Lab Upgrade: HP Z440 Running VMware Workstation 12 Pro

It’s been a while since I’ve published any new posts.  I’ve been busy working for a great client.  I’ve also been upgrading my lab environment.  I recently added an HP Z440 Workstation with 8 Cores and 64GB of RAM.  It’s a purpose built machine for running VMware Workstation 12 Pro.  I’m using this machine to run the following workloads:

  • Cisco VIRL – IOS and NX-OS Network Simulator
  • Cisco UCS Platform Emulator
  • Nested ESXi
  • Windows Server Guest OS
  • Red Hat Enterprise Linux Guest OS

Cisco VIRL

Cisco VIRL is a network simulation tool that runs within a Virtual Machine.  It allows the user to run up to 15 instances of IOS and/or NX-OS.  This allows the user to simulate various network configurations.  There are pre-built configurations.  You can also build configurations from scratch.  You can access the console of each device and issue real commands.

Cisco VIRL allows the user to work with real IOS and NX-OS operating systems.  The only difference is that they are running in a virtual machine within VIRL rather than on a physical router or switch.

VIRL takes advantage of nested virtualization.  The VIRL appliance itself is running a linux guest OS.  Within the linux guest OS there is a hypervisor called KVM.  The IOS and NX-OS images are deployed in separate KVM virtual machines.  It’s all managed by a GUI application called VM Maestro.  More information can be found at the Cisco VIRL site.  There’s also a CBT Nuggets Course that covers VIRL.

Cisco UCS Platform Emulator

The Cisco UCS Platform Emulator allows you to work with Cisco UCS Manager in a lab environment without having to purchase a rack full of equipment.  Details can be found here.  I’ve found that you can do just about everything that you can do when connected to a real Fabric Interconnect, with a few exceptions.  It’s a great place to test out configurations.

Nested ESXi

Nested ESXi is one of the best tools for a Virtualization Engineer to have in their toolbox.  Nested ESXi allows you to run ESXi within a Virtual Machine.  This means running the real version of ESXi, not an emulator.  With a powerful enough workstation, you can deploy multiple ESXi hosts, each within their own VM.  For a complete solution, you can deploy vCenter Server on a Windows Server virtual machine.  I use the iSCSI feature of my QNAP NAS to deploy Datastores to my ESXi hosts.

Windows Server Guest OS

I’ve been running my own internal Active Directory Domain within VMware Workstation for a while now.  It’s allowed me to test changes before ever doing them in a production environment.  I’ve added member servers including Server Core and Server with a GUI.  This has allowed me to test the configuration of every possible variation of Windows Server that I could imagine.  I’ve also been testing out the Tech Preview releases of Windows Server 2016.

Red Hat Enterprise Linux Guest OS

I’ve deployed Red Hat Enterprise Linux within VMware Workstation to test many different features.  It’s where I did the lab work for my blog post on mapping disks between VMware and Red Hat.  More recently, while working on a project for my client, I needed to use rsync to migrate some application data from an old server to a new one.  VMware Workstation allowed me to quickly deploy 2 Red Hat servers to test rsync.  I was able to test the rsync command line options before ever running it on my client’s servers.

Summary: HP Z440 with 8 Cores and 64GB RAM running VMware Workstation Pro – A Virtual Data Center In a Box

With a powerful enough computer running VMware Workstation, you can almost simulate an entire Data Center in your home office.  There are some limitations, of course, but as the technology improves and more vendors develop emulators as Virtual Appliances, the options will continue to grow.

Bret Miller – President and Principal Consultant, LMR Computer Services Inc


Recruiters perform a very valuable service in our industry by matching consultants with clients.  As an IT Consultant, I work with recruiters all the time.  I’ve had the pleasure of working with some great ones.  The best recruiters form long term relationships with clients and consultants.  They are people that you want to work with throughout your career.  Here are a few tips that I follow, as a consultant, when working with recruiters.

Always reply to them

Even if you are currently on a long term assignment, let them know your status.  You never know when the assignment can end or a better opportunity might come along.

Make Referrals

Even if you’re not available for an assignment, you might know someone who is.  You can help your colleagues and the recruiter by getting them in touch with each other.

Be Respectful

Recruiters are working hard, just like you are.

Think Long Term

A good recruiter is someone you want to have a long term relationship with.

Bret Miller – Owner and Principal Consultant, LMR Computer Services Inc

Getting Started in the Cloud: Comparison of Trial Plans from AWS, Azure, and vCloud

Cloud Computing has my attention in a big way.  As an IT Consultant and a Small Business Owner, I can see the potential that Cloud Computing has to offer.  There are many cloud providers out there. More providers are entering the market every day.  I chose to create accounts with three of the most well known cloud providers: Amazon Web Services, VMware vCloud Air, and Microsoft Azure.

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Continuous Improvement: Professional Development

What does a Professional Consultant do in their downtime? The good ones Read and Study!  In addition to watching technical videos on CBT Nuggets and reading technical books on Safari Books Online, I have a stack of Business Books that I’m slowly working through.  You can find my current reading list in the links below.


The Lean Startup

Go It Alone

How To Win Friends & Influence People


The Year Without Pants

Grinding It Out

Zero to One

The Art of the Start 2.0

The Startup Owner’s Manual

The Hard Thing About Hard Things

Beginning My Journey into the Public Cloud with Amazon Web Services

I launched my first instance on Amazon Web Services last night.  It is a t2.micro instance running Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6.6.  It’s a small server with 1 CPU and 1 GB of RAM.  I’m on the free tier which allows me to run small instances for a certain number of hours per month.  It’s perfect for the learning experience that I’m after.

When I sign into the AWS Management Console I feel like I have an entire Datacenter at my fingertips.  There is no need to invest in a million dollar facility filled with equipment and a full time staff to support it.  With cloud computing you pay for just what you need.  The cloud service provider takes care of the rest.

You can start small with just a single instance on the free tier like I’m doing.  As your needs grow you can quickly access additional resources in order to scale up.  The possibilities are endless.

I look forward to publishing more posts on Amazon Web Services in the future.  For now, my journey has just begun.

Bret Miller – Owner and Principal Consultant, LMR Computer Services Inc

There is no such thing as a temporary contract or a permanent position

Early in my career, an older, wiser, IT Professional told me that there is no such thing as a temporary contract or a permanent position.

Full time positions don’t last forever.  Lay-offs and reorganizations are realities that full time employees have to deal with.

Sometimes contracts are extended much longer than expected.  I’ve had jobs, that started out as 6 month contracts, last over 2 years.

IT Consulting is not for the faint of heart.  You can be let go at a moments notice for things that are beyond your control.  Budgets get cut. That’s the way it goes.  At the same time, there is a lot more money to be made in consulting.  Why not make the most money that you can for your work?

Bret Miller – Owner and Principal Consultant, LMR Computer Services Inc