Finally made the jump this weekend!
I’ve spent the past 3 or 4 months experimenting with VMWare’s ESXi. For those that don’t know, ESXi is a “bare metal hypervisor” which means it can Virtual Machines without a host OS. *IT* is the host OS. Under the covers its just THEIR Linux, but its nice that its a quick install from a CD, and boom, you’re running.
Oh, no, it was not without its trials and tribulations. Not in the least. Their supported hardware (and thus drivers) are VERY limited. First option was a TOTAL bust. The second motherboard I used did not support the Virtualization option (even though the processors did) So that was out. Third system worked, but the built in RAID controller was not supported. First RAID card was supported, but motherboard did not support PCI. 2nd RAID controller and 3rd motherboard were a win, so I built two. Older RAM is mega ‘spensive, so I stuck with 16GB in each.
This is NOT a project you are gonna just grab a spare system and go to town, this supports server specific hardware, and anything less – You’re gonna have a bad time.
I used the stand alone converter to Virtualize a live machine, which is an amazing gift from the virtualization gods. This takes a live machine, and turns it into a VM running on an ESXi server. It REALLY trick. There are a few little things to watch out for (thin vs thick file system, and install VMWare tools) but its really impressive. I had been using this method to create live backups on my real running hardware. A couple years ago I had a complete RAID-5 controller failure, which caused me to loose my main server, and I was forced to go back to a backup about 2 weeks old. The data loss was minor, but the 18 hours it took to restore the backup was a hastle. This way I could go live on any machine with VMWare player or stand up an ESXi install and be back live in a matter of 30 mins.
The servers have been live for 4 days now, knock on wood no problems. I’m sure I’m just getting to a new level of headache, as I’m still fighting the licensing and naming monster that is VMWare.
They do a fantastic job of entry level desktop virtualization, and the FREE ESXi server. As soon as you want ANY other features of management/VM cloning/etc, it becomes an expensive headache. Its sad, really.