I am a virtualization newbie. I basically have one physical server right now. And I want to create two virtual machines (both will be web servers with small databases and a few scheduled tasks) on it. One for me, one for a friend. Server A should not have access to Server B's stuff, and vice versa. They both will need remote desktop capabilities. Can someone please point me in the right direction and show me how to get started? I really do not even know where to start.

  • Please let us know what operating system you are using on the physical server, this will let us offer the most efficient choices. – tajh Feb 12 '10 at 21:23
  • Windows server (not sure if 2003 or 2008, but probably will go with 2008) – Josh Stodola Feb 12 '10 at 22:28

Windows 2008 has it's own virtualization methods called Hyper-V. To start with virtualization on almost every other platform (and some people prefer it to windows 2008's built in methods) you can try VMware Server. It's free, very popular, and lets you learn how virtualization works.

  • VMWare looks like an excellent place to start, thanks alot! I can already foresee some issues such as how to route incoming requests to the proper machine (based on HOST), but I'll cross that bridge when I reach it. – Josh Stodola Feb 12 '10 at 22:29
  • Full VMWare Server isn't free. ESXi (basically the same thing) is free however. It's hardware compatibility is somewhat limited, but is still compatible with almost all server hardware. Also, you don't have to route the traffic individually, the Guest VMs think they are their own machine, and to the outside world, they also appear to be independent machines. Only the hypervisor server itself knows that they're not real. – Chris S Feb 12 '10 at 23:26
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    For reference VMware Server (the product linked in the answer) is free, it's a Type 2(Hosted) Hypervisor like VMware Workstation. You are confusing it with ESX server which is not free. – Helvick Feb 13 '10 at 16:39

VMware ESXi is a free hypervisor from VMware also worth checking out. But remember to check compatibility for raid controllers and other hardware. Good thing is you dont install this on top of an operating system. So its really good for performance.

If the virtual servers you wanna create are physical server today you can use VMware vCenter Converter (also free of charge) to move them to the VMware server easily.

  • We use ESXi for our virtual server setups. – steve.lippert Feb 12 '10 at 22:31

Start with:

  • Hyper-V Server, it's free and you can download it from Microsoft.
  • Install that on the machine.
  • Use the Hyper-V Management Console to create two virtual machines (example instructions here).
  • Install whatever OS you want on the VMs, you can use Linux, Windows (You need licenses as normal per VM), or most other operating systems. If you use Windows, then install the Integration Services, and more directions here.
  • If you use something other than Windows for the Guest VMs then make sure you add a Legacy Network Card, instructions here. If you install Linux, Integration Services can be downloaded from Microsoft.

I know all this sounds very complicated, but once you have the hang of it, it's quite easy.


I've been using Sun's VirtualBox - and I love it. http://www.virtualbox.org/

It's free, easy to setup, and creates VM's that are completely isolated from each other (except for networking, which you can specify). I run it using Vista as my host OS, but it will run on pretty much anything.

  • VirtualBox (v2 at least) had severe performance issues compared to VMware Workstation and VMware Server (free) on 64-bit machines. Not sure about the latest version, however. – Andy Shellam Feb 15 '10 at 8:05

If it's a Linux box, you want KVM. The libvirt API is the best way to manage it - see http://www.libvirt.org.

You create an XML file describing a pool of disk space (probably be a local directory in your case.) Then for each server, create an image (volume) the size of the disk you want the server to see.

Lastly create the server XML file (called a domain in libvirt) which specifies things like processor, RAM, CDROM image, devices etc. If you configure it in your domain, KVM can create a VNC server for you to connect to using any VNC client (which covers your remote desktop bit.)

Then you run "virsh" to enter the hypervisor and import your XML files.

# pool-define your-pool-file.xml
# pool-start your-pool-name
# vol-create your-pool-name your-volume-file.xml
# define your-vm-file-.xml

Finally you can then start your server:

# start your-vm-name

It looks complex to begin with, but it took me a couple of days to get up to speed with it, and IMO it's much better than most commercial solutions because you get much finer-grained control over your VMs. Libvirt is the interface to a lot of virtualisation technologies - Xen, KVM, etc.

Of course if you're running Windows on your physical server then you're gonna be using either Microsoft's hypervisor or VMware, in which case the above is useless to you!

  • Windows (I even tagged it) – Josh Stodola Feb 12 '10 at 22:27

We use VMWare ESXi as the Hypervisor. Then you provision a virtual computer and install as you normally would. The two servers will have their own virtual hard drives so no information will be shared between the two.

They will also have their own IP addresses and from the out side will look like totally separate servers. We typically run CentOS 5 in the VMs but we also have a few that run Windows so that is not an issue for you.

For what its worth you should look into Hyper-V and ESXi and see which one you like more. I have no experience with Hyper-V, so I cannot offer any advice on it.

  • ESXi can be found here: vmware.com/products/esxi (free download). VMWare has been doing virtualization longer than Microsoft, but their hardware compatibility is limited mostly to Server Grade stuff. It works very well, and is more bulletproof than Hyper-V (no viruses for ESXi that I'm aware of). Either are definitely capable of accomplishing your goal. – Chris S Feb 12 '10 at 23:22
  • VMware ESXi uses a Linux variant (I think of Redhat) so if it's configured correctly it will be a lot more reliable than Windows. – Andy Shellam Feb 15 '10 at 8:06

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