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VM Lab setup - for MS exam prep

Hi, I've decided it's time to refresh on some exams, and am looking at building a VM lab to install a DC running Server 2008 R2 and a couple of Win7 workstations to.  This is to give me experience of the VM itself, plus updating for the MS 70-685 and 686 exams.

I've done some digging around, and can I do this by using the VM Player?  I don't have access to full licence keys for the VM software, so have to do this on the cheap, using Trial versions wherever possible.

It doesn't need to be too robust, as just for practice purposes, but the ability to store several snapshots of different setups would be great.  

I have a workstation running w7 Pro 64, with 32 gb RAM, and 2 Xeon X5670 cpus which will be the Host machine.  My experience is primarily in Windows support, but I'm very new to VMware.  

Any info on lab setup How-To's, tips, or general best practices would be much appreciated.   Cheers...
Danny Child
Danny Child
3 Solutions
Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
Both VMware Player and VMware Workstation can be used.

VMware Player 5.0 Free Download [FREE]

VMware Workstation 9.0 (60 day trial, $199) [EVALUATION]

Get them installed, Create a VM, connect to an ISO or CDROM media, and off you go.
Do you have the option to upgrade to Windows 8.1?  It has hyper-v capabilities.  I have been very happy with it.  I recently taught a server 2012 course and I used my laptop with 8.1 for demonstrations.

Joe Winograd, Fellow&MVEDeveloperCommented:
Hi Danny,
Yes, you should be able to do it with the (free!) VMware Player, which you've already discovered. You may also want to take a look at the (free!) Oracle VM VirtualBox. I have both installed and both are excellent products. Regards, Joe
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The player should be fine (or you could also use Oracle's VirtualBox), but you'd get better performance with ESXi which is also free. Another option would be to use Hyper-V which is included with 2008 server as a feature. With that you'd get similar performance to ESXi.

I'd get some extra HD's and remove your original Windows disk from the PC, adding those additional ones instead. Then install ESXi to a USB stick (or a basic Server 2008 with just the Hyper-V role enabled to one of the HD's), and then distribute your VM's on the other HD's. That way you'd get better disk performance than if you have all the VM's running from one HD at the same time.
Danny ChildIT ManagerAuthor Commented:
Wow, epic-fast responses!
Our organisation has standardised on VM for servers, so experience there is a benefit if I can get some.  

How much of a performance benefit would ESXi be, please?  Although working with VM is going to be pretty cool, I want to keep the learning curve for this pretty short, as it's the MS exams I need to focus on (sigh....)  

Does either Player or Workstation have any significant pros or cons on this basis?
Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
Workstation will allow you to run multiple VMs concurrently, and has more Snapshot and Cloning Features, than Player....but Player is FREE.

Oracle Virtualbox 4.0 [FREE]

Oracle Virtualbox is similar to VMware Workstation for FREE!

VMware Workstation is a Type 2 Hypervisor, other Type 2 Hypervisors include, VMware Server 2, VMware Player 3.0, Virtualbox 4.0, and Parallels.

Type 2 Hypervisors are SLOW.  In most reviews and experience, they perform at roughly 30-40% hardware capability.  That means an OS in a VM run off VMWare Workstation will likely perform at best like it has an 800 MHz CPU if you have 2 GHz physical CPU. You install Type 2 hypervisors onto of an existing host operating system.

If you use a Type 1 Hypervisor, you get MUCH better performance. ESX, ESXi, are all Type 1 hypervisors - they (based on experience and reviews) typically get 80-90% hardware capability - so that same VM run off the same 2 GHz CPU should operate more like it has a 1.6 GHz CPU instead of 800 Mhz. Type 1 hypervisors are installed on the bare metal of the server.

Type 1 Hypervisors also include Hyper-V.

But, saying that Performance of VMware Player, Workstation or Oracle Virtualbox, are adequate for training purposes.

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Danny ChildIT ManagerAuthor Commented:
Thanks guys, I''ve got Workstation installed now, and will go on from there.  So, I'll close this off now, but I'll add any procedural comments to help anyone else who stumbles over this.  
One thing I noted was Hanccocka's link above to Workstation gave me a 30-day trial, not 60? No biggie...
Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
VMware keep changing the trial time! (sometimes it's 45 days!).

I think it's to do with when they've released a new product! Because they have just released v10! as well!
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