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I currently develop import utilities for a network company using various versions of Visual Studio, Java, Crystal Reports and Apache (5.5 and 6), so it's obvious each install requires its own virtual desktop. I will also require the desktops to access the Internet as well as network with each other.

From reading a few threads on Server Fault, it seems the best free choice is VMWare Server if I'm not mistaken. Because I am a total new to it, I was wondering if you could please suggest which links or tutorials would point me in the right direction from installing the software to networking the different virtual desktops/servers, best practices, and getting the virtual machines to access the internet correctly and such. To be more specific, I'm looking for a how-to step-by-step setup and get it working rather than theory and background information on how virtualization works.

I should add that I would like to run all this from a Windows XP Pro laptop.

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Recommendations are off-topic per the updated faq. While this may have been a good question in June 2009, it no longer is. –  sysadmin1138 Jul 3 '12 at 16:32
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closed as off topic by sysadmin1138 Jul 3 '12 at 16:31

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4 Answers

The VMWare workstation, at less than $200, is an unbelievably awesome program. I purchase a highend workstation with 16G of RAM and RAID disks and now run upto a dozen different VM's at the same time for development purposes and the flexibility this type of setup provides is truly amazing.

I use to run about 15 workstations and servers in my home office to have the same type of flexibility I have now with one workstation. The savings in electricity alone paid for the $189 cost of the VMWare workstation in the first few months. I have almost zero issues, and it is very easy to setup and use. I have Vista, XP, NT4.0, NT2003, NT2008 SQL server 2000, 2005, 2008, and even on linux image all running on the same box at the same time.

The more ram the better.

I don't think you really need a tutorial if you buy VMWare workstation, I was up and running in an hour and never looked at a manual very simple to get started.

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ESXi is a bare metal hyper visor so it wont install ONTO XP but you can RUN XP inside a VM. This means you use another server to install ESXi onto. It also has some strict hardware requirements.

What you can do is purchase VMWare Workstation and use that for your VM instances.

Some other free VM products that can run ON XP are:

  • VMWare Server
  • Microsoft Virtual Server
  • Microsoft Virtual PC
  • VirtualBox

These are pretty easy to use and you can find information all over the Internet.

Another free option is Microsoft Hyper V Server. This will install onto the hardware and you would only need a Vista Machine to install the Hyper V Management Console.

To Answer your question about ESXi Howto:

Hope this helps answer some questions.

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If you're using this for business purposes then VMware Workstation makes a lot of sense, additional features like Teams allow you to fire up a QA environment with a couple of clicks.

As ''MarkM'' has noted there is some cost involved, but this is in the order of £60-100 if I recall correctly, have a peek at vmware.com/store for exact numbers -- compared with everything else that VMware sells (ESX, vCenter) it is dirt cheap and well worth the cash.

The installation process under Windows XP is 'n00b proof' and a simple point + click process. You'll want to get VMware Tools under all those virtual machines for a nicer experience :)

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I would recommend either VMWare Workstation or VMWare ESXi (free).

ESXi will give you more flexibility in the number of VM's you can run on the host due to some of its advanced features (like memory and processor overcommitment). It does have a strict list of supported hardware. This is hardware that VMWare will provide ESXi support for. If your hardware is not on the list, you're un-supported. That said, ESXi will run on a lot of hardware out there with no issues, you just don't want to do it in production due to the unsupported nature of it if you run into trouble. Also make sure you backup your VM's to another machine just in case the ESXi server competely dies out on you. You also need a seperate machine to control the ESXi server since it runs more like an appliance with a very limited interface (think BIOS screen) So everything is done remotely using a vSphere client.

Workstation runs on your workstation and lets you basicly work with a machine within a machine.

Both ESXi and Workstation have snapshot abilities. Workstation's are really powerful for branching machine configurations, etc. ESXi, I think, can do some stuff like this, but I haven't played with that part of it much.

The snapshot ability on VMWare Server is that it can only do one snapshot per machine. So if you wanted to do any advance snaphot branches for multiple configurations (useful for testing), you should consider either of the other two products.

I have used VMWare server before, and I always found it quirky and the interface really slow. If all I wanted was the desktop interface I'd rather have paid the $200ish for Workstation. I'm using ESXi though, so I don't need it.

I hope that helps.

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