vSphere 5 AutoLab

by Alastair on May 2, 2012

It’s Alastair here, today I am very pleased to release the vSphere 5 AutoLab, a free tool for the VMware community.

What is the AutoLab?

The AutoLab is a quick easy way to build a vSphere environment for testing and learning using a single desktop or laptop PC and VMware Workstation, Fusion or ESXi. The whole lab runs in VMs on that one PC, even ESXi runs in a VM and can then run it’s own VMs.

What’s in the AutoLab?

The Autolab download contains a set of shell VMs and a lot of automation.  Once built the lab contains two ESXi servers, a Windows Domain controller, a Windows Virtual Centre, a FreeNAS storage appliance and a FreeSCO Router to link it to the outside world.

Inside the AutoLab

The download has been kept very small for easy download and distribution, it contains only free, open source, software. You will also need the installers for vSphere and Windows, you should use evaluation licenses for both vSphere (built in) and Windows.

What can I do with the AutoLab?

  • Run VMs on the lab ESXi servers, using iSCSI shared storage
  • Build an HA and DRS cluster
  • Work with vSphere Networking
  • Practice the upgrade from vSphere 4.1 to vSphere 5.0
  • Use PowerShell and the VCLI to manage the lab
  • Rebuild the whole lab quickly and with minimal effort
  • Choose how much automation you want in the lab build
  • Take the lab with you on your laptop

Will my laptop/PC be able to run the AutoLab?

If your laptop has 8GB of RAM and a recent CPU you should be able to run the lab. Here is my three year old laptop that is upgraded to 8GB of RAM running the whole lab including VMs running on the ESXi servers inside the lab.


Where can I get the AutoLab?


The AutoLab lives on LabGuides.com since it is an offshoot from the effort that Nick Marshall and I working on. Can you guess what that project is?

The Installation Instructions are in a pdf and you should take a look at those to get a better idea of what is involved.  Then there are two different downloads, both contain the same VMs but with slightly different configuration and different packaging. The download for VMware Workstation should also work with Player and Fusion.  The other contains a vApp for deployment onto ESXi 5.0. Download one  and get started by following the guide.


I hope that the AutoLab will save you a lot of time and frustration in building vSphere labs.  I will be posting on ProfessionalVMware the details of the automation that is in the AutoLab so you can reuse or modify the work.

Where can I get help with AutoLab?

We have very helpful forums at http://www.labguides.com/forums/ As always with forums make sure you search and read the sticky postst before asking questions, many questions have already been answered.

You can contact me through my other blog http://www.demitasse.co.nz/wordpress2/about/



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  • daunce

    awesome.. looking forward to breaking it knowing i can rebuild it just as quick.

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  • Yohan Wadia

    Awesome tool !!! realy useful !! thanks alot.. :-)

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  • Cragdoo

    thought I could deploy this to a single ESXi5 host , but when deploying the ovf getting the error …. “The OVF package uses features that are not supported when deploying directly to an ESX host”

  • Alastair

     I will build a non-vApp zip for stand alone ESXi.  vApp makes deployment easier but clearly won’t work without vCenter.

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  • Jason Boche

    Pretty cool!

  • Cragdoo

    Any further forward with the new package ?

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  • http://www.demitasse.co.nz Alastair

    I’m working on it for the next release, which shouldn’t be too far away.
    At present I’m having trouble getting a reliable and small package to release for ESXi standalone use.

  • SgtBeavis

    I think the directions need to be a little more clear on a few items, but once you get past the minor issues, it becomes an incredibly useful lab environment.   It’s great to be able to totally blow a lab away and then rebuild it within a couple of hours with minimal heartache.

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  • Gautam S

    I heard that you cannot run a hypervisor on a hypervisor. So if I install an ESXi on an i7, and then deploy your autolab’s host (ESXi again, nested hypervisor), will it work? And will I be able to create a VM on that nested ESXi? 

    I have read at many places that it cannot be done.

  • http://www.professionalvmware.com bunchc

    It indeed can be, should your hardware support it (most current processors do). ESXi nested on ESXi as well as VMware Workstation and VMware Fusion work quite well actually.

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  • Chito24

    I had nothing but issues. Finally was able to open OVA file with vCenter but router wouldn’t run, Kernel panic and i tried connecting it directly to my network and starting the vms but they all failed.

    Great idea do…. It takes me 18+ hrs to rebuild my lab (i rebuild it twice a week).

  • Marka Allerton

    I was getting errors I downloaded the lab for workstation what do I do from there

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  • Sabu

    I’m unable to download lab – Nested AutoLab on vSphere 5 ESXi with DRS, getting network error but verified no issues with the internet, please help..

  • Acole

    Hi All,

    Has anyone managed to get AutoLab working, using vSphere 5.1 files? I have the router, NAS, DC and VC all working fine, no errors on the validate scripts etc.

    It keeps failing at the ESXi hosts install stage. Firstly, after selecting the Host1 Automated Install I was getting “/ESXi51/ata-pata.v00: file not foundFatal error: 15 (not found)”. I had to go onto the DC and and rename all the files in c:TFTP-Rootesxi51 that had a – (dash) and replace with an _ (underscore). This at least enabled it to start the Esxi install. However, it then grinded to a halt with another error “Error cannot open file [Errno 2] No such file or Directory: ‘/tardisks/scsi-cel.v00’.

    I would love to try Autolabs, but I can’t see how it works for anyone. I’ve tried using versions 1.1a and 1.5 but with no success.

    Would appreciate any advice on how to proceed.



  • nickmarshall9

    Hi Andy,

    Unfortunately there’s been some changes to the files that VMware load into the latest ESXi builds. If you can get you hands on some older builds that would help. Alastair is working on a more robust system for ESXi deployments so this doesn’t happen every time VMware change the file list.


  • http://www.demitasse.co.nz DemitasseNZ

    This error occurs when you use one of the Roll-Up ISOs, these will not currently work with AutoLab, you must use the standard ISO image.

    As Nick says I will be putting a better solution in to handle these differences in the next release, later this year.

    Also do use the forums for support, http://www.labguides.com/forums

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  • Stephen Polzin

    Hi Andy,

    I’m new to Autolabs and in the process of setting it up and came across the same issue.

  • independent_forever

    Excellent tool! Word of advice…make sure you’ve got at least 16GB ram, multicore CPU (mine happens to be a single AMD quad core) AND an SSD 500GB disk. The SSD makes all the difference and is well worth the purchase. For me, this configuration made this lab totally usable. Without the SSD it crawled as expected but worked. Just nice to be able to spin just about all of these at the same time and still have my host PC capable of functioning….this lab is very nice…great job!

  • Mathew Maybee

    How to Install Autolab without DRS on a single ESXi 5.5 host – hi there, I received a really kickass production server for free, so I was hoping to run with this Autolab setup for my VCP5 studies. The instructions (and my apologies if I missed something) seem to cover the setup that uses DRS (and the deployment functions of vsphere), so I’m wondering if there are instructions or videos on how to do the setup without DRS. There is a reference saying this build is much more work which I am okay with, but I think I must be missing something. Any help or guidance would be awesome, and again, apologies if I have missed something obvious! (I should mention I am using version 2 of the Autolab)

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  • Atul Kalia

    Would you please recommend which exercise/Labs to practice on the Autolabs to take full advantage of the labs. would I be able to practice all the scripts in PowerCli cookbok as well?

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