My New Home Lab Setup

After I posted in Twitter that I was building a second ESXi server for my lab I got quite a large number of replies and direct messages on what I used as a lab. Based on the interest I decided to write a blog post on why I choose the gear I did and where do I see upgrading it in the near future.


I have to say we need to start with the needs first since this will dictate what hardware I will need, what hypervisor is best for the work I will do and will also have an impact on my budget.

I need a lab where I can run:

  • Operating Systems:
    • Windows XP/2003 to the latest version 8.1/2012 R2 - I have a MSDN Subscription this year that will help me cover the older versions of the OS and allow me to build permanent labs for complex setups since do to time and work I can not be rebuilding every couple of months. For the latest versions of Windows I use trial versions since Microsoft offers 180 days for server versions and 90 days for client version of the OS this allows me to test different types of persistence and weird configs and I just re-deploy from a template.
    • Linux - I run all kind of different versions of Linux where I test Bash, Python and Ruby scripts I write plus also test forensics and log management research.
    • Oracle Solaris - Currently have customers that run Solaris so I need to be able to run it to test all kinds of configurations, scripts and custom Metasploit modules.
    • FreeBSD - To isolate my labs I use PFSense and also I run several VMs with versions of JunOS that is based on FreeBSD.
    • OS X - Even do I can run OS X on my MacBook Pro I still prefer to have several copies of the server products and the recent client versions since I have been seeing it more and more in corporate environments and it has always been present in educational ones.
  • Nested Hypervisors (VMware, MS Hyper-V, KVM and Xen) - In my day job I do a lot of work on the security of different hypervisors and also I maintain some post-exploitation code to detect when running inside of a VM.
  • Support for Virtual Switches - Virtual Switching allows me to create separate networks with different policies so as to isolate traffic and also mimic a real network better. Some virtual switches allow for port mirroring and bandwith throttling so I can use IDS/IPS for testing, Capture traffic and also mimic WAN connections.
  • API for VM Management - The ability to automate deployment and configuration of VMs becomes important when one needs to tests conde or workflows against different operating systems under different configurations.
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