Building a Hybrid Cloud Lab… Phase 1 – The vision

Introductory ramblings

My objectives for the coming months (from a technical perspective at least) are centred on expanding my Hybrid Cloud knowledge/experience.  I feel this is absolutely the only real way to "do" cloud.  Full-scale public cloud is in my opinion an expensive pipe dream for anything but startups.  Even then it may not necessarily be the best approach.  Conversely not making any use of the rapidly diversifying cloud tech that is now available has the potential to leave on-premise dominated businesses behind in the future.  I therefore believe that Hybrid Cloud is 100% where it's at for the vast majority of organisations.  Especially those with an established on-prem infrastructure that want shift that CapEx/OpEx balance and start to gain advantage, by leveraging the extensive capabilities of public cloud.


I have worked with Microsoft's Azure platform in the past but due to the sheer pace that it evolves I've no doubt my knowledge needs refreshing.  I'm also well aware of Amazon's AWS offering being firmly "up there" as a market leading platform and being completely honest I don't know a huge amount about it today.  What I do know however is that one size never fits all, so as a result I plan to make a concerted effort to up-skill on the two market leading public cloud platforms during 2017.  I feel this approach will help me to maintain a balanced perspective resulting in better advice, decision-making and ultimately, more value.

More than one cloud?  Why?

There is a growing consensus within the industry around the use of multi-cloud.  This is essentially the selective use of different cloud providers, driven largely by application/workload/service requirements.  Gartner's "Cloud Wars" slide deck summarises this concept and reasons why this may be something to consider.  This idea is one of a few factors in my decision to look beyond a single provider, ensuring I see a broader picture.  Getting the right solutions that properly align to varying workload centric requirements is imperative in giving customers what they really need.  It naturally stands to reason that this will not always come from one place...

Phase 1 High Level Vision

Anyway, enough of my general rambling about the elusive cloud.  This post is supposed to be about "geeky lab stuff" so let's get to it shall we!?


In order to further my knowledge and experience I took the decision to invest in some more serious lab kit recently.  I've had various home labs in the past but this is the first that I've made a more significant investment in.  As a result I now have the following waiting at home, even if they haven't left their boxes yet:

  • 2x HP ProLiant DL380 G7 Comptue hosts, each with 2x Hex Core Xeon E5645 CPU's, 48GB RAM, 2x 146GB 15K SAS drives and an iLO Enterprise card
  • 8x HP ProLiant 600GB 15K SAS drives, 4 to go in each host
  • 1x Cisco 3750G Gigabit switch (soon to be duplicated, but not just yet - walk before run...!)


Tiny by real-world standards but great for a lab setup.  To make this especially useful from a Hybrid Cloud perspective I plan to use the hardware a little creatively.  I will effectively create two separate virtual datacentres, with virtually separate networks, nested virtualisation/software defined storage (SDS) and plenty of other cool stuff.  I also intend to use virtual router appliances (leaning to VyOS at the moment) to route between "sites."  Perhaps most importantly these will provide VPN/routing to and from Azure/AWS.

Side note:  if there's an award for using the word virtual as many times as possible I definitely just won - wow!


As they say, a picture really does paint a thousand words.  The image below depicts my vision for the lab, subject to change I might add...

vHutch Hybrid Lab - Initial Logical Design Diagram



As this is a lab I won't be going to town and completing a full-scale design exercise.  I do however have some key design expectations for phase 1.  These will shape the environment such that it provides solid foundations for a hybrid/multi-cloud lab.  So far I have the following initial requirements :

  • 2x Virtual Datacentres with distinct routed IP spaces
  • Each Virtual Datacentre to have a nested vSphere Cluster with differing SDS platforms.  Variety is the spice of life after all.
    • More than likely this will be VSAN and HPE StoreVirtual VSA but I haven't made any firm decision yet
  • vCenter Appliances in each Virtual DC, joined to a single SSO domain
  • AWS and Azure tenants with small footprint VM workloads for testing
  • VPN connectivity from both Virtual DC's to both public cloud platforms
  • VPN between both public cloud platforms


Given I know some about Azure and less about AWS this is going to take some effort to develop.  Inevitably this process will give me lots to blog about so be sure to check back.  I'm confident there will be some interesting content to come out of this.  Naturally a project such as this will greatly aid my preparations for the AWS and Azure Architecture exams too, which I plan to sit later this year.

Future Developments

The above definitely only describes Phase 1 which is really the establishment of an interconnected multi-cloud lab environment.  There will be more to come in due course.  Depending on how performant the 15K SAS drives are I will almost certainly add some flash storage to each node.  All depends how frustrated I get waiting for things to happen!


Top of the phase 2 list will be the introduction of a Cloud Management Platform (CMP.)  I feel this "glue" is essential in any true Hybrid Cloud platform to ensure the overall landscape is both consumable and manageable.  Without this all you really have is fragments of infrastructure dotted about various datacentres - some your own, some not.  Some with a nice "cloudified" GUI on the front, some without.  This isn't really the idea in my book.  Without that central puzzle piece you have to question the real-world usability of this kind of set up.  As a result I'm keen to introduce a CMP layer once I have the foundations in place.


I'd also like to get Hyper-V and Storage Spaces Direct in the mix in future, more than likely as a third "site."  Not thinking about that too much just yet but it would be good to have another virtualisation platform in-play, to really broaden how much I can get out of doing this.

Final thoughts

I hope this blog has been interesting, if a little different to those that have gone before it.  It may take a while to set up but I'm sure this will be a valuable process, with plenty of relevance to what is going on in our industry.  Feel free to comment if you have any feedback, words of wisdom or just about anything else!





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