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I'm looking at creating a few VM's for our small company to be able to move mail/client services/development etc, and have hit a few dead ends when it comes to infrastructure on VM's (for free).

I'd like to get autostart working so that if my hardware goes down, the mail vm (or similar) will come up on boot.

  • It seems that free VirtualBox won't do it (even with vboxtool)
  • VMWare Server would, but I've got a 2.6.32-25 linux kernel which I can't find patches for. And then I find they're discontinuing it anyhow...

This may seem "cheap", but if it's the case that there's nothing free for this, I just won't virualize important services. It'd be nice, but it's not important.

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up vote 5 down vote accepted

What makes you think VirtualBox doesn't support a scripted autostart ?

VBoxManage startvm <machinename> should just work, unless I'm missing something.

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Absolutely. You can add startup and shutdown scripts to the host so that the VMs go up and down automatically and cleanly. Setting up the RDP ports automatically allows them to be run completely headless. – gWaldo Nov 11 '10 at 13:56
That would be VNC instead of RDP for the free edition (OSE) i.e. option -n. – jlliagre Nov 11 '10 at 15:39
I guess vboxtool lead me down the wrong path with RDP (and not available on OSE). I'm not super hot on startup/service scripts in linux, but I guess I could learn. I'll try KVM first though, since it's linuxy (and hopefully therefore has tooling and integration...). [And not that my question is about this but...] I guess a windows host would be out for this autostarting, since it needs a command? – Stephen Nov 13 '10 at 8:03
phpVirtualBox is a great web front end to VirtualBox. Startup/shutdown scripts are included on their website – Tim Williscroft Nov 24 '10 at 1:38
VBoxManage startvm <machinename> --type headless works for me. KVM did not help me as I have an atom box which does not provide the processor extensions. (So yes, I guess you were missing something :)). Without the --type headless I get an error – Stephen Jun 22 '11 at 11:23

If I understand correctly you want your VMs to boot automatically when the physical server starts. If this is the case then Citrix XenServer does exactly this. There's an option called "Auto-start server on boot".

The free version has less features than the paid version as you would expect, but it's pretty complete and works well.

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The free version of ESXi will also allow you to auto start guests (along with all the other fine suggestions mentioned already).

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This is now called "VMware vSphere Hypervisor"... it seems to run on bare metal (instead of an application), which would need to replace our current server. Not something we want to do right now, but interesting for the future. – Stephen Nov 13 '10 at 8:06

KVM is now part of most of the popular distros, such as Red Hat, Debian and Ubuntu.

For the auto-start part you could use a small shell script for monitoring the physical hardware from the virtual machine and if it goes down, take over the IP addresses and what other resources you need for your mail to work. Or use Heartbeat, though I haven't used it in that kind of physical-virtual mixed environment, so I don't know if it might cause any problems.

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I can't believe it. I've been suggested KVM before, but I've come from hardware and never conceived that it could be a software package too. A very geeky and dangerous name indeed. My autostart is about starting the virtual clients when the host boots. Given KVM is linux based, I don't think there'll be an issue here. – Stephen Nov 11 '10 at 12:00
the easiest is to use libvirt to handle KVM. it lets you set any VM as autostart. – Javier Nov 11 '10 at 12:25

Proxmox is a free standalone vm server product similar to XenServer or ESXi based on KVM:

It's got a nice UI with options to auto-start vm's on boot if desired:

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