Everyone needs a home lab. At least, everyone that works in technology and wants to grow their career or get better at their craft. I’d hope that’s most of you, but if not, that’s fine. If you’re happy with just cruising along at work, I wish you the best.
For many people, especially those wanting to learn, they need some lab. There are plenty of free software choices you can make to build a lab. SQL Server, SSMS, Visual Studio Code, Virtual Box, you can get these for free. The thing you’ll need to provide is the hardware. From my own experience, to learn about many features, you’ll want at least 2-3 VMs, or instances that can run different versions, provide some separation, and even a spare instance when you blow one up. If you want to experiment with the AlwaysOn technologies, you might want 4 or 5 spaces. You can do lots of this in Azure, but many people don’t want to commit, or have open ended costs. Or they don’t want to eat up bandwidth.
I’m not a hardware geek, and honestly don’t care what I run. It just needs to go fast and work well. I rebuilt my desktop, on advice from Glenn Berry, but I just followed advice. I didn’t try to determine if part A was slightly better or worse than part B. I just needed the SSD/MB/CPU/etc. to work.
I’m sure plenty of you might be considering a lab, or might need to upgrade. I ran across two great posts that give you a few ideas on what might work for you. Allan Hirt showcases a great portable lab, which I may adopt as a traveling companion. However, if you want another desktop that might run a slew of VMs for experimenting with SQL Server features, Glenn Berry from SQLskills has his own post that you can use for advice.
If you’ve got recommendations or ideas, or questions, please add them to the discussion. If you’re proud of your own setup, let us know. If you have found Azure (or AWS) to be a friendly, cost-effective place for a lab, I’m sure people would love to know that as well.