How to set up a VMware vSphere Lab in Virtual Machines, with DRS and HA


I recently wrote a (reasonably!) lengthy article on how to set up your own VMware vSphere lab or test environment consisting entirely of Virtual Machines, running off of one piece of host hardware. This is really handy as a lot of people new to Virtualization often think they need to purchase full on server equipment to create a white box, or find second hand servers off of eBay. Even more often, they make the mistake of overlooking the CPU feature set required to run vSphere – Hardware Virtualization, buying 64bit capable servers (good), but lacking the Intel VT or AMD-V feature-set required for vSphere (bad!)


This is when running everything virtualized comes in really handy. As well as keeping your hardware and lab requirements/size down, you have everything you need all in one installation of VMware Workstation. You’ll also be able to test out some really cool features that vSphere / vCenter Server has to offer – such as HA (High Availability) and DRS (Distributed Resource Scheduling). In the article I also make reference to a few best practises to have when configuring the real deal for production use. I hope this comprehensive guide is useful for those of you looking to set something like this up!


VMware lab consisting - nested VMs running in Virtualized ESXi hypervisors.


Read the article here on to get started and see how its all done!



3 thoughts on “How to set up a VMware vSphere Lab in Virtual Machines, with DRS and HA”

  1. Excellent advice Sean… much appreciated.

    I’m downloading Win2K8 server, vCenter and ESXi as I type and will look into a technet subscription.

    Thanks very much.

  2. Hi V3gas

    Not necessarily a stupid question – it is good to figure out how you are going to deal with licensing.

    Unfortunately with these kinds of builds and for individuals running lab environments it can be a little difficult. The situation around licensing differs for each product of course. VMware used to run a “technet-like” service (VMTN) where you could buy licensing for lab use fairly cheaply. Unfortunately they don’t do this anymore. There was recently a push by the community to show support for bringing this back – so hopefully we see the initiative start up again soon. Therefore for now, with VMware vSphere etc, you have to keep re-installing every 60 days. However, once you get your provisioning / lab building process down to a T, this can become a fairly quick set up phase.

    With MS products, if you are lucky, your company might have an MSDN subscription, which you could potentially use get Windows OS licensing etc – meaning you wouldn’t need to reinstall these either. This is especially handy for the Windows based VMs such as Domain Controllers etc… Otherwise I am afraid it is down to 120 day trials!

    Some other products offer NFR licenses (not for resale). For example Veeam offer Veeam Backup & Recovery NFR licenses for MCPs and VCPs – if you can find other products that offer these, they are generally best for lab setups as they allow you to license your lab in the long term.

    Anyway, I hope this provides a bit of insight / help.


  3. Hi – Great article and is exactly what i needed. Now for a stupid question around licensing:

    The Products such as Win2K8 server, ESXi and vCenter all allow trial licences which is great, but what happens when they expire. I’m only using the products for a bit of training but would like more than 60 days of use. Do I just re-register, do I need to purchase or am I completely missing something?

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