May 13, 2007

Virtual Machines for Real Work?

Virtualization in IT has opened up technical doors that many large software vendors have no idea how to deal with. Not that running Windows on a Mac hasn’t been done before, but doing it while running a linux distro and testing freetds with the latest mssql server all on the same box sure was. This opens up some new worlds to internet hosting providers who have been virtualizing unices for some time. Now they can have one expensive box that has little virtual servers of whatever their clients want.

Crazy and just a small part of what the technology will offer. I have a server on the way I plan to use this same technique on to run Linux, and Windows servers on for my personal use and development. While playing the hurry up and wait game that I usually play when waiting for hardware, I realized if I’m going to virtualize these systems later anyway why not go ahead and find a good VM that runs under linux and get to setting up the server.

So I did I found Quemu, KVM, Xen, Parallels, VMWare, and the rest of the usual suspects. Then a weird name caught my eye something i had not read a million times before about. Innotek (Office Space Reference?) VirtualBox. They had a mac version so I downloaded it and tried it out. I used an ubuntu iso that gave me some trouble under Parallels and it work flawlessly. It even seems to run a bit faster than Parallels.

I spent quite a bit of time testing this setup to make sure it would work for my use and then I downloaded the manual. To my surprise the VM supports RDC. This means without any other software installed in the guest os I have remote control of it. In addition there is a headless mode that is perfect for servers that aren’t running a gui.

Image of Fedora Core 6 Install
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This and the lack of any additional monetary investments made this product the perfect test candidate for my little experiment it will be interesting to see how the next few weeks play out while setting up this new server. Luckily I already have the linux side finished and I will finish up the windows side tonight. This means when deployment time comes I need to get a base linux install, put the VirtualBox software on the host machine copy the guest oses to their new home and create a startup script for start the guest oses when the machine boots and I’m ready to deploy.

Then I will have two systems running side by side and complete control over how they interact and if I want to later I can change them out in the field entirely remotely.

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