How To Guy

Create a vSphere Lab with (Almost) No Effort

A few review-like words for Lab Guide's Autolab.

The quest for an easy-to-set-up and affordable vSphere home lab is elusive for most of us, as it requires the procurement of proper hardware to run vSphere matched with our lack of free time to research what's available and then build it out.

As I've browsed the various VMware lab blogs on the Internet, I've noticed that the home labs are specific and suit only the person who built them -- as it should be, of course. That usually means it won't work for my purposes or the purposes of anyone else.

The alternative solution, especially for those of us with limited funds and time, is to use a pre-configured lab such as the one VMware has set up: VMware Hands On Lab. The HOL offers an awesome way to work with the VMware product, from start to finish. It also allows for revisiting topics, as you can retake a lab at no monetary cost but your own free time (which you don't have, remember?).

HOL is great for getting familiar with vSphere, or preparing for a VMware certification or just learning a new vSphere topic that you're learning for the first time. I recommend them because I've done a good amount of the labs myself and they have really helped with refreshing my skills.

But some of us want a vSphere lab that offers more flexibility to configure, test and scale as we like, still without breaking the bank or consuming our free time to set up and learn. The answer: Autolab, from Lab Guide.

I discovered Autolab while researching the Internet for affordable lab solutions to test various VMware products. Autolab comes as a nested vSphere 5.5, 5.1, or 4.1 lab environment that requires minimal effort to set up and configure. It contains VM shells that are pre-built, and you can install your own operating systems on them. Note, though, that the licenses for those OSes aren't included, so you'll need to make sure you have them.

Autolab's creators initially designed the project lab for VCP 5 certification study guides. Due to the lab's popularity among users, the lab now accommodates testing and evaluation of vCloud Director, VMware View, vCenter, ESXi, and Veeam Management and Backup software.

I have an Autolab setup for testing vCloud Director, vCenter, ESXi 5.5 and a few VMs and applications. I found the setup to be straightforward after I viewed the tutorial videos. The videos will help you configure and tweak your lab setups so you don't run into networking, performance, and operational issues if the lab was configured in a conventional enterprise environment.

To get started building your own Autolab environments, go to It's pretty easy. I wish you all the best and happy Autolabbing!

About the Author

James Brown, vExpert, VCP, MCSE, is a senior virtualization engineer and CEO of Virtuxperts and VMware Users Group Leader in Las Vegas, NV. James' area of expertise includes virtualization, infrastructure and Windows systems.


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