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I'm looking to build a small business server with the goal of having it do little more than hosting a few virtual servers on it. The virtual servers will be running Linux. Originally I thought about having the main physical server OS being a Linux variant, but I've been reading about the advantages of ZFS lately and am interested in using something for the physical server OS that supports ZFS so that the virtual server images can live on the ZFS filesystem and be better protected against corruption.

I'm thinking that I will need to go with some sort of Solaris variant, but I'd like to keep it simple if possible. I've read about Nexenta, but it seems like most people are using it as a file server, not as a host for virtual servers. Could someone point me towards an OS that can do what I'm looking at doing? Thanks.

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5 Answers

Solaris Zones (a.k.a. Containers) were originally able to run "Branded Zones," which were slightly different than just another instance of Solaris 10. Solaris 8 and Linux were the only two Branded Zones that I ever saw.

You can read more about Linux Zones here: http://hub.opensolaris.org/bin/view/Community+Group+brandz/

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Well, my answer isn't towards your exact question, but I hope it still can be helpful.


ZFS is cool thing, but if you're going to use Linux you'd better forget about ZFS, at least for some time until its kernel-level port is matured enough. Actually, Linux Soft RAID x LVM-2 x {EXT{3,4}, Reiser3} will be quite enough. Why? -- Well, hosting is mostly about giving data out, not getting it (though it depends on what your hosted apps do exactly). I mean, your disks are reading mostly, not writing, so ZFS' COW and always-full-stripe write is kinda non-topical feature. All those scare things regarding bits flip-flops are rather extremely rare if you use qualitative hardware. Scratching your Linux Soft RAID you will have opportunities to be assured in it. Its bitmaps and fast partial re-sync is your protection from RAID5-write-holes w/o any BBUs and stripe cache is quite a valuable speed-up provider when doing partial writes.

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If all you need is any Unix for your virtual hosts, also look at Solaris zones. You'll get a lot better performance as everything runs under one kernel, and you don't have to pre-allocate memory. It's not the same as something like virtualbox which runs a completely independent OS but handles the requirements of most Unix virtualization. If you need open source, look at the replacement for OpenSolaris: http://openindiana.org/

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I need to run Linux in my virtual machines so I don't think zones are going to work in this case. –  Nick Feb 11 '11 at 2:55
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You could run Xen on opensolaris.

This discussion seems relevant: CentOS or OpenSolaris for Xen dom0?

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You should also consider using FreeBSD, recent versions of FreeBSD support ZFS natively. FreeBSD supports VirtualBox as a host.

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...and you can run relatively recent Linux userspace inside a Jail, bypassing most of the overhead of a full-on virtualization solution. –  larsks Feb 10 '11 at 2:38
    
That's also available on Solaris but they call them zones. –  JOTN Feb 11 '11 at 0:48
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