Virtualization playground: How to create a vSphere lab on a Mac

Learn about virtualization by creating your own one-box lab. Here's how to do it.

The best way to learn about virtualization is with your own lab. When most people think of a lab, they picture a closet housing a group of servers that cost several thousand dollars. While there are some scenarios where you would want to create such a lab, in this case you can take advantage of the power of virtualization by building, yes, a virtual lab.

One of the best platforms with which to build a virtual lab is Apple's Mac OS X, which is becoming more popular among techies. you likely will already find some guides on the Web about how to build a virtual lab in Windows, but doing so on the Mac is not as well documented.

While you can choose a number of different virtualization platforms to run in your virtual lab, I recommend that you use and learn about the leading virtualization platform -- VMware's vSphere.

Why do you need a virtual lab?

There are a number of reasons to create a virtual lab, but most of them tie back to one of these three:

  • Education -- Most of the people I talk to about vSphere labs are interested in creating one simply to learn about vSphere. Perhaps they are Windows admins who want to learn virtualization, maybe they are studying for their VMware Certified Professional (VCP), exam or maybe they just want to learn enough to feel comfortable implementing vSphere at their company.
  • Demonstration -- Perhaps you sell VMware products, consulting services or third-party applications that are compatible with vSphere. Many vSphere virtual labs are built as a self-contained, portable vSphere environment to demonstrate products to customers.
  • Development/testing -- Large, small and independent software developers need to create and test applications that are compatible with the many different VMware APIs. The safest and most affordable way to do this is to have a small vSphere lab on a laptop or desktop system.

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