In order to successfully complete your home lab, you’re going to need configure compute (the servers), networking (routers and switches etc.) and storage. For those that are solely interested in studying or testing an individual application, operating system, or the network infrastructure, you should be able to complete this with no more storage than the local hard drive in your PC.
For those who are looking to learn how cloud and data center technologies work as a whole however, you’re going to require some form of dedicated storage. A storage simulator or a Virtual Storage Appliance (VSA) or Nutanix CE is likely to be the best option for this task.
If you’re studying hypervisor technologies you’re going to have to spend on compute hardware as well as any of the network infrastructure devices that are incapable of being virtualized. Unless you have a free flowing money source, you’re most likely going to want to contain the storage costs by using virtualized storage rather than SAN or NAS hardware.
The Flackbox blog has compiled a lengthy and comprehensive list of all the available simulators and VSAs. All of the software is free but may require a customer or partner account through the vendor to be able to download. The login and system requirements for every option are included in the list as well. Thanks to Neil for putting those together.
Nutanix CE can be seen as having high requirements for a home lab but once you factor that management is included it’s not that bad. You can also you a free instance with Ravello.
If you don’t meet the requirement you can always use OpenFiler or StarWind if you have gear at home.
For those looking to mimic their organization’s production environment as closely as possible, choose the VSA or simulator from your vendor.
GUI demos are also included at the bottom of the list. These are not designed or suitable for a lab but are great for those looking to get a feel of a particular vendor’s Storage GUI.