Setting up a basic test lab using VMware
One of my favourite features in VMware Workstation that I have found recently is the ability to create a ‘team’ of virtual machines. What this does is allow you to have one or more virtual machines running on a virtual LAN, essentially allowing you to setup a private test network where you for example run test domain controllers or any network application and as long as you have the network setup correctly there is no way for anything to ‘leak’ out onto your production network.
Ive been using this to run a simple test network with two virtual machines to help develop and test a new Group Policy for our Windows 7 deployment later this year. In one virtual machine I have Windows Server 2003 running as a Domain Controller and as a Router/DHCP Server (this VM effectively becomes our virtual LAN’s gateway for internet access and so needs two network interfaces – one to connect to hosts network and gain internet access and the other to connect to the internal virtual LAN), and in the other I have Windows 7 setup as a member of the test domain.
Once you have your virtual machines ready to go we are ready to create our Team and add the virtual machines to it. In VMware go to File -> New -> Team to launch the New Team Wizard. Give the Team a name and decide where you want to store the configuration file then add the virtual machines you want in the Team (you can always add and remove virtual machines to and from Team at any point). Next you need to add at least one LAN Segment, this is basically the virtual LAN that will connect our Domain Controller to our Windows 7 virtual machine (any any other VM’s you add), you can have multiple segments, all with different network speeds if you want to simulate a larger, multi-site network but for our simple lab it is easiest to just use one segment. Finally you need to which network adaptor connects to which network (virtual or otherwise), this can be a confusing if you are not used to networking and VMware so here is a screenshot of my configuration that you can use as a base.
The important thing here is to make sure that one network adaptor of the Domain Controller is on the Virtual LAN with the Windows 7 VM (and that if you have already run the network setup wizard after installing the network router/DHCP roles on the Domain Controller you make sure you select the correct adaptor – dont worry, it can always be changed if you get it wrong). Also, assuming you want all the machines in your Team to be able to access the internet then you will need to map the Internet facing adaptor on your Domain Controller to the host machines network, my recommendation is to use NAT here to ensure your Virtual Network remains isolated although aslong as you are careful when you configure the Domain Controller’s routing you can use Bridged networking.
And there we go, you should now have a simple, but very useful Virtual lab environment that you can use like me to test new Group Policy options, or really anything (ive been running the new Sharepoint 2010 beta in another test network), you can even extend the lab with additional LAN Segments to represent remote sites (with simulated packet loss too if you want), the Team options give you a lot of options if you want to expand your lab, the only limitation is how fast your computer is!