This is exciting (and I rarely ever get giddy), but I’ve been searching for a laptop that would suit my needs for over a year now.
Backstory: I moved away from having a desktop at home due to a multitude of reasons, but mainly for convenience. I realized I was on the road quite a bit and even when I went to the office, I found the hardware provided by most clients to be deficient in many ways. After all, I need 32 GB of RAM and at least 1 TB of SSD HD to use SSH. It’s very resource intensive, you know? (sarcasm)
The reality is, I do a lot with my machine. When at home, I have a Promise R6 Thunderbolt array for back-up / archival / work purposes. It’s super speedy and without a doubt, one of the best investments I’ve ever made. (Who would have thought a company like Promise could actually put out a quality product? I know I never did until I bought one of these).
Over the last few years, my requirements have evolved (go figure.. evolution in Technology? meh!)
As my needs changed, I realized I wanted something a bit *different*. I’m on the road quite a bit and really wanted separate physical machines for Home, Work, and IT Geek Work. In other words, I needed a desktop for personal use, one for business / professional use, and one for Linux “Enterprise” stuff. I wanted the separation, but also needed access to all the different machines (simultaneously).
I know.. everyone will now scream “Desktop Virtualization”, etc. I’m doing that already and don’t get me wrong, Virtualbox is great, but I don’t like the small windows and overhead of an “OS on an OS”. It just bothers me. (Actually, it’s annoying). I’d rather reboot into another OS, but the reality is, I don’t want to “Reboot”. I want to run a few machines concurrently.
My requirements were a bit hard to find and I wasn’t willing to settle.
- Thunderbolt Port(s) – I wanted at least two, but I would deal with one port and daisy-chaining devices
- RAM – Anything more than 32 GB
- CPU / Chipset: Multi-core with VT-d for true hardware pass-through to the guest
Type 1 Hypervisors! They exist and they work well, but there was only one problem. The hardware requirements seemed to be a bit esoteric. I needed a machine with VT-d enabled as well as more than 16 GB of RAM. Not exactly something that’s easy to find. It’s been over a year and still, nothing has come to market with all these features. The difficult mix was VT-d + >16GB RAM + Thunderbolt. I wanted a true desktop replacement that could interface with my Thunderbolt Array and be able to run the Hypervisor.
Like I said, a near impossibility until.. Today. On a whim, I googled “Thunderbolt Laptops 2013” as usual not expecting to find anything other than the usual mix of laptops geared towards people other than me. To my surprise, Asus had made an announcement last month about the G750 Laptop!
It had everything I wanted! Even support for 32 GB of RAM!
A quick check of the Intel Ark website and it turns out the i7-4700HQ did indeed have VT-d enabled and included all the goodness of my “perfect” laptop!
So here’s what my goal is:
Acquire one of these beauties, replace the 1 TB traditional drive with an 1 TB SSD, replace the secondary 256 GB SSD with another 1 TB SSD, Max out the RAM to 32 GB, install Xenclient (a Type 1 Hypervisor).
Install Guests as follows:
1. Windows 7 Ultimate (64 bit) 16 GB RAM (HDD TBD) – Administrative Applications, General Web Surfing, and personal environment.
2. CentOS 6.x – 8 GB (HDD TBD) – My main work laptop for development, utility, etc.
3. Ubuntu Desktop – 4 GB (HDD TBD) – A secondary machine for doing stuff outside of the “Windows” realm. Also nice to have a graphical interface + Linux sometimes… (rarely.. but sometimes).
4. Ubuntu Server – 2 GB (HDD TBD) – Sometimes you need a server to test your “ideas”. You can never count on a client having a test / development environment.
5. PFsense (create my own little private lan with an OpenVPN connection to my VPN server in the cloud. (I don’t like being spied on at coffee shops). – 1 GB (HDD TBD)
6. Small Asterisk Server (connected to my main PBX in the cloud) – 1 GB (HDD TBD)
I would spin up / down the VMs as I needed them. For example, Asterisk, the Ubuntu boxen would be down unless I was on a gig long-term, but the point is I would need them to “extend” my office to my location anywhere.
The PFsense would serve as my egress server allowing me encrypted transport to my home LAN and the internet to bypass coffee-shop networks as well as allowing me the luxury of having my VOIP infrastructure extended to me anywhere using a Softphone on my Android Note II.
The really nice thing about the whole setup is I can ssh to any other server on the hypervisor when I needed to, because they’re all running concurrently!
Not a bad solution, huh? Effectively, I would be carrying around a Rack of servers in my laptop! How uber awesome would that be?
Here’s a link to the Asus Laptop I’m drooling over: http://www.digitaltrends.com/computing/asus-republic-of-gamers-g750-laptop-computex-2013/
Anyone wanna trade 25 hours of consulting for a laptop? lol.