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I've only ever used workstation virtualisations for teaching myself/trying new things on my own computer. I've used vmware, micro$haft and currently using virtualbox. I'm not great when it comes to server virtualisation though, never done it. Can anyone point me in the right direction of any good tutorials?
bossman (12th May 2010)
Grab yourself a 30 day demo of VMWare Workstation, or indeed Virtualbox.
In laymans terms, you install, lets use VMWare WS as an example. You run the program and create a new Virtual Machine.
This is the software equivalent of building a PC. You tell it how many processors you want to give it, how much memory, how large a disk drive (taken from your main drive obviously) and any other hardware. You can tell it to use a physical CD Rom or an ISO Image of a CD/DVD instead.
So, we point it to an ISO - Windows Server 2008.iso for instance. Power on the Virtual Machine, and you'll be greeted with something that looks not too much different to a typical PC. It has a "bios" in which you can tweak some settings, change boot orders and what not.
It boots from the "CD" and off it goes, installing Windows 2008 in the same way as a normal PC.
It goes through the process, and at the end we have a working Virtual PC. You can connect USB devices to it (which disconnects them from the "host" PC), use the systems sound card, additional hard drives, optical drives - anything you want.
It's really that simple. You can go quite advanced even with the workstation version. It'll be worth grabbing something just to have a play - they can be extremely useful for sandboxing, general testing etc. I use one on site with me to build RM packages without the hassle of clean machines.
But, to give you an idea, we installed a new server last Summer; Compaq G5 and crammed it with 16Gb of RAM and a load of dual port hard drives. Downloaded and installed XenServer which is free for production use. Then, using the XenConsole divided this machine into 4 seperate virtual boxes allocating the appropriate number of CPUs, Memory and Storage for the task of each virtual servers. Micosoft Licensing allows you to install up to four servers with one copy of Server Enterprise on a Physical Box.
The box has performed flawlessly over the past year, we've got it working as the main home file store, a secondary Domain Controller, the main Print Server and a 'management' server looking after AV updates and WSUS. Monitoring the box during first morning logins and end of day logouts shows that the whole machine peaks at about 18% of capacity during these periods. The network cards are the hardest hit during these times, but it does not even break into a sweat.
CSE did the install for us last summer, and I'm looking to get another in this year to retire some of the older physical boxes. Then later on start looking to add SAN storage to this lot as well as we will be hitting capacity by then.
Hope that helps.
So what do I do with it now
I can see it being useful in a server environment where you might want different controllers doing different things, but for me at home, I don't have anything I can think of that I would want to use it for.
Everything I need to do I can do on my Win7 box.
I'll have a play around with Ubuntu for a bit, but I'm sh1te at command line stuff, SUDO this and CHMOD that!
i use VMWare Server, it's free to use, just install it on any PC running windows.
If you run on a desktop, it does steal some of the power away from your machine, so best to put it on a separate box that you don't want to use at the same time.
You can control the virtual machine(s) via a web page, and it even comes with it's own remote desktop client that you can download. I assume VMWare Workstation does the same.
I've used it for some time now to virtualise my SIMS setup, so i can test updates. I recently put the same software onto a new blade server we bought so i can utilise the extra power.
VMWare Server is free, but it's not as easy to make backups of your system. These are called snapshots and it's like system restore except it restores, system, hdd, memory the works back to a fixed point in time. VMWare server only allows 1 snapshot, VMWare fusion for the MAC allows multiple snapshots as do most paid for products.
The downside with this approach is that you are still running an underlying OS which comes with it's own pitfalls and caveats.
We are now looking into using a more robust system, using Microsoft Hyper-V. This comes in a version that involves installing a cut down version of Windows, and a bare metal version where you just install the basics, enough to boot and setup another virtual machine.
synaesthesia (21st February 2010)
You could use it to run a virtual XP / Vista box if you had software that wasn't yet Windows 7 enabled, maybe a game or something.
It's also a safe area to test new software as the virtual machine is essentially sandboxed and you can corrupt the registry all you like with random install / uninstalls and your main machine wont suffer.
Kubuntu is nice, better than ubuntu, also maybe look at edubuntu. it doesn't just have to be command line stuff, the GUI is pretty good.
This XenServer looks very interesting. Like others the most I get out of virtualisation is running Parallels Desktop for Mac.
Something to look into I think.
Out of interest what spec 4150s do you have? I was thinking of using 4 hosts but if you used 2 I may get away with less but a slightly higher spec in them perhaps?
john (21st February 2010)
One *fantastic* use I've done a couple of times is the ability to test on your servers - without breaking your servers.
For instance, I want to attempt something big on a CC3 server. I don't want downtime for the sake of the school, and it's just something I want to do. It may work, it may not.
So, use Acronis True Image to take a full image of the server, pop it on a USB drive. Make a VM, and restore the image to said VM using Universal Restore (similar to symantec BESR if you've not used it - similar & better IMO, using that can half the migration time from one server to another if you need to do it like that).
Identical software environment for testing with.
garethedmondson (21st February 2010)
I guess the things I don't understand or want more info on are: I'm not sure about hardware requirements to run it without it seeming sluggish. I'm also concerned about putting all the eggs into one basket so to speak, because the whole OS and everything on it is stored as a single file what if the underlying system went t1ts up? If I had multiple virtual machines running I'd lose them all.
I've also thought about using it on client machines because I only work in primary schools and they all have different hardware. At the minute each school has a ghost image per build, I'm trying to get autoinstalls or find ways of rolling out the software automatically and just have smaller images with the OS and updates on which I'm making good progress with but it occurred to me that I could create virtual machines instead. But as I said earlier, I'd just like to know more. Wikipedia is good source though.
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