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We're in the planning/development stage for our new platform and with everything separated out we'll need to setup between 9 to 16 servers, a load balancer, 2 or 3 hardware firewalls, and a VPN.

During development we need to simulate all of this as cheaply as possible. Ideally I'd like to be able to setup a single machine with a lot of RAM and virtualize all of this to figure out what works and what doesn't.

What are my better options as far as virtualization? VMWare? Other? How can I virtualize all the appliances as well?

The appliances our data center offers: Cisco ASA 5510 (firewall), Foundry FCSLB8 Serveriron XL (load balancer)

(We'll be running CentOS 6 64bit on our servers)

Looking for something super easy. Something that will help me learn the real environment for later on.

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

There are virtual load balancers that you can load into hypervisors like VMware so that you can have a software load balancer running. It won't be running the same software as the ServerIron device you are looking at, but it'll get the job done. The same goes for the firewall.

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Which virtual appliances would you recommend? Is VMware a good choice for this? I imagine I also need to setup some virtual switches as well, although I'm not what our data center uses. – Luke Sep 30 '11 at 18:32
I'd done similar stuff under VMware ESX (vSphere) for people before with great results (I've used software load balancers in light low production environments before). The package is called Hercules and you can get it from It takes a little config file editing to get it up and running. It uses pen as the load balancers and has vrrp setup so you can setup a pair of servers for failover. – mrdenny Sep 30 '11 at 18:33

I dont think you'll be able to virtualize the the appliances but you can likely find something that you can virtualize to perform the same functions.

As for Virtualizing the servers I'm a big fan of Hyper-V but any of the big name hypervisors will do nicely and a lot of the smaller ones will probably do what you want as well.

Really it sounds like you just need to settle on a hypervisor and spec out some hardware. Personally I'd go with something along the lines of an HP ML350 some Western Digital RE4 drives and a boatload of ram.

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Yeah, I'm not sure what vendor to go with. I need something really flexible. Something that will allow me to virtualize the production environment as close as possible. – Luke Sep 30 '11 at 18:28

You can use any full virtualization solution like xen, kvm, VMware, Hyper-V. Some applications can be virtualized using a container based solution: openvz, solaris containers... It depends on the application and the OS to chose the virtualization solution.

You can emulate Cisco equipments with GNS3

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I basically want to setup a bunch of CentOS based servers, and setup a virtual network between them as I would in production. The network policies would be very strict, like the application server can only send outbound requests through a "proxy server" w/ a predefined API. Which of these would give me the most flexibility? – Luke Sep 30 '11 at 18:27
You will need full virtualization. You can use any of xen, kvm or VMware ESXi. – Mircea Vutcovici Sep 30 '11 at 18:31
KVM looks like it's open source. ESXi appears to be free. Any other costs besides the hardware? Which one is easier to setup? – Luke Sep 30 '11 at 18:36
I have used ESXi for job and kvm and VirtualBox at home. All of them are easy to use. – Mircea Vutcovici Sep 30 '11 at 19:36
I've had some associates run into issues when using KVM, I'd probably avoid that one and stick to Xen, VMWare's ESX, or Hyper-V. – ErnieTheGeek Sep 30 '11 at 20:54

To truly do what you are asking you will need an actual replication of the equipment that will be used.

Otherwise if you use Virtualbox or VMWare for your development virtualization but then use Xen in production, that could introduce a set of issues that you aren't prepared for because you didn't know about them.

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Can you give some examples of issues you are talking about? – Mircea Vutcovici Sep 30 '11 at 18:00
The production environment isn't virtualized. I just need to setup a virtualized development environment to test different arrangements and network configurations. Each server has a specialized function for our platform. – Luke Sep 30 '11 at 18:30

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