I'm hoping someone can shed some light regarding the current state of virtualization on Debian. Since I like my information first-hand, i thought I'd ask here for some real-world use cases. I am currently gathering some data in order to redesign the network infrastructure of the company i work for. I've been directed by some fellow sysadmins towards ESX and ESXi, but the pricing seems a bit over the top and honestly, i don't know if i actually need the whole thing, also considering that i am not familiar with enterprise-grade virtualization solutions.

Basically I'm looking for a robust system that will allow me to deploy, host and manage virtual machines. The need for different services is growing in my company and having virtual machines for each would be ideal.

I'm looking at a really small setup so the performance is not that big of an issue, but I am definitively looking at reliability and flexibility. There will probably be a main physical server running about a dozen machines, not all of them concurrently. Being a corporate environment, I am also concerned with data and network security, but i don't really know where I should be looking for information, as designing a system with no real-use knowledge of the components can be quite a hard task.

I've worked with hosting control panels and I like the idea of being able to manage the system through a web browser. To be more specific, I've worked with ISPConfig which has support for OpenVZ containers.

I never had to actually use that so far, but from what I saw on the management interface it seems like it would be a pretty simple solution and I like that. The issue is that i need to host Windows server VMs on it and OpenVZ does not seem to be supporting it oob.

I am also currently looking at the various pages on the debian wiki on Xen, QEMU, OpenVZ and the suggested softwares to work with virtualization. If you have other valid sources of information, they would be really appreciated.

EDIT: The proposed solutions are:

  1. The free vmware ESXi
  2. Proxmox VE
  3. VirtualBox with phpVirtualBox
  4. Openstacks
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    This is a question and answer site, I'm struggling to see your actual question. Can you read the FAQ, look at how others have asked questions then re-write this one with some actually answerable questions please. – Chopper3 Feb 28 '12 at 10:45
  • That's cause i'm not looking for a specific answer, i need to set up a private cloud enviroment and i wanted to know which are the possible software solutions. I'll rewrite the title if that helps. – D4rKr0W Feb 28 '12 at 13:57
  • One warning against ESXi: it's pretty much Windows only for management. If you're a heavy Mac or Linux shop, you may not like it. – Bill Weiss Feb 28 '12 at 14:07
  • @D4rKr0W - but this site is FOR specific questions and answers - i.e. my concern - this isn't a discussion site. – Chopper3 Feb 28 '12 at 14:10
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    If you're not looking for a specific answer, then you're in the wrong place. From the faq that you seem to have neglected to read: You should only ask practical, answerable questions based on actual problems that you face – MDMarra Feb 28 '12 at 14:13

Basically, there is no such thing as "Debian" virtualization. There is a Linux Kernel hypervisor called KVM. A number of projects have arisen around it, one of them which is a rather well supported "install & run" package is Proxmox VE - it includes web-based management and even has support for the more sophisticated features like live migration of virtual machines. PVE is Debian-based and also supports OpenVZ for "thin" Linux containers.

Your reluctance towards ESXi is unsubstantiated - it indeed is rather easy to set up and manage, also a free ESXi version is around (it has limits, though - check out if this version would fit your needs).

The advantage in using a well-established solution like ESXi is clearly that you would be able to find a lot of people (including VMWare support) being able to help with setup, operations or troubleshooting. If you are going to use the free version, you might end up hitting the limits or missing features though.

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    As a nitpick, Proxmox VE seems to be Debian based, not CentOS. – Bill Weiss Feb 28 '12 at 14:06
  • I love debian and the Proxmox VE project seems like a really valid alternative to using the fre ESXi. The point you made on vmware is the only thing that is keeping me from deploying it. As i am concerned with the feature set, i wanted to know if there are alternatives. I've also been told to look at openstack: www.openstack.org ( vimeo.com/20787736 ), but it does not seem to fit my specific case, even though it seems like a direct alternative to the whole vmware package. – D4rKr0W Feb 28 '12 at 14:40
  • @D4rKr0W you might well start with ESXi free - it is quite solid and well-performing. As time passes or if the need arises, you can simply shift to KVM - transition between hypervisors is not all that hard - the VMs are always convertible with reasonable effort, no matter the direction. What you do need though is a spare physical machine with vacant RAM and disk space since a conversion is always a copy. – the-wabbit Feb 29 '12 at 16:54

Definitely standalone ESXi to start with - the product is free, has really small footprint and is very robust, stable and flexible. Also you can do most of the management using either web browser or powershell. Basically (IMHO) the best available virtualization platform available at this moment.

Also, just to clarify before you start playing with it: with free standalone version you will have only basic set of features, plus it has really strict HCL, so you won't be able to run it on every machine.

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  • I agree here, whilst there are other solutions VMwares ESXi5 standalone is going to be the easiest to get up and running. – Phil Hannent Feb 28 '12 at 13:16
  • You're the only one that mentioned the HCL! I'm planning to test out both proxmox and esxi on a desktop system, so that i have an idea about how much resources i'm gonna need for the server - which i don't have yet. I suppose that's gonna be another issue :( – D4rKr0W Feb 28 '12 at 14:48
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    Keep in mind that Proxmox is not a real barebone hypervisor - basically, under the hood, this is a Debian running KVM, so if you want to host non-linux machines then sorry, no bonus here. ESXi on the other hand is a real one - you can run almost every OS withing the guests (VMs), it has a really small footprint, etc. Basically, a decent enterprise-class product. RE HCL - if you want to just play a bit with it for start, standard modern virtualization-capable dektop will be fine, the only issues you might have is an onboard NIC (I don't imagine you will need a huge raid arrays for your POC). – siupakabras Feb 29 '12 at 15:23
  • you surely can run Windows machines on KVM - you even get downloadable optimized drivers. As for the "play around a bit" with ESXi - there is a "whitebox HCL" listing hardware without official support status but tested working. – the-wabbit Feb 29 '12 at 16:57
  • OK, that was some bad choice of words :) you can run non-linux guests, of course, but personally i wouldn't do that as the stuff is not fully supported (or, to be more accurate, not supported as well as on the VMware platform). I know that (for example) Red Hat is pushing that really hard, but personally I wouldn't stick to it in heterogeneous production environment :) – siupakabras Feb 29 '12 at 17:41

Mindshare and experience is very important. That's true from a hardware, support and personnel perspective. You want to pick the winner, and VMWare really "Just Works". I've had the same discussion/argument with coworkers who were open-source fanatics... But honestly, your time is worth something. Go with the established solution.

VMWare can be expensive for all of the highest-end features, but for most small businesses, you have a free price point, a ~$600 price point, a $4000 price point all the way up to $$$$$! But there's still a low barrier to entry...

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  • The thing that worries me is the pricing, as i'm not working with that big of a budget and i surely do not intend on spending it all on licenses. I don't want to find myself in need of a feature that is included only in the enterprise packages that cost 30k USD (i'm exaggerating but it's an example). I have no doubt vmware works perfectly, but i'm concerned about the feature set of this free version. I'm gonna look for a comparison chart. – D4rKr0W Feb 28 '12 at 14:02
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    See the version comparison chart: vmware.com/products/vsphere/buy/editions_comparison.html – ewwhite Feb 28 '12 at 14:07

Whilst I agree with siupakabras that ESXi is your best solution, the alternative is Virtual box from Oracle:


Which also has some nice UI's. But is not as feature complete as ESXi in my humble opinion.

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  • Virtualbox was one of the first things that popped into my head and there seems to be others that had the same idea: this looks like a nice management interface for the software: link – D4rKr0W Feb 28 '12 at 14:07
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    VirtualBox is really more of a workstation platform rather than running servers from it. If you're using virtualization in a business, get a hypervisor that's made to handle this task. Hyper-V, KVM or ESX(i). – Bart Silverstrim Feb 28 '12 at 14:18

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