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I want to get people's opinion on OpenSource VM software. What options are there to host Virtual Servers? What are the positives or negatives? Do you need a dedicated employee for it?

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up vote 2 down vote accepted

I highly recommend Proxmox:

It offers OpenVZ or KVM guests, has a pretty decent web-based admin interface and you can easily cluster hosts so that they can be administered from a single web-based interface.

I wouldn't say you need to dedicate an employee to it - but that depends on how many hosts/guests you intend to have, etc. The employee that is tasked with administering the system will need to know some Linux however as Proxmox is based on a stripped-down version of Debian. But even the bare-metal installer is GUI and very easy to setup.

It is really a remarkable FOSS project - check it out.

We are using it for developer sandboxes, testing instances, etc. and have 3 hosts and about 20 KVM guests all administered from one web-based interface.


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Absolutely checking it out! thanks – capdragon Apr 25 '11 at 20:19

I'm not sure about open source VMs platforms. But if you have a large virtualization infrastructure than you may need a dedicated admin to manage it. In smaller shops the normal admin staff can manage the host systems as well.

With the larger virtualization platforms (VMware, and Hyper-V) you get a pretty robust set of tools to mange the infrastructure along with some great high availability options.

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Thanks. +1 for your input – capdragon Apr 25 '11 at 19:38

The general problem with open source is that while the software is free your time is not. Based on the way you asked the question it seems as if you are just at the very beginning of looking into virtualization. What is true is that virtualization will likely benefit your organization immensely but at the same time it can be a complex field in terms of making the right decision to satisfy your requirements, environment, and budget.

Without more information as to what infrastructure you currently have and where you want to go by spending how much it's very difficult to give reasonable advice.

In the open source field there's Xen, KVM and OpenVZ as viable candidates. However, VMware vSphere and even Hyper-V are competitive in TCO depending on application even though they are not open source or free for that matter.

You definitely want someone who knows what they are doing as your entire production infrastructure will depend on it working. That doesn't necessarily have to be a dedicated employee but certainly someone who has the skills to run the setup.

EDIT to address reply:

I know that a bunch of folks will disagree with me, but considering that you are a small shop and that you won't have dedicated staff and that your current staff doesn't have all day to monkey with the virtualization solution and browse forums, mailing lists, serverfault to find a solution to a particular problem, I strongly suggest to give VMware vSphere a closer look. Yes, it is commercial but the vSphere Essentials package is decently priced and you have someone to call. Even if you are going with the free ESXi product you will still come out ahead since there are a lot of free tools out there to administer it.

I am not knocking the open source projects but at the end of the day VMware shines in payroll savings when it comes to administering the hosts as well as all the features which are integrated and just work right out of the box.

Still, any of the virtualization solutions are fairly easy to deploy to get an idea of what's what. Just pick a couple three of them and spin them up for a test run to see which works best for your colleagues and yourself.

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See in previous jobs virtualization was handled by the IT admins. Now we are a small shop... 1 admin (barely), 1 DB/unix guy, and me (the developer). We have a few "monster" servers i thought we could use to create more app servers using virtualization. – capdragon Apr 25 '11 at 20:28
+1 thanks for the input – capdragon Apr 25 '11 at 20:29
I appreciate your Edit a lot thanks! – capdragon Apr 25 '11 at 21:05
+1 for recommending VMware. It's false economy to think that a potentially maintenance-heavy F/OSS virtualization solution is for-sure the way to go here. – EEAA Apr 25 '11 at 21:23

I used VMWare (free and non-free versions), Hyper-V, Xen and Parrallels.

What I can tell you is that if you are going to run a Windows only environment. Don't break your nuts, get Hyper-V. It's a very decent hypervisor.

As for the other ones, my choice is Parrallels. To me, it has everything you need, and then some, for a very good price.

If you insist on free/OpenSource, there is also KVM but I never used I can't rate it.

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Thanks for your input +1 – capdragon Apr 25 '11 at 20:18

You can use VMware Server for free, but it has limited features. It sort of depends how comfortable you are with the host platforms. If you're a strong Windows person, VMware Server might be a good fit. If you're comfortable with Linux, KVM or XEN should be easy to pick up.

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Do you happen to know the main differences between the free and paid version of VM? +1 – capdragon Apr 25 '11 at 20:49
Please don't recommend VMware Server. That should only be used as a last-ditch effort if your hardware isn't on ESXi's HCL. ESXi can be downloaded and used for free - it uses the same hypervisor as the paid versions of ESXi do, and the performance you'll get out of it is vastly superior to what you'd be able to get with VMware Server. – EEAA Apr 25 '11 at 21:20
I agree, ESXi is a better alternative if you have the correct hardware. If not, there is not a problem with VMware Server IMO. I think it's better than running VirtualBox because you can easily move your VMs into Vsphere if you upgrade later. Also just to clarify on ErikA's comment. ESXi is the hypervisor, and it is free. The paid version is actually Vcenter licenses to be able to manager a cluster of ESXi hosts. If you don't need the cluster features such Vmotion, then you can manage individual ESXi hosts with the free infrastructure client. – Robert Apr 26 '11 at 13:06

I recommend looking at xen cloud platform. It is an opensource version of xenserver 5.6fp1. We use it in production with 8 servers and we will be adding many more by the end of the quarter. Ifyou have questions about my setup let me know.

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Thanks for the input, i'll try it out +1 – capdragon Apr 26 '11 at 13:49

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