Changing my virtualization strategy

Wednesday, October 1, 2008 1:48 PM

A few months back I talked about building a monster virtualization rig and installing VMWare Server 2.0 on Windows Server 2008 to host a handful of VMs. It’s been running fine for a while, but kept seeing minor networking and lag issues here and there. In addition, I get VMs from clients at times to test configurations, do performance testing, etc… and most of these are VHD files, Microsoft virtual hard disks for use with VirtualPC 2007 or Hyper-V.

Most of my customers don’t give me VMWare virtual machines (either created with VMWare Server, ESX or Workstation). I find more people are using Microsoft virtualization technology for development projects. Why? I can only guess it’s a price point issue. VMWare Workstation (what I use on my laptop & love) costs $200 whereas the MSFT offering (Virutal PC) is free (granted, Workstation is more full-featured than VPC providing snapshots, worth the $200 on their own). For a server offering, while VMWare Server 2.0 is free, it can’t be compared to Hyper-V or ESX because it will never be as fast without a hypervisor… that puts ESX against Hyper-V. Hyper-V is “free”… part of Windows Server 2008… whereas ESX isn’t. Now, I know VMWare Server 2.0 is never going to compete with Microsoft’s Hyper-V or VMWare ESX because the latter two contain hypervisors allowing the virtual machines to run closer to the metal.

The challenge was that if customers were giving me virtual machines to run, my current setup just wasn’t cutting it. There really was no reason I was using VMWare Server 2.0 over Hyper-V on my virtualization rig. At first I wanted the option to move VMs between my laptop & server, but always seemed problematic. But that’s also mitigated going to Hyper-V because I have a dual boot setup kicking with Vista & Windows Server 2008 on my laptop which has Hyper-V setup too. So, I still get that goodness of moving machines around.

At any rate, I finally elected to switch gears. Over the last two days I went through great pains to run my VMWare Server virtual machines off my laptop while I rebuilt my virtualization rig (which, BTW, I still love my dual XEON quad-core, 8 total cores of bliss, 1.5TB of fault tolerant RAID10 storage and 24GB RAM) with a clean install of Windows Server 2008 and Hyper-V (this time, being smart and creating a small 75GB OS partition with the rest going to data).

So far I am more than pleased with Hyper-V! I was installing Windows Server 2008 & 2003, SQL Server 2008, ISA 2006, Visual Studio 2008, Office SharePoint Server 2007… man you name it… across a few machines and I could barely keep up. I’m VERY pleased with how fast Hyper-V is. The admin interface is intuitive and easy to use… not exposing the tons of configuration options available in VMWare Server (sure, some would like more options, but my guess is 95% of the folks will look past those).

I’m still working on getting the remote admin configured. Thanks to Loke Kit Kai & Ben Rob, I got the Hyper-V Manager for Vista x64, but I’m having connectivity issues (even though both my laptop & virtualization server are in the same domain and I’m an admin. Still gotta get that kink worked out… but for now, RDP will suffice.

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