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We would like to employ Active Directory to handle duties including DNS, LDAP, domain-controller stuff, etc. The obvious way to do this would be to install Windows and run AD from there. However, we are almost exclusively a Linux shop, and are contemplating running Windows on a VM hosted on Linux. Does this sound like a plausible plan or a recipe for pain? If it is reasonable, are there any significant differences in performance between VMWare and VirtualBox given the sort of tasks we are going to ask the Windows installation to do?

Additionally, there may come a time in the near future in which we might want to host an Exchange server. If this does come to pass, is it preposterous to try to run Exchange on a Windows VM hosted on Linux?

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See this question for virtualizing the domain controller –  Zoredache Aug 10 '11 at 16:36

3 Answers 3

I fear this might be a little silly. I don't think that VirtualBox has anywhere near the performance of VMware, not to mention features (which, granted, you might not need.)

But it's silly anyway for an entirely different reason. Virtualized Windows is still bloody Windows. Just because you're hosting it within VirtualBox or VMware, you still have to learn Windows, AD, Exchange, etc. If you don't have a compelling reason to virtualize (Vmotion, hardware consolidation, etc), don't add virtualization technology when you're already adding Windows, AD, and Exchange to the list of things you need to learn.

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It's not silly at all. Performance & reliability of the VM's will be your key thinking points. ie. Split your Primary DC and replica's across different physical hosts. Do not starve your DC VM's for memory or disk access will drag you down.

You say you are a linux shop but there's gotta be more reason than that to go windows for these infra-services. Is it because you have windows desktops? Plan to integrate other windows servers/services in the future? Otherwise go for a linux based directory service and *nix DNS & DHCP.

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We have a few Windows desktops which would be greatly served by true Windows AD; in addition to DNS, LDAP, etc, when the Windows machines boot they need to mount drives, map printers, and so on. These are not static settings, they change based on where the machine is and AD seems like the right tool for the job. And once you have AD it seems reasonable to use it to handle various services for the rest of the (Linux) machines, too. –  bhw Aug 10 '11 at 16:54
    
This is really too big a question for a forum post. There's so many what if's and questions about your infra and userbase. If you have the time to test and the resources to build, which is really what you are going to need to do for a proper answer. Build out a single VM DC running dns and dhcp services, another fat exchange vm that's at least the minimum spec for the version you intend to run. You can do this without licences for 2 months while you eval. Connect a few low importance pc's and linux hosts and check the perf. It's the only way you'll know for sure. –  Michael Henry Aug 11 '11 at 8:08
    
Once you get a feel for how it runs single instance, then build replica DC's and redundant exchange hosts. You'll learn so much from this experience and you'll discover very quickly if there's a gotcha that's going to prevent you from productionizing this whole setup. The concept of running these services in a VM is sound, i have done so several times whilst building test environments, the bottom line is how many users, how performant are your boxes. –  Michael Henry Aug 11 '11 at 8:10

It sounds like you have ok motivations to put AD into place and it can run just fine virtualized. It isn't clear why you want to virtualize, but if it maters to your organization, be sure to do so in a supported manor by checking the MS SVVP site: . The SVVP site may help you decide on a hypervisor technology. Also check into the licensing side of running MS OS / apps virtualized (it is different than physical!) - this may also change your selected hypervisor solution. You didn't make any mention of scale , size of your environment or goals for going with virtualization, so giving a concrete answer about the best hypervisor solution is difficult.

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