Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Messing with Virtualization

In my ongoing quest to improve the efficiency of how I maintain my lab, I'm looking into virtualization as a way to setup test PCs.  This will probably work OK when testing applications, though it won't work when testing connectivity issues.  E.g., if I need to test tweaks for Windows XP's TCP setting to optimize throughput, I need to be running XP right on the hardware.

This morning I downloaded VMWare Server 2.  It's free-as-in-beer, always a plus when one's budget is limited.  For a host OS I'm using CentOS 5.2, running on one of my 2.66 GHz Core 2 Duo boxes.  I figured I'd get better performance using Linux as the host, vs. using a Windows host.  The box has 3 GB of RAM so I should be able to run a couple of VMs concurrently, as long as I'm not doing something requiring significant disk I/O or network access.

For my first guest OS I loaded the Windows 7 Beta.  I'd previously run it directly on an identical PC, and was quite impressed.  Rather than an entirely new OS, it feels to me like Vista SP2 or Vista SE.  In other words, Vista without the suck.  It's a lot lighter than Vista and seems to run about as fast as XP does on this hardware.  Installing W7 into a VM went smoothly.

I'm now building a second VM, this time using Solaris 10 x86 (32 bit) as the guess OS.  Not being conversant with Solaris I'm using the default settings in VMWare and the Solaris install, except that I allocated more RAM than VMware asked for, 1024 MB vs. 540 MB.

VMware Server 2 uses a web interface.  Frankly, I'm not thrilled with this as compared with a non-web interface as it's sluggish.

After I use this setup for awhile I intend to replace VMware with Sun's VirtualBox to see how it compares.

1 comment:

Al Sande said...

Hi, Dave,

I've been playing around with VMWare Server for a couple of years now (both Linux and XP hosts) and agree that V2 is not quite up to expectations. For that reason, I've stuck with the V1.0x series (except for a couple of test boxes). I'm not sure if the older version is still downloadable or not since the release of V2, but the interface is a lot "snappier". On a related note, VMWare Fusion 2.0 on the Mac appears to be a keeper - it doesn't use the clunky web interface, but has added a lot of functionality over the Server series. The downside is the $80 cost...