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I have an old Rackable System I recently purchased which doesn't have a CD drive and currently has an old version of Ubuntu. Eventually, I'd like to run 1 (or more) copy(ies) of CentOS on it. It's got 4GB RAM, 2x processors, and 4x 250gb hdd RAID.

I originally thought about burning a network install iso of CentOS onto a USB drive and booting from it. However, I'm also thinking about virtualizing the box and putting 2 or 3 different servers on it.

I've never actually installed a virtualization product like ESXI onto hardware before, so have absolutely no idea which product I should use - or if what I want to do is even possible. However, I do have experience using Hypervisor and creating VPS's in an already-running Hypervisor environment.

I want to do this for a few reasons: 1) Learn more about doing virtualization. :) 2) Have a (safe) test bed for Linux applications I want to consider for my production VPS's 3) Have a separate VPS on this old box running backups of my production stuff, doing monitoring, etc...

So, my question, restated, is this: is it possible to run a bare-metal virtualization product on a server like the one I'm describing? If so, which out of the 3-4 big names in virtualization would you recommend? And how would I go about doing this? Is installing a product like this similar to installing an OS - pop in a USB drive or a CD with an ISO on it or something?

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Do the processors on this box support hardware virtualization extensions? – Doug Mar 21 '12 at 11:03
up vote 3 down vote accepted

Yes, assuming there are no specialized hardware driver requirements. The two more popular bare-metal hypervisor technologies are ESXi and Xen. Both can be installed through their CD/DVD installation options.

If specialized hardware drivers are required, then Hyper-V under Windows and VirtualBox can be considered. The base OS is installed through their regular means and then the hypervisors will ride on top of the host OS.

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This is what I thought. The problem is, I don't have a CD drive. Is this also possible with a bootable USB? I was thinking of going with ESXi, since I'm already familiar with how VMware's Vsphere works when it's up and running - I'm thinking that's probably my best option. – David W Jul 12 '11 at 23:17
I'd never consider VirtualBox for a server, but otherwise +1 for all the basics. All can be booted from USB (either the setup, or the actual system). Keep in mind that vSphere costs, the basic management tools for the others are free. – Chris S Jul 12 '11 at 23:18
There are probably USB options/hacks available, assuming the system can boot off of USB memory. – user48838 Jul 12 '11 at 23:21
I had a problem in the past trying to install ESXi from usb flash drive. I guess installer at some point is looking for CD-ROM drive explicitly. I solved the problem by purchasing USB CD-ROM drive. Funny thing though - it would not work with long USB wire but only with short one that comes with the device. It took me an hour of guesswork to figure it out :-) – dtoubelis Jul 13 '11 at 0:19
That may be due to power constraints, if it is self-powered. – user48838 Jul 13 '11 at 0:25

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