Author Archives: Alastair Cooke

AutoLab v1.1a released

A new build of the AutoLab is available, this is mainly a bug fix release but there is a headline feature:

vCloud Director v5.1 is now included in the AutoLab.

You can download from the usual page in all the usual formats and as always I’ve tried to resolve the top issues I see on the forums.

One other new thing is that the deployment guide is now available as an eBook, already available on Amazon and it should also turn up on other major eBook marketplaces over the next few days, simply search for “vSphere 5 AutoLab 1.1a Deployment Guide”. Amazon wouldn’t let me publish the guide for free, so it will cost you 99 US cents. The deployment guide is also available as a PDF from the download page at no cost.

In the near future I will be publishing some actual Lab Guides! The first ones will be for people who have attended the vSphere 5 Install Configure Manage courses and want to use the AutoLab to repeat the course labs.  I also plan on some guidance on labs to help you prep for VCP5 and VCAP5-DCA exams, although those are a little further away.

AutoLab 1.1 released

It has taken a while to bring together but it’s finally out.  The fourth release of the AutoLab in 2012 is available for download from the AutoLab page.

Building on the features of AutoLab 0.5, 0.8 and 1.0 this release adds the new vSphere release as well as a lot of improvements driven by issues people have been reporting on the forums.

Main new features:

  • vSphere 5.1 support, thanks to Grant Orchard
  • NAS updated to FreeNAS 0.8
  • Builds work with any service pack of Windows 2008R2
  • Nested VMs build from customised ISO created during VC build process
  • Better validation of ESXi 5.0 vs ESXi 5.0U1 at build time.

Like all projects there are still things requiring requiring work

  • vCloud 5.1
  • Veeam VM builds still require 2008R2 SP1
  • Deployment of trusted certificates as part of build
  • Better automation of the View configurations
  • New View update versions
  • Site Recovery Manager

I’ve had an amazing year with AutoLab and vBrownBag, looking forward to a great 2013.

VMworld Tech Talks “UnSupported” and AutoLab

One of the many cool things that is going on in the community area of VMworld next week is Randy Keener’s Unsupported sessions.  These are a forum to advance the community’s knowledge of how do do things that VMware never thought you’d want to do with their products.

The sessions run 1pm until 3pm each day, surrounded by the vBownBag Tech Talks sessions, the schedule is on the Tech Talks schedule page

The TechTalks are brief sessions of community generated wisdom and excitement, they will be live streamed and available recorded at It’s not too late to get your session in, but you will need to email or tweet to one of the vBrownBag team as the signup form has closed.

I’m taking part in the Tuesday session where we will spend the whole two hours looking at AutoLab and nested ESXi.  If you want to get started on AutoLab or if you’ve gotten started but then got stuck this is your chance. Bring your laptop and do some lab time in the community lounge.

The VMware Workstation and Fusion product teams will be joining us for the sessions and there is a rumour that they will be giving away product!

Bring your lunch, your Laptop and your Windows and vSphere ISOs. Veterans of past VMworld will tell you not to expect reliable Internet access while you’re on the show floor, so you need to bring these with you rather than try to download while you’re there. We can get you the AutoLab bits but you will need to bring your own Microsoft and VMware software. The good news is you probably already have these, here’s the list of software to bring:

  • vCenter 5.0 Install DVD
  • ESXi 5.0 Install CDROM
  • VMware PowerCLI installer
  • Microsoft Windows Server 2008 R2 with SP1 ISO
  • Microsoft Windows 2003 Server 32bit CDROM ISO

We will be doing demos and building real labs, it should be a lot of fun. One thing we might try to do is a Microsoft free nested ESXi lab. How much can we do without the Windows vSphere client?

To be clear this is not access to the VMworld Hand on Labs, it is your own lab that you build on your own laptop.

AutoLab 1.0 Released

The AutoLab is a small package with big potential. What it contains, is a number of “shell” VMs that can be run up in VMware Workstation, Fusion or ESXi. When fed with the operating systems ISOs from VMware and Microsoft, it automatically provisions a powerful test environment with almost no effort required.

Only needing a modest machine to run, the AutoLab provides a modular approach to testing where only the needed components are installed. The core lab can run on a single PC, a dual core 64bit CPU and a minimum of 8GB RAM, along with around 100GB of free disk space.

Veeam have generously sponsored this release, and we highly recommend using the AutoLab to test and evaluate their Veeam ONE and Veeam Backup & Replication products. LabGuides plan on having some study / training material that can be used alongside the AutoLab for learning purposes also.

If you have been following along with the AutoLab since v0.5 there’s a couple of big enhancements with this release, most notably support for VMware vCloud Director and VMware View.

Support for the AutoLab is now handled in our Thanks very much to our team of volunteer moderators that will help you get unstuck should you get caught in a bind.

You’re still reading? Head on over to grab AutoLab 1.0 now!

vSphere 5.0 AutoLab version 0.8 released

It’s been a busy month in the AutoLab lab. At the start of May we released the first public build, version 0.5 of the vSphere AutoLab. Over the month between we’ve had around 1,500 downloads of the v0.5 build and some great feedback that the tool is helpful. Now at the end we have released version 0.8. Keep the feedback coming, if you have suggestions or issues email to If AutoLab is simply a tool you use and like tweet about it with the hashtag #AutoLab, we love to hear that you are using the AutoLab.

The highlights of the new release are:

  • vSphere 5.0 Update 1 support
  • Windows Server 2008R2 SP1 support for the Domain Controller and Virtual Center VMs
  • Removed the requirement to download SQL client and extract into the Build share
  • Cosmetic and reliability improvements in scripts
  • Support for deployment onto standalone ESXi server
  • Removed suggestion that XP worked in nested VM
  • Improved clarity and completeness of the deployment guide

vSphere 5.0 Update 1 is the only “Update” release of vSphere that will be supported.  When vSphere 5.x is released it will be supported but vSphere 5.0 Update 2 will not be supported.  Building in ESXi 5.0 Update 1 support was painful as the PXE boot files have different names.  Since Update releases don’t bring new features they don’t add value to the AutoLab.

Adding support for SP1 on Windows 2008R2 was also painful as we cannot use the same unattended boot floppy for both SP1 and the RTM (no Service Pack) version. We plan to keep current on the service pack  releases of Windows for the DC and VC VMs

Most of the other changes were about making the automation prettier and more reliable, as well as making lab setup simpler.  Adding the Automate.ini file has been great as I rebuild labs about five to ten times a week so shaving off interaction time has been useful.

Finally a note about re-distribution.  Everything in the AutoLab is freely redistributable and you are welcome to build on top of the platform to solve other training and enablement problems, provided you attribute the work that has enabled your work.  If you are able to freely redistribute the result and it might be useful to others then please do let us know and we can publicise your project, possibly event host it for distribution.  If you use the AutoLab to create something that can’t be redistributed that’s cool too, please let us know what you’ve done with it so we feel appreciated.  In the unlikely event that you find a way to make money by selling something built on top of our work then please contact us to discuss, unauthorised commercial sale of our work isn’t cool.

Right, now head to the AutoLab home page and get downloading, have fun.