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VMWare question. Which to Host?

So I thought I'd poll the smarter people that I know...

I have a server that I'm going to run multiple guest operating systems on, everything from Windows 2008 to Linux.

What should I use for the Host operating system? Should I install Windows 2008 and use VMWare 2.0 Beta? or Should I install CentOS or Ubuntu and install VMWare 2.0 Beta? or should I limit myself and install something like Windows 2003 and use VMWare 1.x?

I would think Linux would give the best results a la less resources used, etc. But my gut tells me that Windows would be more solid with VMWare and also that the resources would be reused in Windows and loaded in both OSs anyway, so it would be moot.

Basically, I'm replacing my existing dedicated hosting provider in Texas with my own server at CalPop in downtown and I want to run a couple or maybe up to 3 guest OSs on a single server.

thoughts on which way's best and why?

charlie
Wed, 25 Jun 2008 16:35:01 +0000

I am running VMware for Windows (GSX 3.0) with 5 Guest OSes (all W2K3) on a Dell 1950 Dual Quad-Core proc with 16 GB of RAM. I can only allocate about 2.8 GB of RAM per guest OS and the performance is pretty bad. It may take up to 30 seconds to logon to the guest OS from the console or RDP. I suppose that running only 3 guest OSes would allow for more resources per machine. One plus is that once you have a base image of the guest, it was very easy to copy and rename the other guest OSes. It also copies across to different hosts as well. I did this for 5 different hosts (physical) and 25 guests (virtual) machines. The copy process was about 30 minutes each versus having to install 25 instances each taking 2-3 hours each.

I agree that linux would give the host the best performance since it would have the least overhead. For my configuration, it required 2 GB for the host.

Sp Chess
Wed, 25 Jun 2008 16:55:21 +0000

For the absolute minimal overhead, run VMware ESXi, only 32MB of footprint, but it's going to run you $500. See

VMware ESX, Bare-Metal Hypervisor for Virtual Machines

VMware ESX Server

I think for the best bang for the buck, use a barebone install of a Linux distro (no GUI) as the host and install VMware server on top of that. Not sure how often you'll be messing with the host OS except for maintenance. You'll be interacting mostly with VMware Console and the guest OSes directly anyways.

Not sure how you came to the conclusion that Windows would be more solid. Also, not following what you meant by "resources would be reused in Windows and loaded in both OSs".

Sp Chess, does the login time improve if you reduce the number of guests?

David
Wed, 25 Jun 2008 17:23:14 +0000

Performance does improve as the guests are reduced (either shut down or removed). I think my config was pushing the host a bit. If we allocated less to each guest, it would respond better.

Sp Chess
Wed, 25 Jun 2008 17:45:36 +0000

well we run microsoft virtual server 2005 R2 cause it's good with microsoft OSs obviously and cause i have a neat-o script that makes a snapshot and then full copy of the vhd file elsewhere, so i have a full dupe of the vm on a remote file share for DR.

we also run vmware server and esx.

my server is an ebay buy of a proliant dl380 G3, dual processor 2.8Ghz, with a current total so far of 3GB ram and 1TB of storage.

so with VMWare, i come up with 3 core questions... Use VMWare server 1.x or 2.x beta 2? Host on windows or linux? If Linux, Ubuntu or CentOS?

charlie
Wed, 25 Jun 2008 17:48:11 +0000

stupid thing is that I can buy VMware ESXi at 50% off as a partner or get a free NFR, but they have strict licensing that it is only to be used for testing and demos. and i'm really sure they track licenses and check usage. so i don't want to risk it.

$500 is more than i want to spend on vm software. although i did see that esxi and was tempted.

what i meant by resources will be reused in windows, is that i would think that once windows is loaded on the host the windows guests would probably captialize on the host running windows and reuse some of the existing processes/threads/services/etc. just hoping.

that's true, the host OS is also really for maintenance and for performance tuning of the guest OSs.

charlie
Wed, 25 Jun 2008 19:29:34 +0000

you'll probably be better off reading the message boards at vmware... VMware Communities

here's an old thread on windows hosts vs linux host:
Windows vs. Linux

i think the general consensus is that a linux host takes more time to set up, but more bang for the buck if it's set up correctly (highmem kernel, skip ext3, etc.) centos should work out of the box, but ubuntu might require more tweaking. see VMware Server 1 Online Library for officially supported host OS versions. though it seems some people had luck using using the latest and greatest. otherwise, just install windows. consider time vs diminishing returns.

unless you're using better hardware (more cores), adding more memory (more than 3.6GB per VM), or wanting a better management interface, there's no reason to go 2.x now. or if you need to run a guest OS that's not supported in 1.x.

David
Wed, 25 Jun 2008 20:13:34 +0000

Sp Chess, not sure if the following applies to you:

If VMs are allocated more than 1.5 GB ram, server and VMs slow down considerably

David
Wed, 25 Jun 2008 20:14:57 +0000

... ... ... that's an odd problem.

charlie
Wed, 25 Jun 2008 20:57:21 +0000

woah... backtrack. highmem kernel? skip ext3? argh.. i already formatted ext3. i guess it makes some sense. why have journaling and that overhead. so what fs is best? reiser? what's highmem kernel... i'm guessing i'll have to compile my own. blah.

i was going to use CentOS but they specifically mention compatibility with Ubuntu and although CentOS is RHEL compat, i was still concerned cause this is so low level and OS dependent. that's why I chose Ubuntu. maybe i should have just stuck with this guide... Install VMWare VMserver 2.0 Beta 2 on CentOS5.1

well the ONLY reason, i wanted to go with beta 2 was because it supports windows 2008 and a few more linux flavors than 1.0. windows 2008 is a bit more lean than windows 2003. so for a guest os that's going to be a web server, it would be nicer.

charlie
Wed, 25 Jun 2008 20:58:38 +0000

Sorry, meant to say hugemem, you don't have to compile... see here: VMWare server on Linux - Where's all the memory

I think you should still use a journaling FS, but ext3 just doesn't have good performance. from what i've read, XFS and JFS are good candidates.

CentOS is binary compatiable with RHEL, they just modify the RHEL source with a non RHEL string so it can be freely distributed. Officially supported Ubuntu versions should be fine, I think it's just be the newer non-supported versions that require tweaking.

If you want lean for a web server, you would just run lighttpd on a linux box, unless you absolutely need IIS or ASP.net...

David
Wed, 25 Jun 2008 23:09:14 +0000

Thanks Dave. I'll check if this helps.

Sp Chess
Thu, 26 Jun 2008 17:31:09 +0000

another option for you if you get Hyper-V with your subscription, not sure how it compares with ESX.

Microsoft plans to release hypervisor
Hyper-V

David
Thu, 26 Jun 2008 18:10:03 +0000

thanks... i do have access, but a few problems.. first Hyper-V is only in RC still... (Windows Server 2008: Virtualization and Server Consolidation) and unfortunately... my system can't support it...

System requirements

* An x64-based processor running an x64 version of Windows Server 2008 Standard, Windows Server 2008 Enterprise or Windows Server 2008 Datacenter.
* Hardware-assisted virtualization. This is available in processors that include a virtualization option; specifically, Intel VT or AMD Virtualization (AMD-V, formerly code-named "Pacifica").
* Hardware Data Execution Protection (DEP) must be available and be enabled.
* Memory should be minimum of 2GB or more.

charlie
Thu, 26 Jun 2008 18:24:27 +0000

hmm... everyone else seems to be keen on XFS too. JFS, not much clamor out there. so both are 64-bit file systems. my systems are 32-bit. so can i run the 64-bit FS on a 32-bit OS? according to wikipedia for XFS, it seems like it's fine. just not sure.

charlie
Thu, 26 Jun 2008 18:25:24 +0000

Hyper-V got released today.

Bummer you can't run it. I just assumed any ol' Xeon would support Intel VT.

Paravirtualization (guest OS needs to be modified) appears to give you the most bang for the buck. Didn't understand why people get all excited about Xen until now. OpenVZ with burstable memory shared between VMs is also very cool. Too bad you have to run Windows.

Good thread here on slashdot:
Performance Evaluation of Xen Vs. OpenVZ

David
Fri, 27 Jun 2008 01:19:23 +0000

VMWare to Provide a Free ESX HyerVisor Variant

David
Sat, 26 Jul 2008 17:54:06 +0000

dangit.. so i should wait for that now. huh. =T

charlie
Sat, 26 Jul 2008 18:01:15 +0000

yay! thanks dave! =)

Download VMware ESXi Hypervisor for Server Virtualization

VMware ESXi Hypervisor

Get a free license for VMware ESXi and build virtual machines in minutes with this easy-to-deploy, OS-independent hypervisor.

charlie
Mon, 28 Jul 2008 08:50:04 +0000

crap... it doesn't work on the server i have (proliant dl360 g3).. actually esxi only seems to work on the most newest servers only. although regular esx works on any system.

http://www.vmware.com/pdf/vi35_systems_guide.pdf

charlie
Mon, 28 Jul 2008 09:02:27 +0000

Just wanted to add that you can install ESXi on most servers that support ESX, despite the VMWare Guide. I am running two "older" servers with ESXi that are listed as not supported by VMWare, but they work fine, run fast, and have no issues whatsoever.

So I guess just go ahead and try ESXi, since it only takes a few in to try, no harm done if it doesn't work.

Chris
Wed, 20 Aug 2008 16:37:24 +0000

Regarding the comment re. running ESXi on older servers, what are they?
Does ESXi run OK on DL380 G3's?

Ian Heath
Wed, 01 Oct 2008 09:58:42 +0000

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Excerpt: so i'm back on trying to get my new server online. i'm running centos 5.2 as the host os (for some reason ubuntu wouldn't boot up on my scsi raid) installing zero addons except for csf. turned off all unnecessary services, etc. now at first i was going to run xen, but thought it wouldn't be a . . .
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