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I'm planning to host a few Linux servers on commodity hardware (the one I can buy from newegg.com for less than $1,000). I had very bad experience regarding hardware support in Linux. I'm not sure whether the network adapter or chip-set driver is available in Linux or fully tested. I'm thinking of a work-around of running Linux as a guest OS on a Hyper-V Server 2008 R2 (the Hypervisor itself is free). Hyper-V provides unified hardware for guest OS. Linux can fully utilize the host resources with Integration Component driver installed.

  1. How much overhead is it in running Linux on a hypervisor? Does someone run a benchmark against physical machine vs virtual machine?
  2. Is IC driver ready for production use?
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How long ago was your "bad experience"? In my experience other than wireless 5 or so years ago Linux is easier to get running than Windows when it comes to hardware issue's and chasing down drivers. –  3dinfluence Feb 7 '12 at 20:08
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WARNING: Do not cheap out on the Network Chip. You will be sorry if you run Hyper-V (or almost any good server software) on something cheap. Intel, Broadcom, Mellanox, QLogic, Netxen, etc are all excellent chips, but usually aren't built in to motherboards (especially cheap ones). –  Chris S Feb 7 '12 at 20:47
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Also, when thinking about cheap onboard RAID (or no RAID at all), remember that your controller is the only thing standing between you and unreadable disks. –  Massimo Feb 7 '12 at 20:58
    
@3dinfluence It was >3 years ago. I believe most on-board devices should be working fine on Linux now. I would probably get an SSD drive. The only driver I can find on the official website is a Windows driver. I know in Linux world, most people build their fancy stuff on their own, but I don't have the expertise to do so. –  woodings Feb 7 '12 at 21:20
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@woodings Well stick with what you're comfortable with. I don't have any experience with Hyper-V so I can't answer your question about running Linux with it. But an SSD drive to the OS is just a SATA device so no driver is needed. But you do want a filesystem that supports TRIM such as Ext4. Microsoft added TRIM to NTFS w/ Windows 7 & Server 2008 R2. Under Linux you want to check that /etc/fstab is mounting the filesystems w/ the "discard" option. For more SSD tuning tricks see cptl.org/wp/index.php/2010/03/30/… –  3dinfluence Feb 7 '12 at 21:44

2 Answers 2

Hyper-V does support Linux as a guest OS, but being it a Microsoft platform, it's obviously more focused on Windows compatibility; here is the official list of supported guest OSes:

http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc794868(WS.10).aspx

It could be worth noting that VMware ESXi is also free, and it has a much broader guest OS support (apart from being the market leader in virtualization and a generally much more mature product than Hyper-V).

Also, Hyper-V Server is somewhat painful to manage if you don't have System Center Virtual Machine Manager available: it has no GUI (the physical console can only be used for basic administration), the remote Hyper-V MMC only runs on Windows 7, and if you don't have an Active Directory domain around, things can get tricky. ESXi is much more user friendly, as long as you have at least one Windows PC (XP or later) where you can run the vSphere Client.

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Or a virtualized Windows PC available to run the vSphere Client... :-) –  Bart Silverstrim Feb 7 '12 at 20:20
    
I take exception to "generally much more mature product". ESX has more features, to be sure, but more mature I don't think so. I can chalk it up to a difference of opinion though... –  Chris S Feb 7 '12 at 20:45
    
No flame intended; I really think ESXi is far superior, both in features and usability. It can even virtualize Hyper-V, although Microsoft states that this is not possible at all. And good luck creating a resource pool with Hyper-V. –  Massimo Feb 7 '12 at 20:51
    
Also, while Hyper-V running on WS2008R2 has Windows usability, with the free Hyper-V server you really get something barely usable at all if you don't have SCVMM. –  Massimo Feb 7 '12 at 20:53
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We are running several production RedHat & Suse installs under Hyper-V. There is driver support in the kernel and it works well. You need a recent kernel but I can't speak to those specifics. –  uSlackr Feb 7 '12 at 21:26

As I mentioned above, Hyper-V is fully capable of running this workload. We have 350 VMs running in production. While most guests are Windows, we do have Redhat and SUSE running as well with the integration components installed. The overhead is no more significant than with Windows guests. There is a lot of discussion about actual overhead of on hypervisor over another. Only your testing will tell if the platform will do what you want.

While the VMM is important in large installs, for the installation you are considering, the included management tool should suffice.

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He's talking about Hyper-V Server, which includes no management tools. You need a Windows 7 PC to run the Hyper-V Management Console, and if you are not in a domain environment, getting it to talk to a Hyper-V host is not straightforward at all. –  Massimo Feb 7 '12 at 21:51
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Thanks @Massimo! Remotely managing Hyper-V servers from a Windows 7 PC seems okay to me. I've been using HvRmote from some time to set up the authentication without a domain environment. Once the Linux servers have been set up, I don't expect to change virtualization configurations a lot. –  woodings Feb 7 '12 at 22:10
    
Nice tool, didn't know it :-) –  Massimo Feb 7 '12 at 22:14

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