General vmlabs information

What is vmlabs?

Vmlabs is a service that provides OnDemand VMware ESXi clusters that are completely dedicated. It includes a dedicated instance of vCenter as well as NSX and vSAN. You can use these clusters for activities such as testing, QA, lab setups, proof of concepts and demos. Vmlabs uses nested virtualization as well as storage and networking overlays. Whatever you run on a bare metal ESXi implementation, will also run on vmlabs.

What all do I get when I rent a cluster?

A cluster provides with your own ESXi 6.5 hosts (vSphere Enterprise Plus), a dedicated vCenter instance, pre-installed NSX Advanced and vSAN, a pure L2 network (pseudo-wire) that allows you to create any complex network topology in your VMware setup, NFS storage, optional SSD accelerated storage available as raw disks or iSCSI – all this behind a firewall It is the closest you can get to mimicking a VMware cluster setup using physical hardware and physical switches. All vmlabs clusters come run licensed instances of vSphere Enterprise Plus, vCenter Server, NSX Advanced and vSAN.

What is the provisioning time?

Once you sign up for vmlabs and order a cluster, we provide you a fully working cluster is less than one minute.

How many ESXi hosts can I provision, and what is the configuration of each host?

Depending on the plan you choose, you can provision between 3 to 8 ESXi hosts. The minimum capacity for an ESXi host is 2vCPU + 12GB RAM. You can create ESXi hosts with more memory and virtual cpus.

How is the performance of ESXi on vmlabs ? Can I use it for running production workloads or running benchmarks?

As mentioned earlier, vmlabs uses nested virtualization and runs on top of a specially tuned version of the KVM hypervisor. Hence, its performance while good for lab setups, QA, testing, proof of concepts is not the same as running ESXi on bare metal hardware and hence its not a good platform for performance benchmarking. Our internal tests have shown that for compute intensive tasks, vmlabs runs approximately 40% and for I/O intensive tasks approximately 55% slower than an equivalent bare metal ESXi installation.

We do not recommend using vmlabs for running production workloads.

Which versions of VMware vSphere are available?

Currently we provide clusters running VMware vSphere 6.5 (Enterprise Plus).

What software licenses are included with vmlabs?

vmlabs comes bundled with licensing for VMware vSphere Enterprise Plus, vCenter Server, NSX Advanced and vSAN. Vmlabs does not include licenses for any guest operating system or applications running within it. You are responsible for procuring any guest operating system licenses or application licenses that might be required.

Can multiple users from my organization access the vCenter Server and ESXi clusters?

Yes. With vmlabs you can add up to 4 collaborators. For each collaborator we generate a separate VPN profile, which the collaborator can download in order to the connect to the ESXi cluster.

What kind of technical support does vmlabs provide?

The clusters provided are provisioned within 1 minute and come pre-installed with vCenter Server, ESXi hosts, NSX Advanced and vSAN. Hence, you can start using the cluster the moment its provisioned and started. In case you need technical support, you can contact vmlabs’ support from within the vmlabs portal. Our support is limited to issues such as inability to access a cluster or problems during the provisioning of a cluster. We do not provide technical support on VMware products as a part of the vmlabs service.

Where are the Data centers hosting vmlabs infrastructure?

The datacenters hosting the machines running vmlabs are in the US – New York, Secaucus, San Jose, Santa Clara and Lenoir.


What are the storage options available with vmlabs?

All vmlabs clusters come bundled with 250GB of SSD accelerated NFS storage. In addition, you can attach raw disks to the ESXi hosts as well as create your own iSCSI and NFS storage.

What are the networking options available with vmlabs?

vmlabs provides each ESXi host with 4 network interfaces that connect to network overlay that is a pseudowire which emulates the operation of a “transparent wire” or “real network” with VLANs 1 to 4,096 available for your use. You are free to configure VLANs, VxLANs, multiple subnets, advanced L2/L3 network capabilities within your cluster and use any SDN software that you wish to use (though a SDN isn’t necessary). You are also free to install any network related virtual appliance of your choice such as virtual router, load balancer, etc.

Can you give a more detailed explanation of how the networking is configured?

Explainer Tech Video will be offered

Can you give a more detailed explanation of how to configure and use vSAN with vmlabs?

vSAN is pre-installed in the cluster that we provide you. All you need to do is attach local disks to the ESXi host and then configure them for use with vSAN.

Is my cluster behind a firewall? How do I access the vCenter Server and ESXi hosts?

We protect your ESXi hosts and vCenter instance behind a pfSense firewall. You can access the vCenter Server and ESXi hosts using OpenVPN. When you provision your cluster we automatically create the OpenVPN profile files which you can download and use to connect to your vCenter Server and ESXi cluster.

Is there console access available to the ESXi hosts?

Yes, we do provide console access to the ESXi hosts and the vCenter Server. Please do not shut down the vCenter Server (except when doing a reboot).

Do I have administrative access to the ESXi cluster?

Yes, you do have administrative access to the ESXi cluster. We create 2 administrative users – one that is used by you (customer of vmlabs) and one that is used by the level 3 support group of vmlabs in case we need carry out any troubleshooting. Our support engineers will not login to the cluster provided to you without your permission and we have the necessary controls in place to prevent any access to your cluster by any of our engineers without your permission.

Can I create virtual machines or network appliances outside of the ESXi cluster, but which is on the same network as the ESXi cluster?

Yes, you can add virtual machines and network appliances that run outside of the ESXi hosts but are on the same network. We provide ready to use Ubuntu, CentOS, pfSense and VyOS images that can run outside the ESXi hosts.

Billing & Licensing

How does cost/billing work in vmlabs?

There are 3 aspects to your bill. First is a fixed cost per day (for the starter plan) or per week (plans other than the starter plan). This includes reserving an ESXi cluster for a day or for a week (depending on the plan you choose), includes an always running vCenter Server instance, 250GB of NFS storage, a firewall/VPN, bandwidth, as well as bundled time for using your cluster.

In addition should you want to use your cluster for more than the bundled number of hours, you can add more compute hours in 5 hour increments. Please make sure that you use these hours before the expiry of your cluster reservation period.

Lastly, you can add more storage at an additional storage.

What is meant by Cluster Reservation Period and can it be extended?

In vmlabs ESXi clusters created are persisted/saved to our storage and are NOT ephemeral. Cluster Reservation Period (which is either one day or one week) is the period of time when the cluster created by you in vmlabs (as well as any VMs created) is persisted and is available for use. You can extend the Cluster Reservation Period at any time or set it to extend automatically.

Once the Cluster Reservation Period is over and is not extended, the ESXi clusters created are automatically deleted. You do have the option when you provision a cluster, to have vmlabs automatically extend the Cluster Reservation Period.

What is meant by Compute Hours?

Compute Hours is the time when your ESXi cluster is switched on. We provide a single click interface to start or stop your ESXi cluster. Every plan comes bundled with a certain number of compute hours. You can add additional compute hours in 5 hour increments.

What is the cost of data transfer?

There is no cost for transferring data either between VMs, between ESXi hosts or between your ESXi cluster and the internet.

How is storage charged for?

First of all, all vmlabs clusters come built in with 250GB of NFS storage that is SSD accelerated. Additional storage depending on the plan chosen by you is charged at 0.5c/GB/day or 3c/GB/week. This storage can be used as either local attached disks along with vSAN, as NFS or as iSCSI.

Can I carry forward unused compute hours?

No. Compute Hours bundled or purchased within a cluster reservation period must be used in that cluster reservation period.

My use case requires a cluster for extended periods of time (months), do you have a plan for that?

Please get in touch with us at [email protected] We would be happy to work out something that meets your requirement.

Can I upgrade from one particular plan to another?

Yes, you can upgrade from one plan to another and will be charged the difference. For example you can upgrade from a silver cluster in a daily plan (that costs $9.95/day) to a gold cluster in a weekly plan (that costs $69.95/week) by paying the difference of $60. We do not support downgrading the plan you are in.