My home lab hasn’t seen much action since I signed up for Ravello Systems a few months back. While I take comfort in knowing that my hardware is at the ready, Ravello has become my first choice for tinkering. Many of us are preaching to our employers to embrace the cloud, yet we can’t seem to rid ourselves of the servers in our closets. It’s time we embrace the cloud lab! The cost of moving our own workloads to the cloud has come down considerably, yet we prefer to pay thousands on hardware versus tens of dollars a month on cloud. Some may say they must have their labs running 24/7, but I don’t agree. For me a lab is like a whiteboard. It’s a place to try ideas and erase it when you’re done. If you’re running a home domain controller and file server then it’s no longer a lab.
Here’s why shifted my focus…
HVX: The cloud normalizer.
Ravello systems developed their own hypervisor called HVX which encapsulates ESXi and KVM VM’s and allows them to run on AWS or Google Compute clouds. This means all my home lab VM’s can be imported directly to Ravello. All storage, compute, and network resources are imported and run on either cloud platform flawlessly. You can also build out nested ESXi and KVM hosts on Ravello. It’s a bit mind-blowing!
Blueprints: Templates on steroids.
The pièce de résistance for the Ravello home lab are the blueprints. Once you’ve built out your ESXi hosts, vCenter, domain controller, etc. you have the option to save them as a blueprint that you can deploy with ease. Think of blueprints as templates for entire environments. Feel free to break your infrastructure without the guilt! Simply delete the environment and deploy from a saved blueprint. You can also share blueprints with other Ravello users. Isn’t this what home labing should be?
Auto-Stop: Keeping tabs on spending.
One of my biggest fears with running a lab in the cloud is forgetting to stop a workload and getting billed for hours of idling. To help me sleep better at night, Ravello has introduced the Auto-Stop feature.
The first thing you see after starting a workload is the Auto-Stop dialog. Once you’ve met your time limit (default is 2 hours) all systems are shut down. There’s a handy timer in the console and you can extend your time with ease.
The Canvas: Zen gardens for geeks.
VMware take notice! Companies like Ravello Systems and OctoBlu are really on to something here. This Visio style UI is much more natural than deploying VM’s to cascading lists. I can quickly visualize and arrange my application’s topology and security. Deploying VM’s is as simple as dragging and dropping from my library.
Ravello is one of the first value added cloud brokers out there. The only bill you’ll get is from Ravello. Not AWS or Google. Check out their pricing for yourself. You can’t beat it!
If you’re looking for a good home lab and don’t have a large budget (or even if you do), I urge you to take a look at Ravello Systems. Keep in mind this is a nested virtualization solution, so heavier workloads may still be best suited for your stay at home server. Overall, Ravello is an incredibly well polished product and their documentation is top-notch. The ability to stand up entire environments from a blueprint is a huge feather in their cap and elevates the home lab to what it should be. While so many cloud solutions are focused on DR and hosting production workloads, it’s nice to see someone focusing on making test labs simpler.