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I'm planning to move a service which is currently powered by Debian into a VirtualBox. That would allow us to easily port it i.e. to a faster machine if required. The setup would be:

debian host > Virtual Box #1 > debian instance #1 running Apache & application
            > Virtual Box #2 > debian instance #2 containing database

Do you have any experience with a production setup based on Virtual Box? Is it stable and fast enough? Would you recommend a different product?

Many thanks!

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2 Answers 2

up vote 6 down vote accepted

In my experiences, virtualbox is more for running a virtualized desktop system, not a server. IT's great for things like running VMWare ESXi which needs to be managed from Windows, but I only had a Linux system, so I virtualized Windows to run the tools. Or it's great for testing things. But I wouldn't run a server from it for production because I really don't think it's meant to be used in that capacity. Plus if it's running on a workstation, you'll increase the chances of having the server go down due to reboots, crashes, other programs having issues, etc.

I would really consider using a product better geared towards running servers, like Xen, VMWare ESXi or VMWare Server, or Hyper-V. They have tools that are better geared towards running production servers, in with the free editions.

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Support for VmWare Server will stop on 30 june 2011, it may be a better choice to use VmWare ESXi. See vmware.com/support/policies/lifecycle/general/#policy_server –  Maxwell Jun 15 '10 at 16:01
    
VirtualBox certainly is excellent at running more of a "desktop virtualization" scenario, but saying it is not for running servers is plain misleading. It has support for things like transporting a running VM between hosts - something you would more likley do in a server like environment... the team has been making great strides over the last couple of years to make it a completely robust and capable product. –  Goyuix Jun 15 '10 at 16:07
    
I hadn't seen that feature until now, and looking into it the feature looks rather new. Doesn't easily show up in searches either because instead of calling it live migration they call it "teleporting", and the feature is little more than a footnote in the user manual. Bottom line, in my opinion, can virtualbox be used as a server? Yes, it can be shoehorned into that role. Is it designed with 24/7 server support in mind? I don't think so. Reviewing docs and information again doesn't give me that impression at all. I do love it for desktop use, though. –  Bart Silverstrim Jun 15 '10 at 18:17

As already said by Bart VirtualBox is more oriented to a desktop kind of usage. There it has the bonus of being truly multi platform (you can get VB for Linux, OSX, Solaris, Win) and having a nice interface.

For simple server installations I'm more used to run VMware Server, I find it is more suitable. My host system of choice is an Ubuntu LTS, and I have a range of systems from old Ubuntu 6.06 + VMwareServer1 to Ubuntu 10.04 + VMwareServer2.

VMware Server already includes the infrastructure to autostart VMs at boot (VirtualBox does not), including options to start one at a time (to not overload the host).

Also, I found VMware Server more suitable to run exotic things (last week we succesfully ported a SCO OpenServer 5 system from metal to VMware Server 2 - while it did not even boot in VirtualBox during a quick test).

VMware Server 2 includes a nice WEB admin interface (useful if your server is headless), but it lacks a decent console (its own native one is a browser plugin for linux and windows, no Mac). Luckily you can just edit VM properties to add a VNC console and use that :)

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I used to use the plain server product, then moved to ESXi, which doesn't require a host OS. The management software is vSphere, which isn't perfect but I personally preferred it over the web interface (unfortunately it's Windows only). I've also been considering trying out Hyper-V, free, still type 1 hypervisor, supposedly with live migration capable in the free version. –  Bart Silverstrim Jun 15 '10 at 14:15
    
I didn't like the web interface so much. I think it was a hate it or love it thing. –  Bart Silverstrim Jun 15 '10 at 14:16
    
Oh well I hate it too, even if I find it 'nice'. It probably has something to do with not having seen a better web interface so far for a product like that - but then I never used ESXi or similar things. Also ESXi afaik has stricter requirements on the hardware, whereas we throw VMwareServer on the single, do-it-all, server we often have at customers' site. Many 'competitor' products were not a choice, my VMwere Servers are running since long before all the VT-x hype came out. In datacenter I manage HA clusters made on Xen & pacemaker cluster manager, but that's not the case of this question. –  Luke404 Jun 15 '10 at 16:58
    
ESXi can be a PITA with hardware, yes, but most of the type 1 hypervisors can be. There are sites out there that trade in information on building "white boxes", hardware that works with products like ESXi without being on the official support list. Basically they are picky because of drivers and CPU features, and you're free to try it on other hardware, just no guarantee that they'll support it at all if you didn't do what they tell you. –  Bart Silverstrim Jun 15 '10 at 18:07
    
I definitely agree that VMware Server makes a good impression, but the license which is needed for commercial usage is quite expensive. Hence we will aim at Xen. Many thanks! –  MrG Jun 16 '10 at 10:44

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