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I have a Dell Dimension 4700 helping hold the floor down in the corner of my office and thought it would be useful to install a hypervisor and then use the box for something. EXSi has been my hypervisor of choice. But it will not run on the hardware.

Is there any alternatives that are worth using? I would prefer bare-metal hypervisors to keep the overhead as low as possible.

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4 Answers 4

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Are you sure ESXi won't run on that hardware? Sure it will not be supported, but there are lots of platform where ESXi isn't supported but runs very nicely.

On Dell's product page, I can see it has mainly Intel on-board stuff: chipset, SATA controller and network adapter; all of them work perfectly in ESXi, so you shoudln't have any problem installing and running it.

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The newest versions of ESX (and ESXi) require a 64-bit processor, which IIRC, the 4700 doesn't have). – ktower Dec 10 '09 at 18:39
Yes, but if you look around on the VMWare site, you can still find the previous version (3.5) which supports 32-bit. I just installed it not long ago on an older Proliant system. – Joe Internet Dec 10 '09 at 19:49
I'm going to give 3.5 a go. – NitroxDM Dec 11 '09 at 1:12

I've been quite happy with XenServer recently. It is a bare-metal hypervisor and is free (as in beer). It will run Linux VMs without hardware assist (e.g., Intel's VT) but in order to do Windows (or any other VM-unaware OSes), you'll need it, so YMMV.

If you can put up with installing and maintaining your own OS on the bare metal, you might also look into VMware Server, which is also Free-as-in-Beer and would probably be more compatible with your ESXi infrastructure.

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I have heard many a good thing about Xen. Seems to be used quite heavily in the ISP and hosting market, appears to have proved it's worth. Can't hurt to give it a go.

The Xen® hypervisor, the powerful open source industry standard for virtualization, offers a powerful, efficient, and secure feature set for virtualization of x86, x86_64, IA64, ARM, and other CPU architectures. It supports a wide range of guest operating systems including Windows®, Linux®, Solaris®, and various versions of the BSD operating systems.

I have always been a huge fan of VMWare products, and most recently ESXi however, the hardware support is a bit of a pain.

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I downloaded Xen and have been playing with for a few minutes. Looks interesting. – NitroxDM Dec 11 '09 at 1:14

A thing you need to take into consideration is security. Without VT-x you get crappy performance, because the hypervisor will emulate alot of stuff on the CPU and you will have ring-compression.

Without VT-d you could face problems with devices doing DMA and other nasty stuff.

Take security into consideration when doing virtualization, its no easy task.

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I'm confused here. You mention security, but then talk about two performance issues. Which are you concerned with? – Bill Weiss Jun 2 '10 at 18:04

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