Setting up a Hyper-V test lab

by Shijaz Abdulla on 31.01.2010 at 07:32

There are certain points to keep in mind while selecting hardware for a virtualized test lab environment, some of which I will enlist here.

  1. Processor

This is one of the most important components to be taken into consideration:

  • The higher the clock speed, the better. Remember, the clock speed of the processor is the speed at which ALL your guest virtual machines are going to run. If all it takes to step up to the next clock speed level is a few dollars, it might really be worth it.
  • Similarly the more cores a processor has, the merrier it gets with Hyper-V. Consider a Quad core processor to a Duo Core processor
  • Make sure your processor supports hardware virtualization. Yes, there are still desktop processors available that do not natively support virtualization. For Intel processors, this is known as Intel VT (Virtualization Technology), for AMD,  this is called AMD-V.
  • The processor must support x64 bit.
  • Intel eXecute Disable (XD) bit, or NX (No eXecute) bit on AMD processors.
  • Here is a list of Intel processors supporting VT.
  • If you want to check if a particular Intel processor model supports VT, 64-bit, or eXecute Disable (XD) bit, try the ProcessorFinder on Intel’s website.
  • Hardware-enforced DEP (Data Execution Prevention)
  • Processor cache: Again – the more, the merrier. The desktop processor I selected (Intel Q9650) has a 12 MB cache, 3 GHz clock speed and is Quad Core.

2. Motherboard & Memory

  • Make sure the motherboard and BIOS supports Virtualization. Check with the board manufacturer before you buy.
  • Make sure the motherboard can accept a large quantity of RAM. At the time of writing, desktop motherboards that support up to 16 GB RAM are available.
  • The more RAM you have, the better – for the simple reason that you can run more number of virtual machines simultaneously.

3. Storage

  • Hard drives should be fast. I use SATA 2.0
  • Get as much storage as possible, as the VHD files can get pretty big.

4. Networking

  • You might need an additional network card for testing advanced/firewall configurations

It goes without saying that you need proper cooling on your system chassis, a decent graphics card, a DVD-RW drive, and an LCD monitor that won’t strain your eyes too much.

Hope this helps you geeks out there in planning hardware purchases for your home lab :). Post a comment below to discuss this topic.

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