With the help of Synology, I am embarking on the creation of a portable lab environment called BeaverRange. The objective of BeaverRange is to create a high performance lab environment that is small enough to fit in my backpack when traveling for work. At its core, the environment will consist of the following hardware:
- 1 x Synology DS723 (2 x 960GB SSD)
- 2 x NUC 11 (Core i7, 48GB RAM and 2TB SSD)
- 1 x Unifi Flex Mini (Switch)
- 1 x GL.iNet (Router, VPN and Access Point)
Over the next three or four blog posts, we will look at the configuration items and requirements to build an ultra portable home lab that still has enough horsepower and flexibility to tackle any lab needs. This environment will be called “BeaverRange” and is inspired by faculty and staff at my alma mater.
The core of any virtualization and Home Lab is the storage environment. Similar to my previously posts, the Storage of this lab environment was provided by Synology. Synology has some of the best NAS devices (my opinion) on the market ranging from the ultra portable to datacenter class devices/technology that leverage deep learning/AI to help with operational tasks like vehicle and people detection.
For the purpose of this environment, they have sent over the DS723+ which is a compact two bay device that can deliver upwards of 471/225 MB/s of disk performance and 10G networking.
We won’t spend too much time talking about the specifications of the DS723+ as more information can be provided on the product page from Synology linked here. Let’s jump into the configuration and the out-of-box experience.
After the device is unboxed and connected to power/network, you should be able to head over to https://find.synology.com which will automatically detect the new synology on your network.
If you have a “more complex” network setup where your endpoint and NAS are on different VLANs/Subnets, you will have to look to your network monitoring solution/dhcp server to manually browse to the NAS. For me, I had these entries on my Unifi UDM Pro SE.
Browsing to 10.24.253.195 brings up the initial install screen.
Synology has been working hard over the last few years to create an intuitive interface that everyone (including those outside of IT) can use and manage.
After clicking “install” the DiskStation will pull the most recent version of Synology DiskStation Manger (DSM) from the internet unless you provide it a .pat file for manual updates.
The installation and upgrade takes about 3 minutes but be prepared to wait the full 10 minutes. The NAS will restart on its own once all the upgrades are complete.
After 5-10 minutes, the configuration of the Synology can begin! Its important to note that if you have a configuration backup from a previous device, you can initiate the restore from here!
During the next few screens, you will be asked for information like hostname, username, password, update policy and Synology Account. These can be configured as required and in line with any personal preference. Synology does recommend to use something other than “admin” as the username as it can prevent/help with brute force attempts.
The use of a Synology Account is highly recommended as it enabled some addition features like QuickConnect and Monitoring. QuickConnect allows you to access your NAS from anywhere without the need of a VPN.
At this point, the DS723+ will ask you if you want to enable device analytics and then bring you to the main desktop interface where you can start to configure things.
Storage Pool and Volume
There are two main storage concepts that are leveraged when provisioning a Synology DiskStation (or RackStation). These are Storage Pools and Volumes. The Storage Pool is a collection of disks that are configured in a “Protection Group”. Think of this as the “RAID” volume but with additional capabilities. The Volume is the partition that has the File System.
When you first login to your NAS, you will have a pop-up to configured your first Storage Pool and Volume.
From there, you are able to use the On-Screen wizard to create the required Pool and Volume.
Synology has a handful of options that can be used when only two drives are installed. They are as follows:
- SHR (Synology Hybrid Raid)
- RAID 1 (Mirror of Drives)
- Basic (Single Drive without Redundancy)
- JBOD (Multiple Drives without Redundancy)
- RAID 0 (Stripe of Drives without Redundancy)
For my Lab environment, I will be using RAID-0 as the Data is not important and will be backed up using Synology’s could service (future blog post). This is NOT recommended for production.
After selecting the “RAID Type” and “Description” you will select the drives that will be added to the Storage Pool. For devices that have more than 2 x Drives, you can absolutely create additional pools based on need. On my DS1621+ I have two pools that are split between SSD backed and HDD backed.
After selecting the drives, you will want to run the drive check and make sure everything is healthy. For smaller pools, the drive check will take a few minutes.
After the Drive check, its time to create the Volume. As stated earlier, the Volume is where the File System (BTRFS) is created. Storage Pools can have multiple volumes but for this environment, we will use the maximum amount of space and then select the recommended file system on the next screen.
Confirm your settings and then apply!
At this point, all of your pool and volume settings should be configured and you will be able to check on the “Disk Check” by using the “Storage Manager” application in the menubar or desktop.
In order to access this storage from a VMware client, we need to configured a Shared Folder (NFS) or ISCSI LUN. This environment will be primarily use NFS to simplify the network configuration in this converged setup.
The creation of Shared Folders is done within the Control Panel. The Control Panel is another application located in the menu bar or desktop of your Synology Disk Station.
Under the “Create” Menu you will have the ability to “Create Shared Folder”.
The similar user experience is carried over to the folder creation workflow. We can enter a name and descripotion and then move to the finish page (skipping encryption, advanced settings and permissions)
You may have asked/thought “Why are we skipping permissions if we are going to use this for NFS?” That is because NFS permission are handled differently from SMB/File Permissions. Within the Edit menu on the Shared Folder, there is a special tab for NFS.
As you can see, by default NFS is disabled but Synology provides a link to the Settings page that will enable the service.
While it is not required, I updated the “Max Version” to NFSv4.1 to allow MultiPathing. After the service is enabled, we can go back to the NFS settings and enable communication.
For the Lab environment, allowing 0.0.0.0/0 (ANY) to Read/Write is sufficient and prevents any future updates from being required. You can create additional rules if you would prefer to lock this down. This is recommended for production.
At this point, we have successfully configured and baselined the Synology DS723+ for use in our lab environment. The next step will be the hypervisor configuration (ESXI on Intel NUC) and validate connectivity via NFS with the deployment of vCenter.