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I'm considering creating a new domain controller in a remote branch office. They already have a physical domain controller but I'm considering decommissioning it in favor of a vmware host.

Nothing fancy...single host with DAS.

The branch office has WAN connectivity to other AD sites.

The idea would be to do the following:

  1. Build up the new VMWARE host
  2. Build up new DC vm with AD, DNS, DHCP roles
  3. After one week dcpromo the old physical DC and remove the DNS and DHCP roles

The end goal is to have a new VMWARE host at that site that can also host a Linux server they need for SVN. Failover, HA, vmotion, etc. isn't needed at this location. Backups will be done via their 2nd server (file/print server) via tape and BackupExec.

Besides the normal considerations about time sync/skew, is there any real concern with virtualizing this nowadays?

EDIT: This is only to virtualize a single DC at the branch office, and that office will only have 1 DC (the virtualized one). There are 5 people at this office.

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up vote 5 down vote accepted

No, this will work just fine so long as you remember to set these important VMs to auto-start on host reboot.

Just go into the configuration tab, then 'virtual machine startup', click on properties and set them in there.

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My main concern about hosting them both on the same server would be that all of your domain controllers now share all the same points of failure. If the host loses your storage, or if that VM host goes down, or if the DAS craps the bed, or if you have a network hiccup, you've just lost all of your domain controllers. At the very least if you're going to virtualize, put each one on a different virtual host. Otherwise I don't see it being so crazy cpu intensive that you'd need a physical box for each one.

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My main concern about hosting them both on the same server would be that all of your domain controllers now share all the same points of failure. on the one hand you're absolutely right, no argument. On the other, most people who would say "look, MY branch office has 2 physical DCs!!!111!!" will tend to put them neatly next to one another on the same equipment rack in the same converted "server cupboard" connected to the same power supply, possibly if they're lucky, sharing that same power supply through the same UPS. – RobM Aug 7 '12 at 16:44
The branch office will only have a single a VM. That's what I'm looking to do. – TheCleaner Aug 7 '12 at 17:37
In that case, by all means go for it. – Matthew Aug 8 '12 at 15:01

I see no reason not to do this as long as:

  1. Not all your (virtual) domain controllers run on the same VMware host.
  2. Your VMware host does not need a domain controller to succesfully boot.
  3. Your DC VM boots automatically.
  4. You prevent time skew. (You already knew that. Included for completeness sake).

Failing both point 2 & 3 could lead to the VM host failing somewhere because the VM's are not yet running. Which could be 'fun' if power fails long enough so that all servers are down and need to be brought back up.

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If the WAN is up and they have connectivity to another AD site, couldn't they still login as needed if the DC goes down for some reason? – TheCleaner Aug 7 '12 at 17:40
Yes, they can. In that case point #1 does not apply since not all DCs are running on the same VM host. – Hennes Aug 7 '12 at 18:59

As long as you don't have any reliant services such as clusters or SQL server running there you are probably ok. Obviously any downtime will affect access to resources but the same is true for the physical box as well. Sounds like you have everything covered and accounted for.

Just an FYI but you can also download VisualSVN for free if you need SVN on Windows to save on resources.

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