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What is the best way to have a server and a desktop OS on one machine, with the desktop being displayed on a monitor directly connected?

Visualization, with each having a separate guest, seems ideal (security and ease of admin), but it doesn't seem possible to have the desktop OS displayed on a monitor connected to the box. I can't figure it out with KVM anyway.

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closed as not a real question by Brent Pabst, faker, mdpc, Tom O'Connor, Magellan Dec 19 '12 at 17:00

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WHY are you proposing such an unholy marriage? –  voretaq7 Dec 19 '12 at 15:31
    
Cost. The server requires little in the way of resources. –  user150266 Dec 19 '12 at 15:44
    
Also - Not buying another box would be very helpful. Security. Simply adding a GUI to a server makes it less secure. Reliability. Seperating the server and Desktop OS functions would lessen the chance of updates breaking something. (Installing kubuntu packages to get a GUI broke the servers Libre Office dependencies when I tried it without virtualisation). –  user150266 Dec 19 '12 at 15:50

1 Answer 1

OK, my comment may have been a little subtle -- allow me to clarify my position:
What you're proposing is a BAD Idea.


Can you do what you propose? Yes (but not with the tools you want to use as far as I know - KVM is essentially a Linux installation, and anyone on the console is by definition interacting with that Linux installation. To connect them to a GUI on a KVM virtual machine you'd need a GUI on the server to run VNC or some other console viewer connecting to the VM, at which point you're giving them access to the server OS anyway).

Using desktop virtualization technology to make this happen is possible, but you should not do this.
If you decide to go that route you would install a workstation OS on the host, workstation class virtualization technology like VirtualBox or VMWare Player on that OS, and run your server OS inside a VM running in that virtualization software.

Among other problems and pitfalls:

  • The user whose "workstation" is now the server can reboot the host
    (crashing the VM server in the process)
  • Getting your Virtual Server to auto-start on reboot will require some hackery.
  • Your "server" is only as secure as the workstation it runs on
    (Do you really want to expose your server's security to user activity?)
  • No sane OS vendor is going to support such a configuration for the "server" in production.

PCs are dirt cheap (you can get decent workstations for less than $500 US, adequate ones can be had in the $300 price range, and tacking on a cheap monitor doesn't add much cost above that).
If security is really a concern (which it seems to be from your second comment) don't let your users log in to servers - keep the two roles distinctly separate.

If you want to consolidate datacenter resources to save money look toward virtualizing your servers using industry-standard server virtualization technology (VMWare ESXi, Hyper-V -- Both free! You can even consolidate with Linux KVM if that makes sense for you).
If you can free up a physical machine in the process you can give that to your user rather than purchasing a new machine.

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Sorry, I wasn't clear in the OP. There is only one user - me. The setup I was thinking of is a KVM hypervisor running a guest server and a guest desktop OS. I am wrong in thinking a compromised desktop guest won't affect the security of the hypervisor or the server guest? –  user150266 Dec 19 '12 at 16:41
    
@user150266 That's a slightly less heinous configuration, but you're still talking about installing a GUI on the KVM host, and logging in to it regularly (even if it's just to run VNC to connect to your "workstation VM" you're logging in to the server all the time before you can log in to the guest). It's just not a sound configuration if security and not logging in to the server are your goals. –  voretaq7 Dec 19 '12 at 16:53
    
The only GUI would be the Desktop OS, running as a guest VM. If VNC is used, the connection to the server would be as user, without root privileges. –  user150266 Dec 19 '12 at 20:04

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