I've got a Mac Pro (2007) (http://support.apple.com/kb/SP30). Four Hard Drives and 8 GB of Ram.

Right now I am running Mac OS X Server. I am running this because I have a number of other Macs and I need to store photos / video / etc on the Server's raid. I also provide centralized authentication and remote imaging from the server.

That being said, its not having a huge load on it.

I have one hard drive set up with Windows 7. I Dual Boot into it when I want to play games and what not. Obviously, when I do that - the other computers can't log in, or have their network drives go offline.

I am looking for a virtualization solution that will allow me to run Mac OS X Server (Leopard) and Windows 7 in a manner that let sme play games in Windows 7, while Mac OS X Server is chugging along. It would be nice to be able to seamlessly switch between Windows and Mac OS X server .. but if that's not possible - I'm fine with OS X Server running in headless mode and being remotely administrated.

a) Is this possible with today's software?

b) What software do I need to pull this off?

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    This sounds like a home network. If that's the case this belongs on Super User. – John Gardeniers Oct 3 '09 at 21:58
  • What is a Bare metal virtualization? In a comment you are asking for "2 hypervisors" running at the same time, that is a non sense AFAIK. – drAlberT Oct 22 '09 at 8:00

If you are looking to be able to use the system in such a way that you have direct interaction with a Guest running a high end GUI type OS as your interface then none of the leading "bare metal hypervisors" can do what you want as they are all designed for server virtualization. Both VMware and Citrix are both rumored to be working on bare metal client hypervisors but I've seen no indications that any releases are imminent. There are some solutions from smaller players available - Virtual Computer's NxTop is one, Neocleus' NeoSphere is another. I haven't come across any independent performance testing numbers of either of these and I suspect that at this stage neither of them supports high end graphics particularly well.

Parallels Workstation Extreme isn't a Type 1\Bare metal Hypervisor but it does add an interesting twist to the Type 2 Hypervisor by enabling direct access to things like 3D Graphics and IO hardware from within Guest VM's.

As it stands I think that the best match at the moment for your requirements is either VMware Fusion or Parallels even though neither of these are bare metal hypervisors. Even if there is a lot of progress on the client bare metal hypervisor front in the next year or so I doubt that any new product will outperform these two until they've gone through a couple of revisions and I strongly suspect that high performance client bare metal hypervisors will require hardware level enhancements.

kordless is correct in pointing out that you cannot virtualize OSX without breaking Apple's licensing but it is certainly possible to virtualize OSX on VMware Workstation, I've done it too.

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    I've already addressed the issue regarding Apple's licensing... it should also be noted that Apple modified their licensing ..and OSX server is allowed to be virtualized. Its a moot point however .. since I have a 1:1 ratio and I quite frankly don't care about licensing - both because its for personal use and because their licensing is irrelevant where I live. – Daniel Ward Oct 3 '09 at 20:33
  • As for a Bare Metal Hypervisor ... is ESXi a server-only type Hypervisor? Or would that allow native virtualization? I know it requires the vmx CPU extension and it requires a dual cpu setup... – Daniel Ward Oct 3 '09 at 20:34
  • ESXi is a server only Hypervisor in the sense that it is totally headless - you don't really have any interactive console capabilities on the host running the hypervisor. There are ways to get limited access to a command line interface but there's no GUI capability whatsoever and no way to gain direct access to the interfaces on the Guest VM's in any meaningful sense. All interaction with the Guests has to be remote. – Helvick Oct 3 '09 at 23:06
  • Just to clarify - you can run workstation guests but you have to interact with them via a remote console service - like RDP, ICA, VNC etc. – Helvick Oct 3 '09 at 23:08

Apple has clarified their licensing and do allow virtualisation now. Please check with your solicitor / Apple Sales Rep on those details. ADC Select Members should be able to do this without any trouble at all, for instance.

I can't say that I have tried this specifically but you should be able to run (Snow) Leopard Server in Parallels (and likely VMWare) along with Win7, on top of either OS X or OS X server. You'll need lots of CPU and RAM to make all of that run smoothly, but with a Mac Pro workstation I figure you have that covered.

It depends on which games you want to run as to how much joy you will get out of hosted Windows in Parallels. Because of the various tradeoffs in virtualiztion you don't get nearly all of your GPU performance through that setup. Most folks who play current Windows games on their Macs do so through Boot Camp, it seems. If the games are a little less demanding you should be able to play them fine in Parallels 4, but ymmv. I'd search around and check the Parallel's (or VMWare, etc) user forums to see if anyone has tried your favourite game on Win7/Parallels 4 (etc).

Notes: I have used Parallels on my MacBookPro 17 for years but have not tried Win7 or Vista seriously in a vm on my 2GB ram machine(!). I have an XP vm and have played some older games in it easily enough. I have no direct experience with the VMWare Fusion product but am assured that it's features are similar and hear that many people quite like it.

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  • Parallels is out. It was my first attempt last year - the Direct X doesn't work. I ended up settling on my current configuration - Dual Booting (Boot Camp doesn't recognize Windows 7). Someone has told me that if I run something like ESXi I can virtualize both Windows and Mac - and its native - so there is no such issues (such as DirectX not working) Not familiar enough with virtualization to know how true that is. – Daniel Ward Oct 3 '09 at 20:31
  • Huh, sorry to hear that. I've no idea if ESXi will run on a MacBookPro (or any Mac) but I'd sure be interested to hear your results. I might be crazy enough to try that on my personal machine :) – adric Oct 3 '09 at 22:07
  • This fellow seems to have installed ESXi on a MacPro but does not seem to be running Mac OS on it at all: discussions.apple.com/message.jspa?messageID=9286820 – adric Oct 3 '09 at 22:46
  • ESXi should run on a MacPro but its a waste of the hardware - there is no way for ESXi to allow interactive access to the Guest OS from the host its running on - it's designed as a server virtualization hypervisor and all Guest OS access is via remote console protocols over a network connection. – Helvick Oct 3 '09 at 23:12
  • Try Parallels 5 again; I have great success with it. VMware Fusion is very comparable, too – gWaldo Aug 22 '10 at 15:36
  1. Boot camp into Windows 7.
  2. Install Vmware workstation within Windows 7.
  3. Install Mac OSX Server within VMware in Win 7 (thus breaking Apple licensing)
  4. Setup up your Vmware virtual network adapter to enable your client Macs to access the services of the Mac Server within the VM. These services are relatively cheap to run on the CPU even within the VM, as compared to running High Quality Dirext X games.

This will free your Windows 7 to run games in native mode while your client Macs can continue accessing the Mac file server via the virtual network adapter bridged to the VM running within Windows.

This is the best setup if gaming is your priority and u don't mind breaking the licensing agreement of running Mac OSX in a VM with windows being the host OS.

You can do it the other way round by installing Windows in a VM within Mac OSX server and keeping the licensing agreement intact, but I guarantee you that you will not be able to play high-end games. Go this route if saving photos on a Raid volume is more important to you.

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You can't do OSX anything in a VM without violating Apple's licensing. Apple requires a 1:1 on the license to metal. That said, I have been able to run 10.5.8 in a VM on Windows 7, so in theory it's possible.

My suggestion is to run Windows 7 from VMFusion on a Snow Leopard install on the box. Migrate your services over to Leopard from Server. Surely Snow Leopard supports your RAID devices and all the equivalent services can be run?

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    First, I am entitled to run Mac OS X on my Mac Machine. Whether its virtualized or not makes no difference whatsoever. The EULA issues come into play when running Mac OS X on a non-Mac platform, or simultaneously running the same license on the same platform. Second. Leopard Server has Open Directory, and a number of other Server-Specific features that I use. That's why I bought Server and not just the client. Lastly. I'd rather not run Windows 7 as the Host OS .. I'd rather run both OSX Server and Windows 7 on a separate Hypervisor that doesn't need a host OS. – Daniel Ward Oct 3 '09 at 20:26
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    Actually, Daniel Ward is fine, because he's running Mac OS X Server, which permits running in a VM. It's only Mac OS X Client which has the license restriction on being run in a VM. – Joe H. Oct 3 '09 at 23:10

Obviously others have covered the licencing issues but from a technical perspective you really only have one hurdle - emulating the EFI firmware that Macs require.

In 99% of situations hypervisors boot their VMs with a 'BIOS-like' boot-strap, not an EFI one. I'm unaware of any of the major virtualisation players offering an official EFI boot option, however I am very aware that there are people who have enabled this function under VMWare to allow them to run OSX Client. If I were you I'd google around for 'running OSX in a VM' or such like, these generally lead to illegal torrents containing unlicenced copies of OSX Client but also including files and instructions to allow this to work. If you were to simply substitute your own legal copy of OSX Server at this point I think you'll find this will work fine.

Hope this was of some help.

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