Future Virtual Machines

Vritualization madness can be very handy

I recently virtualized my Windows Home Server. I have had multiple boot drive failures, and I was getting tired of reinstalling the product. So I installed VirtualBox, then created a series of virtual disk drives and set my home server back up. It’s built on RAID 1 drives, so I’m hoping that it will last a long time, and even migrate to newer hardware over time.

On my laptop and desktop, I use VMWare to build test machines, and then use them for various versions of SQL Server in presentations. I can easily make changes in a VM on the desktop, copy the VHD files to my laptop, and then have the same environment ready when I deliver a presentation. Over the last ten years, virtualization has become a fantastic test environment for me and I can’t imagine doing without it. On the server side, I haven’t even noticed the migration of the SQLServerCentral servers from physical hosts to virtual machines, and they have performed very well.

However in one sense, nothing has changed for me on the server side. Our VMs are over provisioned, to prevent issues with the performance, just as they often were with physical machines. I suspect that is the case with many other virtual SQL Servers out there in production. However I’m not sure it’s a bad way to deploy VMs for a database server, especially with hardware so cheap.

I ran across a series of reports on the hypervisors of the future, which talks about the changes from the various vendors, and has a large section devoted to desktop hypervisors. It’s an interesting read, though quite a bit of the information is related to open source products. On the Windows 8 front, the Hyper-V changes look good, but I worry that licensing might prevent most of us from taking advantage of the enhancements.

I find virtualization to be an amazing way to get more work done on a desktop, in a very stable manner. I can test software in a VM and then remove it, or delete the host if the software causes issues. I can also simulate a large amount of hardware with much less effort than in the past. I urge you to try some virtualization software and experiment with the capabilities. Whether you build experience by working with software you can’t install elsewhere, or just learn some of the capabilities of the virtualization software, it will help you at some point in your career. I only expect there to be more and more VM deployment in all companies over the next decade.

Steve Jones

About way0utwest

Editor, SQLServerCentral
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2 Responses to Future Virtual Machines

  1. SQLServerIO says:

    Hey Steve!

    I run Hyper-V on the server side in my test lab with 6 machines I generally run 4 VM’s on each depending on what I’m working on. My “server” has three VM’s on it. My DC, Exchange and web server. Since they are all running on Hyper-V when I need to do work or upgrade my server I just migrate the VM’s over to another server. Also, doing upgrades is less painful since I can take a snapshot before hand and roll it back if something just doesn’t work right.

    On my desktop I run virtual box. I do some work with linux based OS’es and virtual box supports linux very well. I’m also not as worried about performance on my desktop with virtual box as I am on my servers with Hyper-V. I have found that virtual box generally isn’t as fast as Hyper-V or VMware. Also, there are some quirky things with virtual box. My biggest gripe is having to change the identifier if you want to move your virtual disk to another location.

    Virtualization is here to stay. The last big hurtle is better virtualization of the IO stack. Like type I hypervisors and the native extensions added to the CPU’s there are extensions to the IO stack coming down the pipe that will reduce the overhead for IO down into the 1 or 2 percent range.

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  2. way0utwest says:

    Only six machines? I expect nothing less from you, Wes. I run VMWare/Fusion, mostly because I work with presentation stuff that I move from the desktop to laptop. I used Virtual Box for the WHS since it was free, and I’ll really just let the server live on that machine, only to avoid WHS issues. I like Virtual Box, but it’s definitely not as friendly as VMWare.

    Haven’t done much Hyper-V, mostly because I haven’t wanted a host server up. That might change with Win 8, and I might end up doing Hyper-V on the desktop.

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