Laptop Data Center: Getting started

I recently reorganized my computer setup, and I have an “extra” machine for special projects. It’s got a pretty decent (AMD 8-core) CPU and 16GB of RAM. I got a solid state drive for it and an older 2TB drive for extra storage. So, I thought I’d take care of two birds with one stone. I could set up some virtual machines, and also do a blog series on HOW to actually do this.

What is this?
In talking with both developers and non-developer IT people that work with Microsoft or Linux, almost none take advantage of some very powerful tools that are right at their fingertips. That is, with a little bit of effort, you can bring up an entire, virtual data center on your laptop. In fact, I wrote about it in a blog post last year.

I mean, using Hyper-V, you could set up the following:

  • Windows Servers (primary and backup domain controller) that host an Active Directory, DNS, and offer DHCP
  • Linux servers (Ubuntu, Fedora, openSUSE for example) that can join the domain, and use the DNS and DHCP from your AD setup
  • Windows Workstations – for testing. Need an extra XP machine for testing? Want to splash around with the new Windows 10 technical preview? Do that in a virtual machine

What does that mean? That means that on your laptop, you can host many virtual machines to serve whatever sort of needs you have. If you are a developer, you can have virtual web and DB servers. If you work in infrastructure, you can set up Active Directory and Exchange server. …again, as virtual machines, on your laptop. If you work with security, you can play around with group policies with your Active Directory.

Where do you start?
The thing that will help you the most, is an MSDN subscription. Hopefully your employer provides one. If they don’t, consider joining Bizspark – a free program from Microsoft, who wants to help an independent software vendor (like YOU) use Microsoft tools. I’ve written about this endlessly – see here!

If you have MSDN, then you have access to ALL Microsoft downloads, and plenty of valid, legal keys to do what you need:


As seen above, from the MSDN site, I can download Windows Server 2012 R2 (the latest, as of this writing) and I can get valid keys/serial-numbers to use it.

Even if you want to mostly use Linux, this would still be helpful, because you could use the latest Windows Server OR Windows 8/10 and use Hyper-V. This is only available in the “Pro” edition of Windows 8. Assuming you have access to Windows 8 Pro for your laptop, all you’d need to do is:

  1. Enable Hyper-V
  2. Download ISO images of the operating systems you want to use
  3. Create new virtual machines and install an operating system

We’ll explore this in more detail, but that is the general gist.

That’s a lot. No, seriously, where do I start?
Well, that’s the point of this first post. I intend to do a series on this entire topic. I have a fresh machine to start from. So, I will break this into sections:

Posted in Computers and Internet, General, Infrastructure, Professional Development, Uncategorized
One comment on “Laptop Data Center: Getting started
  1. […] This post is part of a series – you can find the start and a link to the other sections from this post. […]


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