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HI there!

I've got a much deeper question regarding VM architecture, but need to ask this first. For cost-saving as well as power-saving, I am thinking of having 3 VMs (1 Trixbox CE, 1 Windows 2008 R2, 1 Ubuntu server) run off a machine that will also be used as a workstation and storage center - I guess by now, eyebrows are raised and heads are shaking, but hear me out...

The use of the above will not be simultaneous. The machine is intended to be on for no more than 14 hours a day. For 10 hours in the day I envisage running the 3 VMs. Thereafter the 3 VMs will be shut down, and the machine will be used as a workstation for the remaining 4 hours.

The host OS will be a Linux derivative - please advise on this in conjunction with Virtualization...I only have experience with Ubuntu Server, and do know my way around the console. I would also like to make my +/-3TB of disk space (RAID 10) available in a sort of "NAS" fashion to all Operating systems (incl. VMs) and to all devices across the local network.

Firstly, what reservations do you have about this setup? And if it is possible/feasible, how should I setup (not looking for details here, just a nudge in the right direction) the Virtual Machines.

I would imagine that a lot of people ask similar questions to cut corners, but if its not possible, or unfeasible then I would have to look at an alternative setup. Looking back on my question, I realise that it is a bit silly to ask, but I cannot find any other way to ask this. I greatly appreciate your response.

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2 Answers 2

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Seems reasonable if you're strapped for cash. If possible, though, I'd highly suggest looking into whether or not you'd be able to run ESXi (which is free) instead of VMware Server. You'll need to look into whether or not your hardware is on the ESXi HCL. If it is, you'll find that ESXi gives vastly superior performance to VMware Server.

For your storage/NAS needs, just spin up another VM with a large disk allocation and share it out however you need, whether via SMB, iSCSI, NFS, etc.

Also, as long as you watch your RAM and CPU utilization, there's really no reason all three of your proposed VMs can't be running 24x7. As long as things are performing well, then have at it!

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Hey Erik, thanx for the reply! ESXi was an option I considered...although iirc it is "headless", ie. it acts purely as a server and cannot be used in a workstation fashion. Am I correct in my undertsanding of this? Am I also correct in assuming that once installed, ESXi becomes the host OS and cannot be used in conjunction with another OS unless the latter is a VM? –  Shalan Nov 9 '10 at 1:05
    
Please also keep in mind that I haven't factored in VLANs into this setup yet. Thanks! –  Shalan Nov 9 '10 at 1:16
    
yea, looks like esxi runs straight on top of the hardware - thegeekstuff.com/2010/06/… –  Shalan Nov 9 '10 at 1:23
    
Yes, ESXi does run on bare metal. This is what gives it far superior performance to VMware Server - fewer layers of abstraction between your VMs and the hardware. VLANS should be no problem - ESXi has native support for 802.1q tagged trunked ports. –  EEAA Nov 9 '10 at 1:51
    
Thanx Erik. Just for closure, do you have any concerns with having a "file server" as one of the VMs? From what I've been seeing, a lot of people setup their whitebox, have ESXi booting from USB flash drive, and then have their datastore on a separate networked device. I'm trying to be prudent with my budget and available space, whilst also allowing for the future. So yes, this is going to a production environment for my small business. –  Shalan Nov 9 '10 at 9:41

Storage performance and RAM are your biggest concerns here. Make sure that hardware includes at least a quad core CPU as well. Without knowing what kinds of workloads you're likely to be doing on those VMs it's hard to make a real recommendation for storage; you may be able to get away with a simple RAID1 pair, or you may need six disks in a RAID10 setup. Maximizing your RAM is a very good idea as it'll give you flexibility in your workstation and VM workloads, as well as enough headroom to deal with the occasional test-VM.

This is quite doable, but I would not consider it production.

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Thanx sysadmin! Regarding the hardware requirements, I haven't decided on a M/B yet, but a Dual Xeon came to mind, with at least 8GB of RAM. I have 4x 1.5TB SATA drives and considering RAID10. Your last line however, worries me to an extent...I am considering this setup for my small business. There are 6 users incl. myself, and I don't have a big budget. But I am trying to go for a setup/architecture that is scalable into the future. –  Shalan Nov 9 '10 at 1:12

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