Author Archives: Alastair Cooke

AutoLab v3.0 release

After a very long delay, there is finally a new release of AutoLab.

This version adds support for vSphere 6.5 and 6.7, Horizon View 7.0 and 7.5 and Windows Server 2016.

The version of FreeNAS has been updated, and pfSense replaces FreeSCO as the router, these changes make AutoLab more stable and reliable at the cost of much larger downloads. Each AutoLab package is around 2GB in size, so you should only download the version you will use.

As always, read the deployment guide with care and have fun with AutoLab.

There is also a new AutoLab 3.0 blueprint in the Ravello Repo.

AutoLab on Ravello got easier

A couple of updates on deploying AutoLab on Ravello. It is great working with startup as they are always making improvements to their platform and making the whole thing easier for end users.
The first one is that the default maximum RAM allocated per VM is now 8GB during the free trial. This means you don’t need to file a support request before you can power on your AutoLab VC VM.
The second is that Ravello have launched an app store for blueprints. It is called the Repo and it contains blueprint created by Ravello users that you can copy into your library. AutoLab is now in the Repo so you don’t need to log a support call to get the blueprint.
To find out more about using AutoLab on Ravello take a look back over the last few posts here on

AutoLab 2.6 on Ravello Video

I have just uploaded a video of deploying AutoLab 2.6 on the Ravello platform. The process is similar to deployment using your own hardware, but has a couple of differences. Make sure you have the Deployment guide to hand as the steps are in there too.

Uploading to AutoLab on Ravello

Many AutoLab deployments are inside your firewall on a trusted network, without direct inbound access from the Internet. When AutoLab is deployed on Ravello it is outside your firewall and accessible only over the Internet. Due to this very different security situation the Ravello build of AutoLab does not publish the NAS VM and it’s Build share. Usually the various pieces of licensed software are copied onto this share at the start of the build. On Ravello the ESXi and vCenter installer ISOs are uploaded and attached to the NAS VM, additional build share files are downloaded from inside the DC after it’s built.

You may wish to publish the Build share to upload additional files, then unpublish when you’re done uploading. I don’t recommend leaving the share accessible as there is no security on the share. In a later release we will have better mechanisms for uploads.

Here’s the simple process to make the Build share accessible:

1. In the Canvas select the NAS VM and click the Services tab


2. In the Supplied Services area Click the Add button

3. Enter 445 in the Port field and click Save


4. Remember to click Update to apply the configuration change to the application.


As you may have noticed my VMs were all powered off as I made this change, I need to power on the NAS before I can upload to it. You can still make the changes to the VMs while they are running however may be an brief outage on the VM you change.

5. On the Summary tab of the NAS select the DNS: field, copy the entire text. This is the Internet accessible address of the NAS VM.


6. In Explorer use the copied text to make up the URL of the Build share: \\<copied text>\Build


You can now copy files onto the Build share, or edit files like the Automate.ini file to your requirements.Bear in mind that you are accessing a remote Samba share, it will be very (very) slow. I plan to build FTP access into the next version for faster uploads.

7. Once you are finished uploading and editing you should disable access to the share. In the Ravello console select the NAS VM again and click the Services tab. Click the trash can next to the service you added to delete the service. Again click Save and Update to apply the change.


AutoLab with vSphere 6, now with extra Cloud

I’m delighted to release AutoLab version 2.6, the biggest new feature is support for vSphere 6.0. You can download the new deployment guide and packages from the AutoLab page.


With vSphere 6 VMware have vastly increased the amount of RAM required to install vCenter and the minimum RAM to run both vSphere and ESXi. This means that you can no longer build the core lab with less than 16GB of RAM. If you want to add a third host, VSAN or View then you will need even more RAM so it is good that 32GB is more achievable in a low cost home lab than a few years ago.


The other great new feature of AutoLab 2.6 is the ability to use public cloud to host AutoLab, so you may not even need to upgrade your lab to be able to play with AutoLab. I’ve been working with Ravello Systems, a start-up who have built a hypervisor that runs on top of AWS or Google Cloud. This is some very cool magic that I wrote about here. On the Ravello platform you can have a lab that you rent by the hour and only pay for while you’re using it. A three ESXi server AutoLab costs under $3 per hour to run, At that rate you could run the lab every evening for a month at a lower cost than buying a new machine. Another benefit of Ravello is that you can run multiple labs in parallel, something I often want to do as I’m working on different projects.

AutoLab Version 2.0 Released

It has been a while, but the day has arrived. AutoLab version 2.0 is available for download. This version doesn’t support a new vSphere release since VMware hasn’t shipped one. AutoLab 2.0 is more of a maintenance and usability release.

The biggest feature is adding support for Windows Server 2012R2 as the platform for the domain controller and vCentre VMs. Naturally you should make sure the version of vSphere you deploy is supported on top of the version of Windows Server you use.

I have also removed the tagged VLANs which makes it easier to run multiple AutoLab instances on one ESXi server or to extend one AutoLab across a couple of physical servers if you only have smaller machines.

I’ve also added the ability to customize the password for the administrator accounts, which helps lock down an AutoLab environment.

Go ahead and download the new build from the usual download page and get stuck in. If you haven’t used AutoLab before make sure to read the deployment guide.

AutoLab Videos

The last few weeks I’ve been busy making videos. There are now setup videos covering the setup of all the supported outer virtualization platforms as well as a video that looks at populating the build share. Here are links to the videos:

VMware Workstation setup

VMware Player setup

VMware ESXi setup

VMware Fusion Setup

VMware Fusion, Building VMs

Populating the Build share

Another great set of AutoLab videos are made by Hersey Cartwright, you can find the first one here with all the other videos linked.

In addition I’ve been making videos for my new site, Notes4Engineers. This site has brief videos about designing, building and operating IT Infrastructure. And while we’re talking I will mention that I’m now delivering my own workshops, there’s more detail about this change on my blog.

AutoLab YouTube Channel

We now have a YouTube Channel for AutoLab videos. You can find the channel here.

To start off I’ve posted a video on setting up the networking under Fusion Pro 5 for the AutoLab and another with the initial setup and populating the build share on the same MAC, right up to building the domain controller VM.

I plan to put up more videos around the initial setup and builds, on Workstation, ESXi and VMware Player.

AutoLab V1.5 with vSphere 5.5 support

It is finally here, the long awaited AutoLab build with support for vSphere 5.5 is available for your downloading pleasure at the AutoLab home page.

The addition of v5.5 support is the headline item here, along with a fair bit of cleanup. The big change is that ESXi 5.5 wants 4GB of RAM before it will install, not a problem if you have 16GB of RAM in your physical machine, but those still using 8GB will need to reduce each ESXi VMs RAM to 2GB after it builds.

vSphere 5.5 brings VSAN, so there are now three ESXi VMs in the lab. Each is configured with three disks, one for boot, one tagged as SSD and the final as a normal disk. To get VSAN to configure you will need all three ESXi servers built & they will need their RAM increased to 6GB each (24GB physical required) but after that VSAN deploys normally.

I’ve also added support for View 5.2 & 5.3 since these have shipped since I started the new build. SRM support is a work in progress, you will find signs of the work in this build but it is still a little way off. The deployment guide has been reworked a little so it’s flow is a little clearer and formatted to be prettier than the eBook format I experimented with.

I have a laundry list of fixes and enhancements that I will add to AutoLab in the coming months. Big thanks to Infinio for their support which will enable me to take some time off to do this work. If you would like to contribute to AutoLab or have suggestions of ways to make it easier get in touch via or contact me on Twitter @DemitasseNZ.

Have fun.

Big news for AutoLab

It has been a bit quiet on the public side of AutoLab for a while, mostly because my day job has been getting in the way of developing the new version of AutoLab with vSphere 5.5 support. The new release is almost ready, some final testing and documentation updates so the next couple of weeks should see AutoLab 1.5 released.


The big news for this week is that AutoLab has a new sponsor, my friends at Infinio are helping to enable me to spend some more time developing AutoLab and generally make the project better. If you haven’t heard about Infinio I suggest you take a look at their site, the basics of the product is that it can alleviate NFS storage performance issues on ESXi servers. One potential customer I saw last year was spending a lot of money on more disk shelves for their aging NFS array just to get better performance, the Infinio caching could have given them a much more graceful solution to the problem for less money.

Infinio have their own big news today, the release of Infinio Accelerator version 1.2, which add support for ESXi5.5. Of special interest is that they are giving away a limited number of licenses for home lab use. If your home lab is based around a low end NAS with SATA disks as shared storage you already know that this is a bottleneck, adding the Infinio accelerator will improve storage performance. You can enter the giveaway by filling in this form on Infinio’s site.

One of the things that makes me happy about the Infinio support is that we finally have a logo for AutoLab which you may see on shirts and buttons at future events.

AutoLab color  leftside 72 dpi

Stay tuned for the AutoLab v1.5 release post