VM Server ideas?

Discussion in 'Operating Systems' started by destrekor, May 8, 2012.

  1. destrekor

    destrekor Lifer

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    I have this idea, in part just to play around with this stuff, but it also stems from a practicality point.

    My last PC build is basically sitting lifeless, and I want to turn it into a VM server.
    (It has an Intel C2D e6420 at its heart)

    I was digging around for information on Hyper-V 2008, seems like it might work with a few tricks here and there.

    These are the things I would ultimately like to have work:

    A light VM Server OS, with Windows 7 VM, an Ubuntu VM, and later in the future probably a Windows 2008 Server VM (that would be for storage purposes and possibly playing around to improve my IT knowledge if I try and pursue that career path again).

    This would be on my LAN, and I would put most use into the Win7 VM. I'd like to remote desktop into it (or whatever offers the best performance) and have all of my vital USB peripherals usable from my main desktop on that PC. I have a triple monitor desktop, and ultimately I'd like to be able to use, when needed, one of the monitors for this purpose. Currently, I run a VM on my desktop and do pretty much the same thing - wouldn't mind better performance though).

    The main reason for the Win7 VM is to do all of my Army-related internet activity, without installing all of their bullshit security tools on my desktop. They have a nasty habit of causing issues, and I want this PC as free of problems as possible.

    Aside from USB keyboard and mouse, a smartcard reader would also be attached to my main machine (and only the driver installed). If I could remotely access this VM and utilize the reader and access everything, I'd be a happy camper.

    Until I mess around with Windows Server, I don't foresee a need to have this server on 24/7. I don't know much about VM Servers, but would I be able to utilize Wake on LAN and directly call up a specific VM OS desktop from my main machine?

    Is there a "best" server OS for this? And, more importantly, best performance?
    My desktop has an i7 2600K (@ 4.8GHz) with 8GB RAM... would I still end up having better performance with a local VM, or can I eek more out of a server-based VM running on my Core2Duo e6420 box (I think it has 4GB DDR2 - that could be upgraded, if necessary) ?
    I'd also like the base server OS to be free. :)

    As a bonus, could I access these server-based VMs remotely using my laptop from who knows where, utilizing VNC or some such?
    It would probably be pitiful due to the 1Mbps upload on our cable line, but if possible still a treat. :)
     
  2. Lifted

    Lifted Diamond Member

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    See if ESXi will run on that box. You can try ESXi 5, if that doesn't work give 4 a shot. Both will run forever in "free" unlicensed mode.
     
  3. destrekor

    destrekor Lifer

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    Well this is the latest Free product: vSphere Hypervisor
    Difficult really figuring out the differences between the free version and what a paid version offers, especially in regards to how it relates to what I want to do.

    Earlier versions... are there less differences between free/paid?
     
  4. Lifted

    Lifted Diamond Member

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    Yes, that's it. Once you register and log in you'll see the latest version with an option to download previous versions.

    No, pretty much the same. They introduced memory tax in 5, but that doesn't apply to you as the unlicensed version supports 32GB RAM. Try 5, if it works then stick with it. You should consider trying 4 if you experience any problems running 5.
     
  5. Dahak

    Dahak Diamond Member

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    There should not be any issue running esxi 5 on that. I have it running on a c2q with no issues. About the biggest issue would be storage speed, and memory.

    nice thing about esxi you can install it to a usb stick and boot from that, instead of wasting a hard drive, as i believe the install has to be seperate from the datastore ( i could be wrong)
     
  6. Chiefcrowe

    Chiefcrowe Diamond Member

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    The usb boot is a really great feature! I wonder though what would happen if something malfunctioned with the usb, how do you recover?


     
  7. dawks

    dawks Diamond Member

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    I run ESXi off of a USB thumb drive and use the internal drives just for datastores. Works great.

    A buddy does the same, he had a USB thumb drive die on him, so he just popped in a new one, and reinstalled ESXi. It recognized the datastores and he just had to import the .vmx config files, and was back up and running.
    He actually got everything configured nicely, then made a few backup thumb drives, so if one ever dies again, he just has to swap them, and power on. Back up and running in a few minutes.
     
  8. dawks

    dawks Diamond Member

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    VMware's licensing and naming can be pretty frustrating, but for what you want to do the free ESXi is perfect. Unless you want to move into high-availability, hot-swapping, VMotion, etc.... some really fancy data center level stuff..

    I'm normally a Microsoft guy, but I definitely prefer VMware for virtualization. Hyper-V will finally come closer to feature parity with VMware on Windows Server 8, still not quite there.

    One thing Virtual servers like, RAM RAM RAM. Toss as much ram in the box as you can. VMware ESXi can run with as little as 30mb RAM so its pretty efficient, but the Guest OS's love ram.
     
  9. destrekor

    destrekor Lifer

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    Now, with something like this, will performance be greater than keeping these VMs on my actual desktop? Sure, the desktop has more resources and better hardware, but it has to share.
    Also, would each VM on the server always be running, or does one only boot up upon command?

    And can I take my already established VMs from VirtualBox and just throw them into the server? Of course, some configurations will probably have to be tweaked (or not? :)), but if I can just throw them in there and everything works great, that would be awesome.
    Not a huge deal if that's not possible, of course.

    Also, for the data stores, will virtual drives work? I might be limited on HDDs and don't know if I want to spend cash that I don't really have right now on a side project like this. I will be considering more memory, but DDR2 isn't pricey anymore. And will overclocking and whatnot really present a big boost for the VMs? That C2D I had running at 3.4GHz I believe, but dropping it down to save power is something I have considered. Then again, if I can utilize Wake on LAN and just use it when needed, for now, I wouldn't mind pushing everything out of the box like I had when it was my main system. :D
    Also, it has a dedicated GPU in that box still. Can I make use of that for the virtual machines to any real effect? GPU-accelerated browsing and whatnot?
     
    #9 destrekor, May 8, 2012
    Last edited: May 8, 2012
  10. PCTC2

    PCTC2 Diamond Member

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    You should note that the main issue with ESXi is not the processor, but the motherboard. Make sure you have the drivers for your NICs for ESXi (or whatever it is called now).

    I haven't used ESXi or whatever it is now since ESXi 4.1 and it did not play well with Realtek NICs so much as I went out and bought a 4-port Intel Gigabit NIC.

    As for Virtualbox VMs, follow something like this: http://www.techrepublic.com/blog/wi...ox-files-to-work-with-vmware-workstation/2997
    but use the VMware Standalone Converter.
     
  11. dawks

    dawks Diamond Member

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    Yea, running your VM's on a dedicated box, even with slower hardware can still end up being 'faster'. Sharing resources on a desktop system can bog things down. Little things like the host OS hitting the harddrive cuts into performance.

    As for migrating.. I've never played with VirtualBox so I dont know how it translates to VMware, but you could check out VMware converter. Thats how I moved my Windows Server from Virtual Server to ESXi. Worked out great. But the virtual device drivers (like network cards) are most certainly different, so it *might* require more than a few tweaks.

    You can tell it to start each guest automatically, delays between each, or have it start just one, or none.. its up to you. I have 3 servers on one ESXi box and have them set to boot 2 minutes apart so each gets a far shake at the resources.

    I'm pretty sure ESXi doesn't do any sort of 3D acceleration. Its not a desktop VM solution. You probably wont even get Aero on the desktop.
     
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