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I'm putting together a new server which will be running a couple of light weight web applications and a fairly lightly used SQL Server 2008 database. I've specified a machine that is significantly more powerful that we currently require and I was wondering about the possibility of using some of that power to run virtual machines and thereby avoid installing more real machines.

The set up I'm would like to achieve is something like this:

Host Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1 running SQL Server 2008

Guests (2 or 3 of) Linux servers running applications that can connect to the SQL Server and the outside world.

Is this set up possible or is the host / hypervisor only able to run the guests? I've read stacks of marketing blurb on the MS site but I've yet to find the answer.

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

The Host is technically itself a special VM running in Hyper-V... But yes you can install other software if you use Server 2008 R2. If you use Hyper-V Server 2008 R2 then no.

Hyper-V Server is it's own version of Windows Server, that's free, but only acts as a Hyper-V host.
Windows Server can have the Hyper-V Role installed, which is just like Hyper-V Server but with a whole server environment (or core, whichever).

I would recommend using Hyper-V Server, and moving your Windows License to a VM within it, install SQL server there, etc. Then spin up VMs for the Linux boxen as necessary. Be careful about licensing as Windows does come with certain virtualization rights, but it gets a bit messy depending on what license you get and you'll need to ask your retailer for specifics (or read the license yourself...)

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I've had some pretty bad luck with using Linux VM's on Hyper-V servers. Xenserver would likely be a better hypervisor for this as it's stable for both Linux and Win 2k8 (also there is a free Xenserver edition that would give you all you would need for this one). –  Rob May 16 '12 at 17:44
    
@Rob, The "Intergration Services" for Linux has varying degrees of support and stability depending on which version of the kernel your distro is using. For example, it's not great with Debian Squeeze‌​. –  kce May 16 '12 at 18:03
    
Excellent answer thanks, just what I was looking for. Does Hyper-V have a memory limit? I notice Server 2008 R2 is limited to 32GB unless you shell out for the enterprise edition. –  wobblycogs May 16 '12 at 18:16
    
@wobblycogs: According to this, the limit for SQL 2008 R2 Standard is 64 GB; according to this (a bit old, but seems reasonable), Hyper-V supports up to 4 cores and 64 GB RAM per VM. –  Jon Seigel Jun 3 '12 at 15:35
    
"Hyper-V" could mean several things. Running the Hyper-V Role in an Edition of Windows Server, you'll have the same limits as the base OS. Server 2008 R2 Standard Edition and add the Hyper-V Role you'll be limited to 32GB. Hyper-V Server R2 (a free product) is based on Server 2008 R2 Enterprise Edition Core. It's really just Enterprise Core with only the one Role available and no Licensing. Unless you've got a really good reason for doing otherwise, you should use Hyper-V Server. The only good reason to do otherwise is if you have one small server and you're only going to have one or two VMs. –  Chris S Jun 3 '12 at 20:21

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