Virtual Home Server

As one of those people who loves to be running the latest tech in both my home and professional lives it’s critical that I build the correct infrastructure in order to achieve that.

At home I recently obtained a 2014 spec Dell server, which had a fair bit of memory and storage, certainly for what was to become the hub of my home operations!

In the last 2 months I have been building the server up, utilising all the latest platforms I can get my hands on.. VMWare ESX 6.5, Windows 10/2016, Ubuntu 16.04 etc.

I now have 8 VMs, across 2 datastores having upgraded all firmware possible and playing around with various settings to balance performance and noise (it’s in the spare room)

Here’s the outcome of that work:

This first image shows my ESX 6.5 HTML5 based landing page (one of easiest to use web admin tools I’ve seen), you’ll note the 128GB RAM, Dual 2.9GHz CPUs and 8.5TB storage – perfect for running media servers as well as testing platforms for my crazy ideas!

Drilling down into the VMs I have built you’ll see a mixture of OSes and things I’m testing:

I was clever enough (somehow) to make my FTP server web facing, it’s where I store all the freebie utility style programs that I use across many systems, It allows me to use it instead of having to carry a USB around all the time!

Plex is the big one, over 3TB assigned to it for all the media we have at home, we can play it across all our devices, such as the SmartTV, Amazon Fire Stick, XboxOne etc.

What I’ve not yet got to grips with is the VMNetwork side of things, eventually I’d like to VLAN off some of the VMs to do some sandbox style testing with various OSes, maybe get back into Linux and re-learn hardening techniques etc, just need the time!

Tech Update

It has been a while since I posted an update of all the technologies I’ve been working with, projects I’ve worked on and general IT related things that have affected me in recent times, so here’s a brief update of my world of tech!


Latest Technologies used

  • VMWare vSphere, vMotion, ESX 5.5 etc. – underlying technology of the infrastructure in my current role, love the live server migrations between hosts, and the performance monitoring is very good.
  • Windows Server 2012 R2 – finally have the opportunity to work with Microsoft’s latest stable enterprise OS, and I have gradually started to like/ understand the new interface. Some of the updates to certain roles are also very impressive including WSUS (Updates), WFCS (clustering), ADDS (Activce Directory), some very nice improvements over Windows 2008 R2 which is the last main release I am familiar with.
  • WhatsUp Gold – systems monitoring software from Ipswitch, what a fantastic product this is. I can monitor all servers, virtual machines, network components, even WLANs (which is one of the most used features). I have heavily customised the environment to have dashboards for all sorts, most notably the SQL performance (most important system) I can now see real-time memory usage/ system statuses, even in-depth transactional performance!
  • SQL (2008 R2) – Something I’ve had to get to grips with very quickly as it runs the 2 most important systems for my current role. I am fairly confident with performance monitoring, understanding heavy queries, bottlenecks, even a grasp of lazy writes and paging! SQL is usually administered by a professional, qualified DBA, but we cope just fine!
  • SQL (2014) – only within a test scenario but I am very proud of my virtualised SQL 2014 Always-On testing cluster, it has given me an opportunity to better understand SQL installs, Windows Failover Clusters, SQL High Availability and basic database maintenance.
  • Cisco Wireless Networking – heavily used within large organisations across the globe, I now have a fantastic understanding and hands on experience with a network capable of almost 100% wireless coverage within an huge site! I also have great experience with security on these networks and have implemented whitelists (MAC filtering) etc. I’ve also been able to ensure the wireless network is 100% monitored across all nodes and devices, with historical data available to help resolve any issues.
  • Windows 10 – I’m a pure techie, so when the latest version of something is out, I have to try it! I was sceptical of the whole Windows 10 thing, even after trialling the pre-release versions around 12 months ago. So when the opportunity came to try at work I though yes that’s safer than at home! – so 2 months in; every device I have is now Windows 10 where possible. Being an IT admin naturally I’ve butchered it as much as possible to better understand its workings, and to be fair so far I am impressed!

Project Work

Whilst the current role hasn’t really thrown any specific projects my way yet, I am actively involved with a domain migration project initiated by the buying out of our division by another company. That is something that will be happening very soon, and will probably consume a lot of my working hours up to Christmas.

I’ve also been spearheading work to implement a standard way of displaying data across site, this has been done using Raspberry Pi with Screenly OSE which allows scheduling of web content, images and videos for display on HD screens. This again is a recent thing that so far is working very well (no reboots/crashed in 3 weeks)

At home I have also been playing with a Raspberry Pi, and have plans to implement a media server to stream content such as from the home CCTV system and family photos etc. Hopefully this will be done before the year is out once I have a screen in the kitchen!