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I am planning to use a computer to run virtual machines.I have some confusion as to which would be the best choice.

  • VMware server (running ontop some optimized linux) : I tried this, but with an old computer, it was really slow running more than 3 vms. But it was old computer (Sempron 1gb ram) and linux host was ubuntu with a lot of services running.Since the server will be using an intel core 2 ... Does vmware support intel-vt?

  • VMware ESXi (or something similar but the free version) : never tried this out, limited hardware compatiliy...I dont think this will work in home computer.

  • Xenserver 5.5 : I tried this out today, but its failing a lot. Not much support and also no wifi nic are working, not local storage was being listed, no dvd drives listed... xencenter only works in windows and same subnet...

I am planning to go with option 1, but anyother ideas?

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Semprons don't use AMD-V pacifica. Hence, Xen will have issues with this. I would seriously recommend Xenserver 5.5 as it is a pretty good home virtualization server. VMware server 2.0 is also very good and much more mature, but you need to give the virtualized host the right hardware to make it work at it's best. No matter what choice you make, the right hardware will shed the best light for whatever solution you pick. Sempron + 1GB is not going to do virtualization well at all. –  osij2is Aug 5 '09 at 16:48
    
Sempron 1gb was running linux with vmware. But The server is a core 2 intel cpu. –  llazzaro Aug 5 '09 at 22:14
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closed as off topic by Sam Jan 19 '12 at 11:34

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11 Answers

up vote 7 down vote accepted

If you are planning on buying hardware to do this, then it is quite possible to buy hardware that will run ESXi, quite cheaply (I did it a couple of weeks ago). There are a number of sites out there that deal with what whiebox configurations work with ESXi such as Ultimate Whitebox

If you have a machine that has enough resources any of these options should work fine, but you may find that ESXi is the most efficient as you don't need to deal with an underlying operating system (other than the ESXi components).

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ESXi is great if you're willing to put in a bit of work to get it installed on a whitebox. The biggest hurdle is getting it to install onto a normal IDE controller, but it CAN be done, easilly once you find the right tutorial! –  Mark Henderson Aug 6 '09 at 3:33
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VirtualBox. I've found it to be the most lightweight for home use. You're right about ESXi, the hardware requirements are specific. I'm not a big fan of what VMware did for management of server 2.x either despite my love of them in the enterprise.

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I've had good success with VirtualBox. It is not "production" but I have 3 servers running on them and they have all been rock solid. –  Dave Drager Aug 5 '09 at 16:25
    
I agree, I too have had nothing but success with VirtualBox. Plus, the license allows it to be used freely for personal use, which is perfect for this person's needs. –  Berkus Aurelius Aug 12 '09 at 21:39
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AMD's equivalent for Intel's VT is AMD-V however the Sempron line does not support this. So any virtualization that you do will need to support running on hardware without virtualization support.

Xen will do this if you're running paravirtualized guests. But it will only support HVM (fully virtualized guests) if your hardware supports virtualization. Virtualbox is also able to do this but where Virtualbox shines is desktop virtualization. I wouldn't use it for server applications in its current form. I'm not familiar enough with VMware's products to know which will work and which won't or what conditions apply. But Hyper-V requires Intel-VT or AMD-V capable hardware.

If your serious about wanting to do virtualization I would suggest investing in newer equipment that will support it better and get cram that computer with ram if you plan on running many machines.

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semprons use the same socket as amd64 cpus, and amd64 x2 7750s are dirt-cheap these days. upgrading to 4GB RAM and a dual-core x2 7750 CPU should cost about $135 AUD (roughly $110 USD). about $75 AUD for the CPU and about $60 for 2 x 2GB DDR2 800 RAM. worth every cent for virtualisation. you can also find older amd64 x2 5200s a lot cheaper than that second-hand. –  cas Aug 5 '09 at 21:31
    
mmm not so right, there are a lot of semprons. Mine was a socket A sempron ...the very first ones. Then amd come with the 754 socket sempron, and I dont know if they had an am socket sempron. –  llazzaro Aug 6 '09 at 10:54
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I use KVM both at home and at work, because:

  • it is included in the mainline linux kernel (no patching or stuffing around or being restricted to a particular kernel version),

  • combined with qemu it supports para-virtualisation on CPUs without hardware virtualisation support,

  • it is feature-wise roughly on-par with all of the others already,

and, most importantly:

  • it is the future direction of virtualisation under linux, where the bulk of the development work will be done (e.g. Redhat has just committed to KVM in a huge way)

in the short term, it probably doesn't matter too much, though, because all of the higher-level virtualisation management tools on linux use libvirt which has lower-level interfaces to KVM, QEMU, Xen, VirtualBox, and some others. VMWare is the odd one out here.

whatever you choose now, there are tools to convert from one virtualisation type to another if you decide to change later.

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ps: i also use virtualbox on some desktop machines - where the virtual is just for my personal use rather than as a permanently-running virtualised "server" (e.g. an i386 debian machine to compile 32-bit kernels for my wireless gateway, my last remaining 32-bit CPU - doing it with vbox is less hassle than cross-compiling) –  cas Aug 5 '09 at 21:23
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This is what I was looking for -> proxmox, for now it seems OK.

Anyway It will be nice to read more answers :)

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I am running it , performance is really good. Now with the core 2 duo with 1gb ram Its running 5 vms, no performance issues. They are all linux vms. I think moving to 4gb in some time, so I install some windows vms. –  llazzaro Aug 7 '09 at 14:37
    
I was thinking on start using Proxmox but my hardware (old Opteron) don't support AMD-V so i will end with no Windows VMs. Running ESXi 4 right now. –  Ariel Antigua Aug 22 '09 at 3:49
    
How it performs, for now I will keep proxmox...but I dont know in the future. Please If you want tell me more stats of your computer and how many vms are you running. Thanks! –  llazzaro Aug 26 '09 at 1:17
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Is there any particular reason you aren't considering Microsoft Hyper V? There is a free version available to download, and its a very capable virtualisation environment.

I used VMWare Server prior to switching to Hyper V, and I have to say that I would avoid it like the plague. One of the things I was testing was rolling out ghost images to desktops, and VMWare Server was eating the guest systems configs every other reboot - it didnt seem to like it very much at all.

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He mentioned that he has an AMD Sempron...which does not support AMD-V. So his current hardware does not meet the requirements to run Hyper-V. –  3dinfluence Aug 5 '09 at 16:21
    
I don't believe his hardware (Sempron) has the AMD virtualization extensions needed to run Hyper-V –  Kevin Kuphal Aug 5 '09 at 16:21
    
No, he said he tried VMWare Server with an old computer (the Sempron) and had poor results, he did not say he was going to be using that computer for this project, and he specifically asks if 'it' supports Intel VT, which can be read to mean either the hardware mentioned or the platform mentioned. –  Moo Aug 5 '09 at 17:44
    
He got what i said!!! Sempron was an old machine I had –  llazzaro Aug 5 '09 at 22:15
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The ESXi Hardware Compatiability list is for the supported hardware if you need to call VMWare. There is lots of other hardware it will work with, but VMWare just won't support you if you want to call them. So I would say give ESXi 4.0 a try with your current Sempron 1gb machine. It will either work or it won't. But until you try you don't know. It it does work this will give you the best performance since the ESXi host won't take up as much a Linux + VMServer (or any other installed VM host software).

If it does happen to work, some cheap memory might be all you need to get a few machines going.

If you are going to buy hardware, I'd still use ESXi and just use the un-supported (but still works) cheaper hardware since it doesn't appear you are doing this for business production.

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ESXi 4.0 requires a 64bit processor, which I don't think that Sempron will be. He can try with 3.5, but I'm dubious it will work. ESXi is quite particular about disk controllers and NIC's, if you can buy hardware that meets these requirements it will work fine, but trying to get it to run with old hardware is hit and miss. –  Sam Aug 5 '09 at 16:32
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In the end it's your choice. I would only recommend from personal experience:

  • Use more than one disk and spread the vms, other wise you will experience bottlenecks
  • Increase the amount of RAM to more than 1GB (should be cheap)
  • Can you upgrade to a better CPU?

If you are planning to use VMware Server try to dedicated the host to only run VMware Server.

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Really depends on what you want to do with the VM's...like, why are you running 3 VM's? Testing? Production server deal?

If you just want to experiment with virtualization, Virtualbox will work. I often use it on my workstation.

For heavier duty stuff...we're running VMWare ESXi type 1 hypervisor. Free. But you're right, it has limited hardware compatibility. It's possible to get it running on homebrew systems (see this site, for example) relatively cheaply, but of course they won't support it.

Xenserver I've looked at but don't have a spare 64 bit processor system necessary to run it. I emailed their support looking for an older version that will work specifically with 32 bit processors and after a couple days they finally emailed me with precise instructions on how to download their latest version which won't work with older systems, along with a note to contact their phone tech support if I have other issues. Thanks, Citrix. You're a huge help...I'll remember it later on.

If you're trying to virtualize Linux stuff, you can always look at plain-old Xen or KVM.

You may,depending on your system and needs, need a processor that supports virtualization in hardware. For that you would need to check your processor type. You might be able to use "sudo lshw" and parse the output for the CPU information to see if that can help you find the chip type, then reference that with the vendor (AMD/Intel) to see the chip's capabilities.

Running 3 VM's in 1 gig of memory is always going to be tight, though. If you're going to play with more than one VM of any sort on your system, you'll probably want to seriously seriously consider upping that to 2 gig minimum.

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You may also want to consider using a virtualisation solution like OpenVZ or VServer. It all depends on what you really want at the end. I'm using a low-end machine with OpenVZ for the purpose of isolating my machines as well as for testing purposes. It is trivial to create, test and destroy virtual machines. With OpenVZ, the virtual servers all run at almost full speed with only a slight 3% overhead (according to docs). Only catch is that it only uses a single kernel (so you cannot do kernel testing for instance).

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proxmox let you create in an easy way openvz or kvm (if hardware support it) vms. proxmox its a linux distro –  llazzaro Aug 6 '09 at 10:49
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It really depends on what you're virtualising and what your want to achieve.

If you're planning to use this box as a home file server as well then I'd recommend OpenSolaris for some ZFS goodness, plus Sun xVM (Xen) or VirtualBox for virtualisation.

If file serving isn't a concern then ESXi is probably your best bet, as long as it will run on your hardware. Failing that VMware Server or VirtualBox on top of an OS of your choice, or Hyper-V Server.

No matter what you go with, you will need a better processor and a lot more RAM!

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it will be used for testing, hosting some web apps too test some distributed configs. also will be used for running bots in differents internet connections (i had some wifi antenas at roof). Now its running e4500 core 2, with only 120giga, near future will have more space rooms (specially for more vms and for bots) also I need some windows server in order to run some mssqls. I am planning to move to 4gigas of ram also –  llazzaro Aug 6 '09 at 10:52
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