I have been working to construct a Microsoft System Center lab. The reason for the lab is to simulate customer environments and demonstrate System Center technologies remotely, based on need. Typically, the System Center products demand relatively high-end machines, and we need to combine the machine roles to save on hardware as much as possible.

The challenge is to do so securely and keep costs down. I would like to use as few servers as possible; however, the purchase of new hardware seems almost inevitable.

Here is what we have to work with:

  • 2 Dell Power Edge 2650 servers (legacy SCSI hardware so these are not compatible with Windows Server 2008)
  • 2 Dell Power Edge 2950 servers
  • 1 Dell Power Edge 1950 server
  • Some sort of shared storage
  • Fortigate 60B firewall device


The implementation requirements are as follows:

  • System Center Configuration Manager 2007 R2
  • System Center Operations Manager 2007 SP1 (potentially R2)
  • System Center Data Protection Manager 2007 SP1
  • System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 (potentially R2)
  • App-V and potentially Med-V
  • Server 2008 and Hyper-V
  • Internet Security and Acceleration Server 2006 — potentially, although I have been eyeing MESH.

Nice to have

Having a fault-tolerant AD infrastructure and a Server 2008 failover cluster in the mix would be fantastic for high-availability reasons as well as for experience building.

I will use the older legacy SCSI servers to host a Domain Controller and a SQL 2005 Enterprise server since that should be a physical system.

Whether I should implement ISA Server 2006 is up in the air as I have heard awesome things about MESH.

I can leverage the Fortigate and potentially an older 2650 to host the VPN temporarily. Server 2008 R2 has some really nice features with Direct Access, which will more or less make VPN obsolete.

I can keep the Dell 1950 for the OpsMgr 2007 Root Management Server role since that is suggested to be physical.

I think I can virtualize the rest including a second DC in Hyper-V.

Next steps

These are my initial thoughts on this project. How would you build this lab? What is your experience with System Center products?

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