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I've been asked to setup a Windows server, and also help purchase it. I am in academia, so educational discounts apply. However, we do not have an unlimited budget; it's around $6k.

I'm looking for recommendations for the following requirements:

  • Be able to run a virtual instance (or two) of XP
  • Simultaneously, be able to run a virtual instance of Windows7
  • Connect to any VM with remote desktop, as well as the host
  • Each VM needs 1-2 cores and 2-4GB of RAM
  • Rack server needs redundant power supplies and multiple ethernet ports

Some questions:

  • Is Windows Server 2008 the best choice for the host OS? Linux is an option, too.
  • Is the Microsoft virtualization software better or worse than VMware?
  • What's included with Server 2008 as far as licenses for running virtual machines?

I've been looking at Dell rack servers with 2 sockets and 4-core Intel CPUs, 12-16GB RAM. Disk space is not a huge requirement here, just enough to hold multiple VMs, so mirror 500GB drives.

Workload in the VMs is mostly continuous, automated data processing, CPU-bound. No SQL servers required. I'm I in the right ballpark as far as hardware selection? Do I need more/less?

Recommended reading would also be helpful.

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Sounds like you're on the right track, but you're not leaving much room for expansion on the RAM (I'd go no less than 20GB if possible). – Chris S Feb 18 '11 at 1:42
@Chris - seconded. RAM is cheap and VM's will consume lots and lots of it. I would consider 16Gb as the bare minimum for anything to do with virtualisation these days. – Mark Henderson Feb 18 '11 at 2:45

I'm a Hyper-V fan myself. As for licensing i'd go with the following:

Hyper-V Server 2008 R2 (Free) Two Windows XP Pro One Windows 7

The desktop licensing should be pretty cheap with your educational discounts.

Hardware I'd shoot for two procs at least 2ghz quad core, and at least 3.5gb of ram for the two xp, unless you go 64bit, and 4+gigs for the Windows 7. You want to make sure you leave a few gigs (4 to 6) available for the host OS.

Since you're just doing mirroring you might consider getting some high speed SAS drives.

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+1 If he's running Hyper-V Server (not that it's not the same as adding the Hyper-V Role to Windows Server) he need about 512MB of RAM for the Hypervisor. – Chris S Feb 18 '11 at 19:11
@Chris S: True that..I forgot I suggested the Hyper-V Server and not the role. – ErnieTheGeek Feb 18 '11 at 21:20

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