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New Virtual Server


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Built a new virtual server over the weekend using Xenserver. I already use Xenserver on another system to run my router (pfSense) and the UTM (Untangle) and have been very pleased with it so far. With all the talk of Vail and Aurora I really wanted to build a test system. Plus, I have been playing around with Ubuntu and my oldest son wanted to have a second computer for his second monitor that he could use when his main computer was busy playing games or something.


So I re-purposed my HTPC which we haven't used in a while, plus this will force me to find a better solution that will work for each TV in the house. The HTPC had 4gig of ram and a dual core AMD CPU. I upgraded the cpu to an Athlon II x4 quad core and upgraded the ram to the max the motherboard could handle, 8gig. Man, I can remember when 8gig was unheard of and would cost as much as a car.


Vail is now loaded, plus two instances of Win7 and server 2008r2. Aurora and Ubuntu will come later, but that 8gig of ram goes quick. Looks like 4 systems is about the max it can run at one time, maybe 5 if I really skimp on the ram per VM. As for the cpu, no problem. For the most part, the cpu is barely pushed. I am now thinking I might want to create a second VM server that I can "pool" with the first one. Put the old HTPC dual core in the 8gig system and move the quad core over to the new system with 16gig of ram. Having two systems will allow for plenty of VM's and allow for the VM's to be moved from one server to the other, while running, if needed.


One more complication to the setup is my Unraid server. A while back, I posted that I was moving my movie collection off the WHS because I didn't want them duplicated, but also didn't want to re-rip them is something where to happen. So i built a video server based on Unraid and moved all my movies over to it. After letting it run 24/7 for months without any problems, I am now using it as a NFS storage repository for the Xenserver VM's. This means the actual Xenserver has very little hard drive space and all the VM's storage is located in raided server with plenty of space.


Running systems as a VM is pretty cool, at least to me. When I first tried to install Vail, I gave it a 60gig drive. The install stopped and said I needed a 160gig drive. No problem, I will just put a "1" in front of that 60gig drive and now it is a 160gig drive. Later when it needed some storage drives, I just gave it 2 300gig drives, all with just a few clicks of the mouse and a reboot of the VM. Almost like magic.


One thing I was disappointed about with Xenserver is I thought I had heard that v5.6 was going to have dynamic memory, allowing you to over-assign memory. While it does have this feature, it is only in the paid versions, which start at $1,000 PER SERVER.

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How do you find the performance of running VMs over NFS storage? I had tried this out a while back using VMware server but found the experience somewhat lacking. (VMs running locally were fine.)


I'm playing with hyper-v and iSCSI in my environment for similar reasons.


I'm eagerly waiting for Hyper-V SP1 to come out so that dynamic memory becomes an option.

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So far it has been fine, but none of the VM's are doing anything requiring heavy disk usage. I need to set up a test with the Unraid box (my NFS storage) serving movies to several locations while I get all four VM's to perform some disk intensive task. That should test not only the disk usage, but also the network bandwidth.

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  • 3 months later...

I am seeing about what the author of that article is seeing, about a 25% memory improvement. However, I guess that can be very different depending on how much ram you gave your VM's before dynamic memory.


Here is a screen shot of my VM's running:





Note that neither WHS2011 or SBS-E are able to work with dynamic memory (or at least I can't get them to work) while WHS v1 does. Running these same VM's before dynamic memory would have used over 10gig of ram, actually more since at the moment I am doing something with one of the VM which is causing it to use more memory.


Hyper-V's use of dynamic memory is not what I had hoped, but it is better than not having it. As far as I know, neither Xenserver or ESXi (the free versions) have dynamic memory, while their commercial version do.

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