I have a Ubuntu 10.10 installation running on hardware. I upgraded the hardware, and am planning to move the system over. Whilst reading the many various ways to do this, I came across tools for making a virtual machine out of a hardware installation. I think this might make managing my server easier in the future if I run it as a virtual machine. Also, I will be able to easily split responsibilities of my server, for example running MySQL on a separate virtual machine hosted on the same physical machine.

Is it a good idea to install my production server as a virtual machine inside another thin server installation?

What are the pros/cons and pitfalls?

  • what hypervisor/virtualization platform are you considering using for virtualization? – gravyface Mar 20 '12 at 10:37
  • I was thinking about standard ubuntu server installation, and installing virtualbox, because I know how to do all that. I could also easily share the virtual machine with my computer, so could easily take the machine away at any point and experiment with new features. I am very much open to suggestion though. – Billy Moon Mar 20 '12 at 10:40
  • Please tick one of the answers if helped, or if you've your own findings please also post it (you can accept is as well). – bua Mar 20 '12 at 19:23
  • @bua, I am going to have a go at doing this tomorrow, so will know what is the right answer at the end of the day hopefully ,~) – Billy Moon Mar 20 '12 at 19:43

Go for VM
but go for something like XEN this will perform much better than VBOX on Ubuntu


  • Flexibility - that's pretty obvious
  • TESTING - you'll be able to test soft on new machines earlier that competitors using native hwd installations ;)
  • Education
    • you'll learn more this way about various systems and virtualization of course
    • Easier to play with clusters
  • easier to maintain Cluster power - resources distribution
  • choose best OS for particular tasks (SQL db, file server, high frequency calculations - BSD has much better context switching that Linux kernel, L4 kernels have outstanding IPC...)


  • performance drop-down ; additional OS (hypervisor) layer brings big overhead - it gets worse with OS(native ubuntu)+VM+OS

Here's a more comprehensive list of recommended hypervisors:


Virtualbox is really more of a "virtualize a workstation" type solution than a serious "I want to run a server in a VM" solution.

If you want to run a real VM solution I'd suggest running VMWare ESXi (free) or Hyper-V on the hardware, if your system supports it. Be aware you'll need a Windows workstation to run the vSphere control console for VMWare; I'm not sure off the top of my head what Hyper-V requires for management.

Going with a true hypervisor solution will incur less overhead on your host system, and leave more resource space for the guest VM's.

Virtualbox is better for playing with an OS or situations that call for "I need to run MS Office but I'm running Ubuntu." It works okay, but if you manage servers 24/7 or need to run multiple machines concurrently, it's foolish to shoehorn it into Virtualbox rather than run a bare hypervisor for the job.

  • Thanks for your feedback. I am very much a command line kind of guy, and try to avoid using windows when I can, which (by what you tell in your answer) rules out VMWare ESXi and Hyper-V. I will however look into other hyper-visors (XEN/others?). Is it only performance which is the issue, or are there other reasons not to us VirtualBox and the likes? – Billy Moon Mar 20 '12 at 11:10
  • There are utilities for using VMWare via command line. Just because the vSphere management console is Windows based (I guess VMware 5 also has a web interface) doesn't mean you should simply write it off, considering they have the overwhelming marketshare lead in the US and UK; if you want what works well, use the right utility. The alternative that works but tends to be more work is Xen (or get Xenshare from Citrix, I believe is their product.) If you want to really use a VM platform, get a full hypervisor, not a desktop that also hosts servers. – Bart Silverstrim Mar 20 '12 at 12:36
  • Also, while it was worth noting that Windows largely sucked for command line use, powershell has addressed many of the deficiencies in command line scripting on the Windows server platform. – Bart Silverstrim Mar 20 '12 at 12:38
  • I think Xen is starting to look like the right thing for me to do – Billy Moon Mar 20 '12 at 13:10

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