Who needs a Homelab anyway?

I'm throwing it all at the cloud instead

3 minute read

I’ll start this post by setting out my stall - I’m a self confessed geek. I tinker, tweak and enjoy experimenting with new technologies. The arrival of my daughter a couple of years ago did reduce my tinkering time drastically but I digress.

There was a time a few years ago that the keen IT hobbyist would have to invest serious time and money to feed their habit, namely in:

  • Switches & routers
  • Motherboards, cases and power supplies
  • Hard drives, RAM sticks, expansion cards and new CPUs
  • A huge array of cables to piece it all together
  • The electricity bill that landed with a thump on the doormat every month

Ugh. A mess.

That time has now officially come to an end in this house. Sure I still have my Synology DiskStation for local storage, but other than clients (phones, tablets and PCs) and a consumer grade router running DD-WRT everything else is now off.

I was previously quite proud of my home VMware estate with iSCSI storage running a myriad of “stuff” from home automation through to monitoring systems but the advent and accessibility of cloud providers made me reevaluate not only whether I should upgrade my lab but whether I needed it at all anymore.

Whilst cloud providers have been around for a while now it’s only in the last couple of years that the vast majority have switched over to allow hourly billing, meaning you can try the latest greatest software on a single server or spin up a full application stack for as little as an hour which will typically set you back less than a couple of dollars.

Some cloud providers have gone even further by offering one click access to trialling 3rd party software - DigitalOcean do One-Click Applications, AWS has the Community Marketplace and Linode will sort you out with StackScripts.

I’ve successfully abstracted some of the things I was previously running at home to:

  1. Amazon CloudWatch
  2. AWS Lambda functions
  3. Amazon API Gateway
  4. Amazon S3 with static website hosting (this site being a prime example)

Don’t get me wrong, in amongst all of this home infrastructure destruction I’ve also taken advantage of recent improvements to DSM on the Synology DiskStation which now support running Docker containers. This is because there are still a couple of things I practically can’t do in the cloud for obvious reasons :-

  • Taking power readings via my CurrentCost USB meter (USB to the cloud is not a thing just yet)
  • Running a local CUPS instance to enable AirPrint for a printer that doesn’t provide it natively

If you’re a real network head and you’re not fully embracing SDN yet then there’s every chance my use case doesn’t fit yours and you want to keep your power hungry PoE enabled layer 3 switch ticking over, but for the majority of sysadmins I now see very little reason to run a full Homelab.

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