What's the best switch for an NSX-T Home Lab?
Updated: Nov 11, 2021
One of the most difficult things about learning VMware NSX-T is getting your home lab setup! What hardware should I use? Which switch should I pick? How many uplinks to my host should I have? In this blog, I'll present a few things you should know before you start buying stuff.
Picking a Switch for your home lab
This is easily the most common question I get. Many people are putting together their home labs, and unsure which physical switch would be best. When it comes to NSX-T, there's only a few requirements of the physical network. As a result, I'll list some things you should consider when planning your switch purchase.
Do you have a rack in your house, or wherever you plan to keep your lab? Most switches are basic 2-post rackmount types, but there are some desktop switches such as the Cisco 3560C, which can be awesome if space is tight or you don't have a rack.
Next you need to think about your connectivity requirements. Most labs are still running 1G copper cabling, but if you are considering 10G (or faster!), you need to think about this. In addition to the speed- do you want a copper or fiber switch? Copper is generally a lot better for labs, as you can find/make cables for cheap.
If you live alone and don't mind the sound of a Boeing 747 in your bedroom or home office, then you can skip this step. If, however, you live with others, you might want to think about the noise and heat generated by a datacenter-class switch! The good news is, there are fanless switches (Such as the Juniper EX2200-C or Cisco 3560C) that can solve this problem.
This is a really big one. Ideally, you want your switch to support L3 interfaces, known as either SVI's, RVI's, or VLAN interfaces (depending on switch vendor). At the end of the day, these are just interfaces that allow you to have the default gateway sit on the switch itself (making it a L3 switch and not a basic L2 switch). Layer 3 support is really nice because it allows you to quickly create new VLANs and their associated default gateways. Not a network engineer? No problem, I've actually created a guide which gives you my exact configuration which you can use as a baseline. You can access the free NSX-T Home Lab guide here.
Jumbo MTU support
If you're going to practice with NSX-T Overlay networking, you'll have to have a physical network that supports jumbo MTU. The minimum MTU required for NSX-T is 1600 Bytes, but I recommend 1800 if you can - just to give some extra overhead should you start testing new things out, or the NSX requirements change someday!
Support for VLAN Trunking (802.1Q)
If you're setting up a VMware home lab, whether for NSX-T or not, you need a switch that supports trunking. Being able to create VLANs easily, and pass them through to your host is an absolute must. Technically, there are ways to run NSX on a single VLAN, but I promise you will spend more time troubleshooting your setup than actually enjoying the process of becoming an expert at NSX-T.
Get your FREE NSX-T Home Lab Guide!
I hope you found this article helpful! If you find yourself needing additional help on how to setup your VMware NSX-T Lab, you can register here for my mailing list and receive your FREE lab guide via email in just a few minutes.