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VirtualBox Virtual Machine Server Hardware Recommendations

Posted on 2011-02-11
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Last Modified: 2012-05-11
Hello everybody,

I'm looking at putting together a virtual machine server for a client and wondered if you guys had any recommendations on hardware.  I'm considering building it myself but if the price:performance doesn't work out I'll probably be looking at a Dell, HP, or IBM.  

Anyway, here's the current scenario:

Remote office with 6 computers connected back to a main office via broadband and VPN
6 headless "proxy" PC's at the main office which remote users connect to via RDP
Proxy PC's run Windows XP and a fairly lightweight MIS software application

I'd like to virtualize those 6 proxies and have a single computer handling everything.  

What kind of specs should I be looking at to handle these 6 XP VM's?  I know better than to say this but, I don't think we'll ever go beyond requiring 6 VM's as there really is no more space at the remote office to accommodate more staff.    

I know RAM is probably my highest priority but I'm not exactly sure how much CPU I should be looking at or if I should consider adding a second or third network card to divvy up bandwidth better.  I also have read that hard drive write speeds might be a consideration but I'm not sure how much that applies here as they'll just be using a single app.  

I have kind of a "working prototype" out in the field with 3 VM's for the same purpose and it seems to be running really well.  It's got a dual core P-IV running at 3.00GHz and has 4GB of RAM.  It's running headless with a stripped down Ubuntu 10.04 OS and I'm using VirtualBox in headless mode to serve the VM's.  I'm looking to replicate this setup but have it handle more machines.  

Anybody have any hardware recommendations or experiences they can relay?

(PS - this needs to be on the cheap as they are pretty much broke - who isn't right now? :P)

Thanks in advance for your help!

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Question by:ttist25
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Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2) earned 2000 total points
ID: 34872906
How about VMware ESXi 4.1 (free download)

Make sure that the hardware on which the ESXi installation is going to be performed is in the VMware HCL before installing ESXi.

HCL link - http://goo.gl/YwWF9

ESXi v4.1 (Free Edition) would be my recommendation. Its a 64-Bit hypervisor and does not require the presence of an operating system.

ESXi v4.1 download link - http://goo.gl/3ccjb

Make sure that Intel VT or AMD-V is enabled on the BIOS before initiating the installation.

If you can get your hands on a HP DL385 or DL585 from eBay, this is an excellent platform for a Type 1 Hypervisor.

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by:ttist25
ID: 34888980
Wow - this looks very interesting!  This client doesn't have a rack that would hold a DL385/585.  Is there a tower equivalent that you could recommend?

I'm going to download this and see if I have anything in the graveyard that will let me run it.  
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Author Comment

by:ttist25
ID: 34908822
Hey Han,

I've been looking at supported servers/hardware and I'm looking at either an HP Proliant ML 330 G6 or an IBM x3200 M3 (can't get a Dell "server specialist" to call me back).  

I'm looking at a Quad Core Xeon 2.26 w/ 8MB cache and 12GB of RAM ($200 at crucial.com).

Do you think that will be enough for the 6 XP Pro VM's?

Thanks again for enlightening me to ESXi - I can't wait to get it up and running.    
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LVL 123
ID: 34908898
Yes, it should be more than sufficient, just make sure, you get yourself a good supported RAID controller, Battery Backup Write Cache module. (if HP).

The ML 330 G6 is supported on the HCL.
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LVL 123
ID: 34908931
If you wanted Dell to call you back ASAP, contact me via my profile, and I'll get our Account Manger to contact you! (they are always bothering us!)
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Author Comment

by:ttist25
ID: 34909526
Sent you an email.  Thanks man!
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LVL 123
ID: 34909534
got it!
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Author Closing Comment

by:ttist25
ID: 34910028
Sorry, I forgot to award you the points.  I'm so focused on getting this done I guess I forgot.  

Anyway, this is going to sound stupid but, I can't seem to find a definitive answer and I knew you'd have one.  

This is a totally free solution other than the operating system licenses required for the VM's, correct?  There's no other VMWare package in addition to this that I would need to purchase to create and run the VM's?
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LVL 123
ID: 34910165
VMware ESXi 4.1 is a free download, register with VMware, and they'll supply you with a free license.

You can then use and run a Type 1 Hypervisor for free.

If you want to purchase an use third party backup software e.g. Veeam Backup and Replication, you'll need to upgrade to at least Essentials (approx $500) to use the VMware API, because Veeam needs to interface to the API to work, and in free version it's read only).

In the future, you may want to use other features in the licensed version HA, DRS, vMotion etc
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