I have been tinkering with and tearing apart all kinds of computers, electronics, and my toys (much to my parents dismay) for most of my life. Around that same time, my grandfather introduced my to static IP addressing. At the time, I didn't understand the importance, but it was my first real introduction to computer networking. Since then, I've come a long way.

I won't be talking specifically about my "battlestation" (as is the lingo) in this specific post, but will be focusing on my server and network infrastructure in my "home office" of sorts. Many of the components I have I either purchased or were given to me to have when they were decommissioned or not needed. Others were pieces which used to be in use around the house or in other people's homes when they upgraded and didn't know what to do with the leftovers. But enough talking, what kind of hardware are we looking at?

The Lab

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Although not as impressive for most compared to my large servers or NAS devices, the top is my favorite part of my rack.

  • To start things off, the orange "THINK" sign has both a lot of personal significance and significance with regard to computer history (I will probably make a separate post on that sign alone).
  • Below that are a few of the many stickers I collect, those specifically indicating some services and products I use.
  • Below the stickers is an empty 1U spot which will eventually hold a 24 port patch panel, but for now, it is just a space to pass cables through to the back of the rack. Taking up a little bit of space here is one of my two Raspberry Pis (This one is a Pi 2 B) running Home Assistant.
  • Next up is my Dell PowerConnect 5524 Layer 3 Managed Network Switch. Out of all my networking gear, this is my pride and joy. This was (and still is) one of my most flexible and powerful pieces of network equipment. With support for VLANs, DHCP, Teamed connections, stacking, and 10GB connectivity via the two SFP+ ports, there is a lot of potential in this box. I have not taken the time to setup VLANs yet, or taken advantage of many of the features available to me, but I hope to experiment with some of those options eventually.
  • Below the PowerConnect is an old Cisco Catalyst 2900XL Network Switch. Although it only supports 100Mbit connectivity and has no Layer 3 functionality, it's very fun to tinker with and has given me a tangible way to work with the Cisco IOS outside of school.
  • Continuing the Cisco trend, the next piece down is a Cisco 2611 Router. 100Mbit once again and considerably out of date, but fun to play with regardless.

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Below my various networking components are two 48-port CAT 5 patch panels just taking up space. I may eventually use them, but I don't really have a need to at this point.

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Below a large section of "dead space" you will find a few (currently) unused desktop computers turned servers alongside 2 LG NAS devices.

  • The smaller NAS on the top has two 1TB disks in RAID 1. This will eventually be my Proxmox backup server, although now runs unused.
  • The large NAS below has 4x 2TB disks in RAID 5. This is really more for home use than anything. On it, our family photos are backed up, along with documents and some of my personal files.

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Supporting the various devices I listed above is my recently purchased Dell R710. Currently specced out as follows:

  • 2x Intel Xeon L5630s (4C/8T, 2.13GHz)
  • 64GB DDR3 ECC RAM
  • Dell H200 RAID Card flashed to IT mode for JBOD support
  • At the time of writing, my disk load out is definitely not recommended as there is no redundancy and all but one are consumer 2.5" HDDs. I'm not going to even touch on the specifics (don't worry though, plans are in the works for a fully redundant ZFS array with an SSD cache).

The R710 is currently running Proxmox VE 5.0 with a hand-full of VMs and containers outlined below:

  • An Ubuntu 16.04 container hosting this blog
  • An Ubuntu 16.04 container running a Nginx reverse proxy server
  • An Ubuntu 16.04 container running OpenVPN
  • A Windows Server 2016 VM for Active Directory, DNS, and a web host when I need to use IIS.
  • A Windows Server 2016 VM for TeamCity, backup Active Directory, and backup DNS.
  • A Windows 10 VM for testing applications, experimenting with Group Policy, and anything else I don't want to run on my desktop.

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Finally, at the bottom. There isn't much to see here. Just two more unused desktops which will eventually be repurposed into servers when I feel like messing with distributed workloads. Also a few older laptops that either don't work or are seldom used, a few keyboards, and spare parts.

Not pictured in this round-up is my Ubiquiti Edge Router X used as our primary router and firewall, Raspberry Pi 3 B used for Pi-Hole and DDNS, and our hodge-podge of a Wi-Fi solution.

What's Next?

My HomeLab setup is constantly evolving as I learn and experiment more. I would like to work more with distributed computing as well as various data backup solutions. Some things are still financially out of reach (Like purchasing more hard drives to build a NAS or to add to my R710, improving our wireless solution, setting up a 10GB fiber network between my desktop and server, and more), but others I am starting to look more closely at (Setting up a PBX and VoIP for the home, redundant services, and a more advanced network monitoring solution).