or cooperative computing is simple. And simpler still is docker swarm or kubernetes… in the non DR mode.

Many people like myself start there and then realize they want to bring that experience into the workplace. The unfortunate truth is that work typically has a larger budget for which there is no real starting level. Consider that VMware offers a number of FREE licenses, however, getting beyond that very thin starting layer will cost you. For example any orchestration via the APIs will require a real license. And if you want to experiemnt with swapping and mirroring it’s going to cost a lot more. There is no home-lab discounts.

I’ve been noodling the idea of trying Proxmox; having been using VMware for years I’m losing interest and starting to develop some ideas in vmm for both FreeBSD and OpenBSD. Certainly VMware etc give you lots of bells, whistles and switches but in the end it’s all the same and orchestration is the actual name of the game. Somewhere in these decisions is the cost of deploying the solution, training and maintenance.

Cutting this conversation short one of the reasons why I have so many NUCs is because I was developing strategies that were container and not VM based and my first VM host could handle the load and the cost of one, at the time, that could was more than I wanted to spend and I did not want to migrate everything as I had not implemented migration…

moving on…