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Why I Love Virtual Machines
Posted on 15-Nov-2005 23:19 by M Freitas | Tags Filed under: Blog

Why I Love Virtual Machines
I bought a new desktop (or is it a "under top", since it's under the desk?) for my use. The new PC runs an Intel Pentium 4 HT, 3GHz, 2GB RAM, 120GB HDD and 10 USB ports. Yes, I don't believe in USB hubs and I was tired of replacing USB cables every time I wanted to plug a device (lucky these new Windows Mobile 5 devices all use mini USB cables now, so no more changes!).

My previous PC was an AMD Athlon 2100XP+, 1.7GHz, 1.5GB RAM, 60GB HDD. I also had two external firewire HDD (250GB and 60GB).

My main driver to move to a new desktop was a test server I run. As part of the development and testing I needed a Windows Server 2003 box so that I could have multiple domains (IIS on Windows XP Pro can only handle one domain). I also run an Exchange Server 2003 on this server, and lately I have been running Newsgator Enterprise Server for a review.

In reality I run this Windows Server as a virtual machine, using Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 as the virtualization software. Moving the virtual machine was as easy as copying the file from my old desktop and having it configured on Virtual Server on the new PC.

I started this virtual Windows Server 2003 machine with 512MB RAM, but soon it was clear it needed more memory to run well. Easy: shutdown the virtual machine, change the memory configuration and restart it.

I had my old PC on Trademe (the New Zealand equivalent to eBay) but it did not reach the reserve I was expecting. I thought that since I couldn't sell it for a decent price, I might as well keep it running. So I decided to keep this box just to run my Windows Server 2003.

But installing Windows Server on this hardware wasn't the plan. Although I could do some work and migrate the virtual machine to a physical hardware (including removing Virtual Additions and running sysprep), it's so much better to have it virtual: easy maintenance, backup, and configuration changes (adding memory for example takes only a few seconds and is limited by the memory on the host PC only).

The only software running on this old PC now is Windows XP Pro and Microsoft Virtual Server. Again, moving the server to this new dedicated machine was easy: simply copy the file, create a new virtual machine using it, and configure the memory (this time using 1GB out of 1.5GB).

Microsoft also has just announced the RTM of Virtual Server 2005 R2. This new version promises improved performance, so I am waiting this to be available on MSDN Universal to try it out.

By the way, the review of Newsgator Enterprise Server will be coming shortly, and I can't stop telling people how well it works and the amount of features it brings. Companies looking for an enterprise intelligence tool will like the product and the review!

I am also going to do some development based on IP*Works! Internet Toolkit, with a test environment on another virtual server.

Just to end this: before placing the old box on Trademe I removed Windows and installed Ubuntu Linux. It was my first Linux install, and it worked without any glitch. All drivers loaded automatically, the network configuration was automatic, and everything worked fine. The user interface is actually quite good looking.

In the listing I wrote "Running Ubuntu Linux, but you can install your own OS". The first question posted was "No OS software?"... Some people still don't know what's Linux.

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