back to article Clash of the Titans: Which of you has the GREATEST HOME LAB?

Last week's article about home labs and their career-enhancing powers produced some interesting comments from readers about their home labs. That got us thinking: in the spirit of our infamous Ventblockers series, in which readers sent in gut-wrenching photos of filth-laden IT kit, what about a servers'n'sofas challenge to …


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  1. PJ 3
    Thumb Up


    I got tired of the loud, hot rack in my office and built CriKit. I routinely run 5 - 30 virtual machines and I can gen up any Private Cloud software I want because that is my interest right now. It doesn't do everything however, live migration of large VM's kinda sucks over 1 Gbe, but the compute nodes have enough compute power and memory to do a lot and the SSD's make things snap nicely. I use the same proc as SeaMicro did in their first release - Intel Xeon E3-1260L with 8 MB of cache and it is an awesome combination of compute horsepower and low-wattage. Cheap, cool, quiet, compact and fast enough is all I was looking for. Gotta admire the guy with the 47 U kit though.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

  2. Anonymous Coward

    I'd turn it around

    The greatest homelab is the one which gets you the results you need. And that is usually hardly dependent on the kind of hardware you're using, but more so on how smart you've set everything up.

    1. LPF

      Re: I'd turn it around

      Come on this is IT, this is liek putting go faster strikes on a corsa, it makes no sense to have such power, but its fun :D

  3. Jonathon Desmond

    I think there needs to be multiple categories....

    ... for the awards. Then it can be as prestigious as Oscars or the Razzies:


    Best home lab drawing under 50W continuous

    Best home lab based in *occupied* primary entertainment area of the house (Lounge and Bedroom subcategories)

    Best home lab that the partner has destroyed because they are sick of the noise


    1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

      Re: I think there needs to be multiple categories....

      I have a contender for the first two categories. ;)

      Small, cute, runs my home VM....

  4. Andus McCoatover

    My ulimate - long gone, sadly..

    PDP 11-34, 128kW of core, two RL01 drives (10 megs. each), a Texas Instruments "Silent - 700" thermal printer and an ADM-3 terminal. Took two friends and me to move it into my shed....Fire it up, I could play Zork on it all night, until I saw the 'leccy bill..That curatiled it!

    1. Evil Auditor

      Re: My ulimate - long gone, sadly..

      Not quite the same level as your PDP 11, but my AlphaServer 2100 4/275 did a very good job heating my place. But the noise, the horror.

    2. Haku

      Re: My ulimate - long gone, sadly..

      Doing a sort out of my old computer kit I found a 5.25" harddrive, I think it was 6GB.

  5. Anonymous Coward 15

    Not set up as a lab or anything

    But I own a Sun E4500 (12 processors, 10GB RAM), an SGI Octane and a MicroVAX 3100 as well as my main laptop, a Netgear Stora, a couple of Raspberry Pis, a few old laptops gathering dust and various 8-bit boards I soldered myself.

    1. Evil Auditor

      Re: Not set up as a lab or anything

      AC 15, a while ago El Reg featured hoarding. That would be your category.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I have this dusty old 16 core xeon with 64 gigs of RAM stuck under the desk in my bedroom, just so me and the wife can watch videos from time to time.

  7. a well wisher

    an uncertainty of a microsecond.

    " I find it cool that the computer which does my video recordings knows the time with an uncertainty of a microsecond. "

    Unfortunately its not something the UK broadcasters ( ITV,BBC) care a jot about and will start & finish program minutes off of scheduled times. to suit themselves and or trying to get the upper hand over the other channel

    1. Zaphod.Beeblebrox

      Re: an uncertainty of a microsecond.

      " I find it cool that the computer which does my video recordings knows the time with an uncertainty of a microsecond. "

      I find it likely that the poster of this statement doesn't get out much...

  8. Gert Selkobi

    Mostly a dusty graveyard


    Sun UltraSparc 2i Ultra5 - dev web server

    Sun UltraSparc 2i Ultra5 - dev db server

    Dell PowerEdge 1400SC - CVS and file server

    Dell Latitude D820 - Gateway / PF firewall / DansGuardian / clamav / DHCP / DNS etc etc

    Dell Inspiron 510m - IDS

    Dell Inspiron 510m - Logger

    Dell Inspiron 630m - Backup gateway

    Linux Mint:

    HP / Compaq 8710w - General use

    Windows 7:

    Home brew Corei5 / 8GB / 2x 500GB / 3 monitors - Desktop dev workstation

    Debian Squeeze ARM:

    Model B RaspBerry Pi

    Ipad3, Asus Transformer TF101, Buffalo 1TB Linkstation Duo +2TB USB and a couple of Watchbot IP cameras

    The women of my life have rarely been happy about my other family, but my kids seem to think it's cool.

  9. David Hicks

    Not that much...

    We've got a couple of HP microservers running zfs for file storage, a couple of ARM boxes repurposed to DLNA rendering, two desktops, a myth box, a laptop, a netbook, an ARM chromebook, three consoles, several mobile phones, a smart tv, a smart blu-ray player and a few squeezebox devices all on a mix of wired, wireless and powerline network segments. Uh I think that's about it.

    These pretty much all count as part of the lab these days. They're all running some flavour of linux apart from the consoles and one of the desktops...

    1. I think so I am?

      Re: Not that much...

      And a partridge in a pear tree

  10. Anonymous Coward

    Not to quibble or anything, but

    I think the award needs to take into account the ratio of gear to living space. After all the 42U of gear in my garage is not as cool (hot?) as the guy who has crammed 42U of hotness into his floor apartment.

  11. CatoTheCat


    Cupboard under the stairs, used for:

    DVB-S recording in MythTV

    XBMC/Plex playback to Pi or Samsung TV

    Virtualbox appliances

    Other Stuff.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I still have two ..

    .. Psion Organisers LZ64 :).

    Does that count?

  13. I think so I am?
    Thumb Up


    Or it didn't happen, or in this case is a figment of your imagination.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    off the top of my head

    Sun E3000 + D1000 differential scsi storage array

    2x Sun V250

    Sun T-3 fibre array

    Synology ds411j NAS

    Sun Ultra-1 Creator 200Mhz + 12-bay unipack scsi storage array

    Sun T2000 8-core w/ 32GB RAM

    Sun Ultra-5

    Sun Ultra-10

    SparcStation SLC

    Sparc Classic X

    Sparc IPC

    Sun SparcStation 4

    Sun Javastation ("Mr Coffee") running Netbsd

    Sun Netra T4

    Sun SparcStation 10 w/ quad CPU option

    4x Sunray-1 thin clients

    3x whitebox phenom 2 quad or hex core servers running Solaris or Windows 7

    Thinkpad T510

    Acer Ferrari 4006wlmi

    Acorn R260 (RiscIX 1.21)

    2 x Acorn A540

    Acorn A310

    Acorn A5000

    Acorn A3000

    Acorn A420/1

    Acorn RiscPC w/ simtec Hydra multi cpu board

    Mac G3 B&W

    iMac 700Mhz

    Acorn BBC model B issue 7


    Raspberry Pi

    Galaxy Tab 10.1

    Nexus 4

    ... hmm, maybe my wife has a point.

  15. JimC
    Black Helicopters

    OK own up

    How many of you (well of us actually now I think about it) are planning to show partners the most egregious listings to our partners in the hope of reducing the domestic criticism of our own much more modest setups?

    And how many of us are hopelessly optimistic enough to think that doing so might have the slightest effect on said pressure from 'er/'im indoors?

    1. dogged
      Thumb Up

      Re: OK own up

      Good thinking. My two small, square boxes look pretty sad against the lists we're seeing here.

      I have no idea how they made the article, to be honest.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Actually, now I think about it...

    2x L3 Nortel 2556GTX

    2x L3 Cisco 3560G-24

    1x L3 Cisco 3560X-48P

    3x DL360 G6

    1x ML350 G5

    1x ML310 G4

    1x Dell 2950

    1x Juniper 5GT

    1x Cisco 877-M

    1x ASA 5505

    1x DLink NSS343

    1x Netgear Duo

    2x Cisco 1142N

    1x 3KVA APC

    1x APC 42RU rack

    And one hell of a power bill for the garage area :)

    It's a certification testbed wet dream, except the heat would dry things up in an instant...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Actually, now I think about it...

      Oh, and an APC managed PDU so things can be turned on or off as necessary :)

  17. Dazed and Confused

    The list of shame

    2 HP ML110 G6 servers (nice a quiet, I'd recommend these for home lab work)

    1 HP ML110 G7 server (noisier than the G6 boxes, but much nicer inside)

    2 HP MicroServers, these are the "production" boxes, so do they count as home lab? (really quiet, should swap the disks for SSDs and then they'd be all but silent, wish they had more PCI slots)

    various Dell PCs, ones ever suffering from Windows. The rest have various versions of CentOS.

    1 HP EliteBook 8730W only 4GB of RAM in this one.

    1 HP EliteBook 8740W with 16GB, SSD... etc.

    1 HP 2133 netbook

    2 HP managed switches, can't be arsed to crawl around on the floor and find the model number, they're fanless as 1U high fans are too noisy even for me.

    Oh and a network managed extend run UPS.

    oh yes and two laser printers.

    Then there is the Pièce de résistance, I've also got an HP85, with a still working tape drive and printer. I need to track down an 7550 to go with this.


    1 HP rx7620 with 8 Maddison Itanium2 CPUs and 56GB of RAM

    1 HP rx5670 with 4 McKinley CPUs and 8GB of RAM

    1 HP rx2400 with 2 McKinley CPUs and 12GB of RAM (this runs an Oracle RAC cluster inside VMs)

    the VA disk array

    Really can't remember how much FC JBOD disk racks (I just gave away all my SCSI boxes)

    2 DL380s

    1 DL320

    and all the switches and crap to make it work.

    1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

      Re: The list of shame

      Do you power it all on at the same time?

      1. Dazed and Confused

        Re: The list of shame

        Do you power it all on at the same time?

        No the startup spike always takes out the circuit breaker, some of the boxes are on cut out switches these days which makes it easier to recover from power outages. The production boxes are on UPSs which are good for 4->6 hours.

  18. CreosoteChris

    "Not a real OS" but........

    ....quite a handy home lab platform.

    For years I ran a motley assortment of PCs with various OSes - but I recently managed to wipe the slate clean, and consolidate the whole lot onto 1 box.

    I can boot Win7, W2K12 server, Linux Mint 14, and an Ubuntu cut that I don't like, won't use, and will probably delete soon. And I have the capacity to create whatever other x64 OS variants I want - all conveniently available, all on my main (now only) desktop PC.

    Good riddance to KVM switches and noisy old legacy kit - hello Windows 8! Hyper-V available in the desktop product is one of those "under the hood" features that can turn out to be really useful - certainly was for me.

    Haterz can downvote me to their hearts' content, and no doubt will - but the verifiable facts speak for themselves. Cheers!

    PS - I even cobbled together a selection of left-over kit, and flogged it as a working PC for £220 beer money.

    1. pPPPP

      Re: "Not a real OS" but........

      I've gone through my own consolidation. I have a bunch of old PCs of various vintages in the loft space all of which I now use for long term storage only now. I replaced them all with a single model B Raspberry Pi with a couple of 2.5" drives running Slackware 14. It's got a printer attached and all the other PCs are set up with wake-on LAN so I can get stuff off them if I need to.

      That and the 6 42U racks full of crap I have at work. Their electricity bill, not mine.

  19. Longrod_von_Hugendong
    Thumb Up

    During the move...

    I basically got rid of all my old, hoarded machines (Best being a P3 800) now i just use my laptop with virtual machines. Its not nearly as much fun and it really doesnt look as cool as old machines doing things with no cases on them and loads of wire everywhere. Such is progress...

    (Mind you its a lot quicker to tidy away and SWMBO doesnt moan as much about my experimentation :D)

  20. Erin in Rowayton

    Not hardware but uses...

    Can't help thinking that yes the hardware is fundamental and interesting, BUT the uses that we make of it are even more interesting. For example, all the usual suspects, the exotic, and possibly some "save the planet" grid computing like those available through Seti@home, Einstein@home & etc. So, how about a list of dazzling uses!? Always love tuning in on you guys. Thanks, Erin in Rowayton

  21. Tom Womack

    Computational number theory lab

    I have a 48-core 64GB Opteron 6168 machine, an old Core2Quad Q6600 as NFS server, and a Sunfire 4150 dual-quad-Xeon, all installed in my gigabit-ethernet-connected (thanks to a Very Large Drill) outbuilding. I use them to factorise large numbers; by Easter 2^929-1 will have fallen to my ponderous linear algebra machinery.

    1. Kebabbert
      Thumb Up

      Re: Computational number theory lab

      Cool! Why? Hobby? Are you using Number Field Sieve? Where is the source code? :o)

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Home Lab

    I have a pretty sweet home lab.

    42U Dell Rack

    2 3000VA APC 2U UPS

    1 750VA APC 1U UPS (For EMC)

    HP C7000 Blade Chassis

    9 BL465 G6 Blades Dual 6 Cores 64GB memory

    2 BL685 G5 Blades Quad Quad Core 128GB memory

    EMC AX100 SAN 12TB

    NexentaStor 16 1T SATA 2 64GB SSD ZIL RAID 1 and 1 128GB SSD Read Cache 2 64GB SSD Boot

    2 Sun T2000

    1 Sun T5120

    1 HP Procurve 2824

    2 HP Branded Brocade Switches

    1 12 port Midspan POE injector

    Cisco PIX Firewall/VPN Appliance

    All the servers run VMware vSphere ESXi 5.0 and connected vCloud Director

    12 VLANs in the house seems excessive to some but very flexible.

    1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

      Re: Home Lab

      Where is the nozzle for inserting the ground virgin you must be consuming to power that?

  23. Gordon Fecyk

    Good to see at least one HP Microserver. How about a USB-WiFi capable VM router?

    Running at less than 100 Watts, I have two domain controllers, an Exchange server, a reverse proxy server, a firewall router, and a separate video hosting server in a HP Microserver based on this:

    Only I use an Adaptec SAS RAID controller instead of the onboard SATA; it turns out the internal drive cable plugs right into the Adaptec card and I can use the factory chassis with bog standard SATA drives. I matched that with 8 GB RAM and a VLAN-capable HP switch. It's a data centre in a shoebox.

    The only thing I'm missing is software to turn a USB wireless dongle into an access point. I'm already using Zeroshell as my router, which has some wireless device support but no USB support and no IPv6 support. Can anyone recommend a good x86 router that runs on a virtual machine?

    (While Zeroshell can do wireless AP with a PCIe card, the Microserver chipset doesn't support Direct Path access to a PCIe device.)

  24. phuzz Silver badge

    Not in the same league

    It's not really a home lab, but I do have what used to be my old gaming PC, re-purposed into a storage server, mainly by ramming as many harddrives and fans into the case as possible.

    However, as I sold my old CPU, it's currently running with a water-cooled Sempron. I suppose I could have pulled the water cooling out, but why bother?

    Now I come to think about it, I don't remember topping up the water in the last few years, better check that out...

  25. Gert Selkobi


    *BANG!* *zzt!* *fizzle* *phuzz*

    I think you must have spilled a bit. ;-)

  26. Mako

    Mine's all Enterprise-class boxes (DL580s and such) but pretty dated.

    All I care about is I can sim stuff that would require change requests to do at work - even in test and dev, believe it or not.

    So I agree that at least some sort of lab is pretty much necessary if you want to keep up, but it's also vital [i]just to do your job[/i] in some circumstances.

    1. AchimR

      Re: change requests

      We used to have that too, a full change advisory board for the regression systems, but not for the dev test systems.

      I can see both sides, pros and cons for it, though nowadays (and after a department reshuffle), the regression CAB is gone and the dev test and regression areas are under our control now too (I used to be previously in a team working with DT and reg env, prod was different team, now am in said different team, controlling all). DT and Reg changes now go much faster and makes life easier :)

  27. Irk

    Last night we counted how many computers were on one floor of the house. We reached ten and gave up. Our house has 2 more floors and a basement; no telling what else lurks in it. We really ought to get motivated and make it all into something, because having a "lab" would at least make it sound fancy instead of a case of hoarding.

  28. AchimR

    "Home lab"

    Well, it's more of a collection of boxes doing stuff.

    Initially I had a Q6600 box running Windows Vista (indeed!) and had a chance to grab an old box from two jobs ago (basically 5 years ago), an old AMD XP 3500+, running Debian with 2GB

    Nowadays the Q6600 runs Kubuntu 12.04, 8GB RAM, GeForce 260 (previous gaming box), and the AMD is still the same, doing same, being file server and basically web server for the bit of (private) web development I do (used to do professional, not anymore), while the Q6600 can run VMs and also SMB shares (store for music and all)

    New box is an i7 Ivy Bridge 3770, 32GB RAM, SSD + HDD. Next to gaming it's also there to run VMs (and other hobbies e.g. 3D Rendering).

    VMs across boxes I want to use (next to above Web dev) to focus on things I will be doing more at work soon, such as penetration testing, securing / hardening Linux systems, vulnerability scans, exploiting web interfaces, breaking vulnerable packages over the network, play around with log storage from my home machines and servers across a couple providers I use. Next to that any other Linux sysadminy thingy I can think of which looks interesting.

    Got three unmanaged switches, two are hand-me-downs 100MBit, the latest finally 1GBit. Looking into sourcing some (older) Cisco switches to start playing more with VLANs around coupled with above stuff.

    6 screens to provide full overview of things, top left and center go to the Q6600, top right goes to the laptop docking station (an i5 from work with 8GB for more playing), bottom three go to Win7 box (Mostly though for nVidia surround gaming ;) )

    I'd be lost w/o Synergy in cases like this (absolut win of a program)

    So it's somewhat a mix a of a "lab" and gaming station. As I'v e mentioned in the previous article which spawned this one, the biggest winner is probably British Gas here...

  29. M7S

    Pah! If it's a lab it should have

    Van der Graaf generators, bubbling jars of strange coloured liquids with not-easily-identifiable-but-nevertheless-rather-disturbing-looking things occasionally floating to the surface and a metal table suspended from chains with various body parts on it (not all from the same body).

    Oh, and an Igor.

    (Thankth Mathter)

  30. Christian Berger

    Maybe some more detail on my setup

    Well the NTP server was already mentioned. It gets it's time from a GPS receiver.

    It also has 4 DVB-S2 tuners and acts as my "PVR". Of course it has about 3 Terabytes of disk in a RAID-5. It also acts as a streaming server to the "Freifunk" network.

    My main computer has ECC-Ram (16 Gigabytes) as well as 8 2 Terabyte disks running in a RAID-6 configuration, something I wouldn't do again.

    Other than that I'm running some OpenWRT-based routers as part of the "Freifunk Franken" meshed wireless network, and a rented virtual server running outside handling e-mail, web as well as an Asterisk server I like to fool around with. :)

    My current Internet router is some random Atom box connected to the DSL modem. It also runs a transparent proxy for fun and provides me currently with IPv4 and tunneled IPv6.

    1. Christian Berger

      Re: Maybe some more detail on my setup

      Ohh and BTW, I do have one of those HP-microservers, but it's currently not in use. I need to move and it'll probably be my main server in the new flat.

      1. dogged

        Re: Maybe some more detail on my setup

        I'm seriously impressed at how capable - and cheap! - HP Microservers are.

        Mine was around £140 including the rebate before adding HDDs.

        1. Christian Berger

          Re: Maybe some more detail on my setup

          Yes, they are certainly the way to go for home storage. Where else do you get ECC systems that cheaply and with such a modest power draw?

  31. rich0d

    Used to have,

    i7 920 - 20Gb RAM - 60Gb SSD - 2x500Gb RAID0

    i5 2500k - 16Gb RAM - 120Gb SSD - 1Tb

    HP MicroServer N36L - 8GB - 2x1Tb 1x2Tb

    Getting shot of it all and going for a i7 3770T, 32Gb RAM, Q77 board, and another 120Gb to plonk it in RAID0 for VM storage, and then shove all the TB disks in and RDM them to the various VMs. Should run nice and suck very little juice.

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