There are two things I love more in my work than everything else : how smart is the way we (NetApp) store data, and virtualization (especially VMware). When you realize how accessible are these technologies today, you understand it gets pretty easy to get your own lab running on your laptop, as long as you have a bunch of RAM available.
Ok, I must admit I’m not running « cheap » hardware, but like a lot of my coworkers, I chose to work on a high-end MacBook Pro with 16GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD drive. SSD and RAM is the key here, remove one or the other and that’s going to be painful. I use my lab all the time, it saves me the hassle of finding a lab and setup base environment, and if saves me time, it also makes my customer happier.