A few months ago I was asked by a couple of people, “What is a good product for connecting remotely to my machines at work/home, but isn’t going to cost me a bundle”. Good question, as I really never had a solid utility for my home lab environment. At work, we have always had some sort of enterprise VPN product like CheckPoint, F5, or Sonicwall. So I did some searching around, and of course there are many solutions out there. The criteria I was setting for myself was I wanted something somewhat easy to install, preferably open source, and something that could expand and/or grow if needed. I also wanted something that would work with my Windows boxes and Linux boxes. After playing around with a couple of products, I settled on OpenVPN (http://openvpn.net). The access server is available as Linux or Windows, or as a VMware or VHD appliance. The clients available are for Linux, Mac, and Windows. The server install was rather simple as I just downloaded and VMware image and added it to my existing ESXi environment. Made the proper changes after the install and on my firewalls and that was good to go. Of course you have to make sure you register so you can get your free 2 clients. The client software was pretty much the same. I loaded it on my Windows 7 laptop and my Linux netbook. I also tested it on Windows XP and no complaints there as well. The web GUI interface for the admin piece was pretty straight forward. Only problem I had going on was with setting up the profiles for downloading the client. Once I figured that out, I was good to go. Also one of the other things I really liked about the product is I could really test drive it and buy more licenses as I saw fit. Right now I don’t have a need for more than two connections, but that could change. I think this could be a happy medium solution for some home office/small business environments. They also have a pretty good community out there for help in case you get stuck.
I finally got around to updating my netbook with Windows 7 Ultimate this last week and all went well on it (for the most part). As most people have discovered, the vSphere client does not work native in Windows 7 and is stated here on VMware’s support site. I didn’t want to run it in Windows XP mode, but also didn’t want to wait until VMware fixes the issue either. So I did a trusty google search and found this article for the vSphere Client, and this article for the Host Update Utility. Both worked as advertised and haven’t encountered any problems since then.
I have been meaning to setup a FreeNAS server for awhile now, actually a real long time. I have some older hardware just laying around, with a 200gig internal SATA drive, and USB ATA storage array (holds up to 4 ATA drives). The storage array is hold about 800+gigs of space, only about a quarter used. Install took about 15 minutes to get up and going. Adding the drives were a snap. I just imported my USB array and can now map to it via NFS. The internal drive I thought I would setup as iSCSI. I really like how that is working out. I have my Windows 2003 and 2008 servers attaching to it, and it is really fast. I am pretty impressed the speed they are attaching at while being virtual and only going over my 100MB network. I also plan on setting up my Vista machines and laptop access so I can do quick transfers on the fly when needed. Here is a good write up on how to setup the iSCSI services within FreeNAS. I may also setup my VMware ESXi environment to take advantage of the iSCSI as well if I get any more spare drives. If you have the hardware and the need for extra storage space, FreeNAS is a way to go (http://www.freenas.org).