One of the goals when building up my home lab a few years ago was to emulate a simple production environment that would give me a good platform to learn and experiment with. I’m a big fan of nested labs, and use one on my laptop often. But there are times when you need real hardware to interact with. This has come up even more than I expected, as recent trends with leveraging flash on the host have resulted in me stuffing more equipment back in the hosts for testing and product evaluations.
Networking is the other area that can be helpful to have equipment that at least tries to mimic what you’d see in a production environment. Yet the options for networking in a home lab have typically been limited for a variety of reasons.
- The real equipment is far too expensive, or too loud for most home lab needs.
- Searching on eBay or Craigslist for a retired production unit can be risky. Some might opt for this strategy, but this can result in a power sucking, 1U noise maker that may have some dead ports on it, or worse, bricked upon arrival.
- Consumer switches can be disappointing. Rig up a consumer switch that is lacking in features, and port count, and be left wishing you hadn’t gone this route.
I wanted a fanless, full Layer 3 managed switch with a feature set similar to what you might find on an enterprise grade switch, but not at an enterprise grade price. I chose to go with a Cisco SG300-20. This is a 20 port, 1GbE, Layer 3 switch. With no fans, the unit draws as little as 10 watts.