Documenting My Home Network/Lab

I’m a big believer in learning by doing. Over the last couple years I’ve built up a nice little home network/lab where I host various applications and test new tech. I will hardly be the first person to make this recommendation, but if you are able to get your hands on some hardware to set up a home lab I would highly recommend it. Any old computer you can turn into an ESXi host is enough to get started. I have learned a ton about various technologies that I wouldn’t have had much opportunity to learn elsewhere. First, the obligatory picture:

The breakdown:

  • Ubiquiti Edgerouter X
  • Ubiquiti UniFi AP AC LR (not pictured as it’s in a location central to the house)
  • ARRIS SURFboard DOCSIS 3.0 Cable Modem (SB6183)
  • Cisco SG300-28
  • Cisco SF302-08MPP
  • TRENDnet 24-Port Cat6 Patch Panel (22 runs in the house, minimum of 2 per room)
  • Startech 12U 19-Inch Desktop Open Frame 2 Post Rack
  • Raspberry Pi 3 Model B
  • Lenovo TS140
    • Xeon E3-1226 v3 3.3Ghz
    • 16 GB Ram
    • 44 TB (raw) of various spinning disk, mostly WD reds (yeah, yeah, I know. I’ll get a NAS eventually)
  • Old computer serving as my ESXi host
    • Intel Core i7-2600K Sandy Bridge Quad-Core 3.4GHz
    • 16 GB RAM
    • Samsung 840 EVO 250GB SSD
    • 5 TB (raw) of spinning disk
  • 2x CyberPower CP1500AVRLCD UPS
    • One is for my “core” equipment (network stuff/TS140), the other is on the ESXi host

I am a huge fan of the Ubiquiti hardware and I’ve helped multiple people set up the same combo. It’s pretty fantastic to not have to regularly “reset the router” like seems to be necessary for just about every consumer router/AP. I picked up both switches off of eBay and have been pleased with them. Some Cisco purists dislike the small business line but they’ve been great for my purposes. The SG300-28 (gigabit) is my main switch and the SF302-08MPP (fast ethernet, POE) runs my cameras. I didn’t need to have separate switches, but based on what was available on eBay this was perfect for my goals. If we’re being honest, need went out the window a long time ago anyway. I run a handful of VLANs and 2 separate physical LANs to segment off the different portions of my network. Necessary? Probably not, but where’s the fun in that? This has allowed me to tinker with VLANing and setting up firewall rules. Fun stuff!

The TS140 runs AD, DNS, Blue Iris (cameras), and acts as a file server. My storage situation could certainly be improved, but all important data is backed up locally and remotely and any data that I consider to be less important is at least mirrored to separate local storage. My Raspberry Pi runs PiVPN which is a super simple way to run OpenVPN and is much more manageable than my previous setup where I ran it on my router. The ESXi host runs the following VMs and applications:

  • Plex and related apps
  • Borg Backup
  • Crashplan
  • Nextcloud
  • Kali box for security tinkering
  • Windows VM for when I need to run Windows specific apps
  • LibreNMS
  • Whatever I feel like playing with at the moment

Each of my Linux boxes are running Ubuntu 16.04. All VMs are regularly backed up using ghettoVCB.

That’s pretty much it for now. I will update when I inevitably add more!

SQL Saturday #357 Recap

In January I posted about a couple of upcoming speaking engagements and after some nagging for a follow up from @JayDue216, here it is. First up was the Ohio North SQL Server User Group’s January meeting. This wasn’t my first time speaking in a professional setting but it was by far the audience with the most SQL Server experience I have been in front of. All in all, I thought it went alright. I didn’t feel too great about it immediately afterward but I received some good feedback from those in attendance which is always great to hear. Nerves got to me a bit and I caught myself tripping over my own words at a few points. I had a great deal of confidence in the content I developed and I can’t express enough how valuable that is when your delivery isn’t going as smoothly as planned. Having that confidence allows you to slow yourself down, gather yourself, move to the next slide, and keep powering through the session. At the end of the day it felt good to get the first one out of the way and identify areas for improvement.

After getting my feet wet next up was SQL Saturday #357 in Cleveland. I was initially scheduled to speak early in the day but an out of town speaker was hoping to catch an early flight home and I agreed to move to the last time slot of the day. I caught a few sessions early in the day, but I ended up spending a great deal of the time in the speaker room going through my presentation to make sure I was ready to go.

SQLSat357I only did it for the sweet SQL Saturday pullover

Unlike the user group, I felt very good about the presentation after I had finished. I didn’t feel myself tripping over my own words this time and my demos went smoothly. Despite being the last session of the day I had a full classroom and the audience seemed pretty engaged throughout the entire presentation.

I definitely plan to submit to more SQL Saturdays going forward. For anyone interested in speaking but is on the fence: just go for it. Everyone has fears and reasons for avoiding them but the feeling of learning a subject inside and out and then delivering it successfully is absolutely worth taking on those fears.

Happy 2015

New year, new updates. After a brief stint as a DBA at another organization I have returned to my previous employer to take on a new and exciting role as a Database Administrator in a large SaaS environment. This environment has customers and data centers all over the wold and will certainly present some new challenges. It’s no secret that IT as a whole is trending toward cloud architecture and I’m excited to be right in the thick of it.

I’m also excited to announce that I will be presenting my session “Troubleshooting SQL Server Performance Using Wait Stats” at the Ohio North SQL Server User Group on January 6 and then again at SQLSaturday #357 – Cleveland on February 7. These events will be my first speaking engagements and I am definitely looking forward to them.

I have again become quiet on this blog as the last few months have seen two career moves that have kept me busy. Now that I have started to settle in I hope to increase my posting frequency. My new role should provide me with plenty to share!

Meet the New and Improved MCSA Certification

When I was working through my MCSA certification the least enjoyable part, for me, was the 463 exam (Implementing a Data Warehouse with Microsoft SQL Server 2012). I wasn’t really a fan for a number of reasons. It was the least relevant to my role at the time and it felt like portions of the exam were less about practical knowledge and more about promoting those technologies. Still, being a nerd I enjoyed the challenge of learning something new.

On Monday, Microsoft announced that there will be changes to the current exam structure. The 463 exam is no longer a requirement to receive the certification. The 461 (Querying Microsoft SQL Server 2012) and 462 (Administering Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Databases) exams are still required, but now you have four choices for your third exam. Those choices include the 463 exam, 411 (Administering Windows Server 2012), 412 (Configuring Advanced Windows Server 2012 Services), and 483 (Programming in C#). This gives more flexibility to those like myself whose interests aren’t really on the BI side of things. I would have loved spending more time learning Windows Server or resurrecting my C# skills.

I think this change will allow the certification to appeal to a wider range of SQL Server professionals which is a win for everyone. Well done, Microsoft.