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I want to replace a bunch of aging desktops running various unit tests with a single server running virtual machines.

These tests are memory and processor intensive, take time to run (up to 12 hrs in some cases), test parallel code (so we run them on multicore machines).

Currently each machine (5 of them) has from 2 to 8 core processors, with from 4-16G memory and some of them do double duty as developer workstations.

What important things should I look for when considering a virtualization server as opposed to say buying a server for web-hosting or a file server?

Also which virtualization software would you recommend (this is a linux-only shop)? Currently I'm leaning towards the free open-source Virtualbox, mainly because I have a little experience with it.

Why might I even consider VMWare vSphere or one of the other premium alternatives in my current context? Thanks.

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3 Answers 3

I'm don't sure to grasp your actual server configuration. Do you have some server with multi-processor? If so, then maybe the solution might be using them as hypervisor type 1.

Also with the load on you computer only having 1 virtualization server is like suicide! Remember Virtualization is a powerfull tool, but misusing and misunderstanding virtualization principle will lead you to disaster! You must look carefully onto the problem, and ask yourself if the virtualization is the solution.

Like TomTom said, using virtualization can lead you company to a new way of managing server.

Don't forget entering the virtualization path is very expensive investment, but it's worth!!!

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I want to replace a bunch of aging desktops running various unit tests with a single server running virtual machines.

Wont work. You need way too much processing powre for ONE server to make sense. Not saying virtualization is off, but unless you want to ad a LOT of money into a monster machine CPU wise, you are etter off planning for some servers.

What important things should I look for when considering a virtualization server as opposed to say buying a server for web-hosting or a file server?

DISC IO. This is a bottleneck in most lower end servers and it only becomes a LOT worse when you do a lot of servers on the same discs. Supermicro has wonderfull server cases that are made for virtualization (unless you have a SAN) that support anywhere from 24 to 72 discs IN ONE CASE. If you tihink this is too much... I run a 64gb dual procesor Hyper-V server and I am now at about 19 discs, three of them SSD, and I STILL have performance problems on the IO subsystem at times (which is ok - patchhing up 30 servers causes a lot of disc IO).

Currently I'm leaning towards the free open-source Virtualbox, mainly because I have a little experience with it.

VmWare ESXI is free, too. In general the commercial offerings - VmWare and Microsoft - are better sutied for the higher end market because they are used more in there and enterprise customers just need some features lower end scenarios never have. VmWare leads here eature wise, but by sa nt always relevant margin (i.e. Hyper-V has all the features I consider important and lacks some I dont really care about). VirtualBox is IIRC a littleon the primitive side. And you dont want to rplace this when it starts spreading - virtualization is also perfect for a lot of other scenarios, so you may put your company on a new direction ;)

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VirtualBox isn't on the primitive side for its' intended usage, which is desktop/workstation virtualization. It could be used for server virtualization, provided that the user's needs are within its' limits. –  Joe Internet Jul 4 '11 at 4:40
    
Touché on calling out the VirtualBox misinformation! –  user48838 Jul 4 '11 at 7:21
    
VirtualBox is a type 2, when Hyper-V and EsxI are type 1. This anwser everything. As for a free solution, I have a trial server at work, which have been used to test Hyper-V and EsxI, for me EsxI is the best type 1, it's sure that if you want a complete version (with support and so on) buying the license Esx is a solution. But for starting, I find Hyper-V better, just to grasp the virtualization principle. –  Anarko_Bizounours Jul 4 '11 at 7:22

The requirements/specifications are still too vague without identifying the characteristics of the applications (continuous/average/peak load, memory, I/O, etc.) being tested. The potential collective requirements may be considerable based on what you have identified as the individual system configurations.

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