My last post detailed my home network lab setup. This post is an attempt to compare having a home lab versus a cloud lab.
The cost to build my home network lab was around £3500. I plan on keeping the majority of the equipment for a minimum of 5 years. The cost comes to £58.00 per month. Its worth noting that not all of the kit will be replaced post the 5 year mark. Some kit will likely still be in use for many subsequent years. With this in mind the monthly cost would come down a bit more.
With the majority of my kit running 24 x 7 I’ve included the cost of electricity to run the lab. An online calculator made this easy:
- According to Google there are 8760 hours in a year / 12 = 730 hours in a month.
- According to my UPS the total power consumption for all devices in the lab is 210 watts.
- At the time of writing this post my cost per KW hours was £0.11p
So the total monthly cost of the home lab including electricity consumption = £74.86
Ravello offer a cloud based alternative to running a home lab. The solution is simple and based on rental of compute power and strorage. In order to compare as fairly as possible, my calculations are based on consuming the same amount of compute power and storage running in my home lab. Using the Ravello pricing tool for my setup this comes to:
|Description||Cost per hour|
What we need to consider here though is you’ll likely not run your lab on Ravello 24 x 7. That’s not really the idea. You would only spin up the VM’s when needed and this is where the calculations get a little tricky. I can certainly say that I use my lab for an absolute minimum of 8 hours per week. Some weeks that figure is exponentially higher and potentially 70+ hours.
The cost of running a comparative lab that I’ve built at home on Ravello Systems per month based on 8 hours per week of usage would be £95.68. That’s actually pretty reasonable until the hours consumed starts to ramp up.
Comparitvely if I were to consume the Ravello services for 16 hours a week the cost to build my home lab would be met within 18 months of rental from Ravello.
Below are some of the considerations I took into account while deciding which path to take:
- Do you have the space at home to build a mini Data Centre? Space is no issue with a cloud based lab.
- Do you have a location at home that’s environmentally suitable, for example doesn’t get too hot during the summer months. Can you accept the extra noise produced by the kit?
- Are you comfortable with the capex cost of purchasing the equipment up front vs rental from a cloud provider?
- Will you be able power to down the VM’s when not in use and spin them back up when needed? With a home lab you could leave topology’s powered up for as long as you need them.
- Will any testing require large amounts of data to be uploaded to the cloud, i.e application installers and ISO’s etc – A well provisioned home lab will copy files around the network at near wire speed.
- I would anticipate a cloud lab to be used exclusively as a lab due to the cloudy nature. A home lab can be leveraged for your home networking requirements.
- Do you anticipate your lab topologies to be entirely virtual? With a home lab you can easily integrate physical devices with the virtual world. This has huge benefits for testing.
I certainly considered using a cloud provider like Ravello for lab testing. It was an easy decision for me to build a home lab though. Some of the benefits to me are:
- I can see, touch and smell the equipment I’ve spent hard earned cash on 🙂
- As I pointed out in my last post about the home network lab I also use the architecture for our home networking and application needs. Our home network is fast, resilient and reliable.
- I can easily integrate physical devices into the lab and incorporate into virtual topologies.
- I can leave large lab topologies online for days, weeks or even months at a time with only minimal additional cost in electricity consumed. With virtual machines the additional power consumption is negligible.
In my case the cost for a home lab versus a cloud lab was still cheaper in the long run for the home option. Networking is also not just a job to me but a hobby and a passion. I love having real kit to play with and will be keeping a foot firmly in the physical world for some time to come.