VMware Server 2.0…

I’ve just taken the first tentative steps into the world of VMware Server 2.0. I had read some blogs posts about people experiencing issues and reverting to the previous version, but so far so good. I’ve installed it on my laptop and upgraded the VMware Tools on VMs and it all seems to be behaving so far.

Running previous VMware Server versions on Vista had one big drawback. The first VM to start after a reboot caused the whole laptop to hang for 5-10 minutes. Version 2.0 seems to have solved this problem. No hangs and the VMs seem to start pretty fast.

Version 2.0 also includes support for RHEL5 and its clones.

When I get back home I’ll have to give it a try on my main machine and see how RAC installations cope.

Cheers

Tim…

Sun’s xVM is here…

Sun have announced their revolutionary new product xVM. It’s an open source Xen derivative that installs on bare-metal.

Wait a minute… That sounds remarkably like what Oracle did with Oracle VM, which was released about a year ago…

So now we have four big players wanting a share of the market:

  • VMware ESX (ESXi) Server – A proprietory, bare-metal hypervisor. ESX isn’t free, but the ESXi version is.
  • Oracle VM – A free open source bare-metal hypervisor.
  • Sun xVM – A free open source bare-metal hypervisor.
  • Microsoft Hyper-V – A not-so-free proprietory hypervisor that’s not exactly bare-metal.

You have to take the word “free” with a pinch of salt. With most of these tools, the real power comes with the enterprise tools and they cost money. Even so, as far as basic hypervisors go, it’s looking a lot more crowded in free-town.

I guess the one that stands out on this list is Hyper-V because it isn’t really a bare-metal installation. You run Hyper-V on a Windows Server 2008 box and it effectively demotes the server to a partition, or virtual machine. As a result, if you want to run a bunch of Linux VMs, you still have to have the Windows Server 2008 parition managing the lot. Not what I would call bare-metal. I suppose this is less of a hardship for a Windows shop, but it just doesn’t sound like an enterprise product to me. Just an opinion. :)

It looks like the next couple of years are going to be kinda interesting. VMware is still the name on everyones lips, but the profit margins are going to take a bit of a beating as the competition fires up…

Cheers

Tim…

VMware ESX and Oracle RAC…

It looks like those possible VMware ESX articles I mentioned yesterday are now on the VIOPS site.

If you’re interested in the enterprise VMware kit it’s worth taking a look at the site. New stuff is being added all the time. I think it’s official launch is at vmworld2008 in about 3 weeks.

I’ve also added an overview article for the ESX Server installation to my website.

Cheers

Tim…

Flights, OpenWorld, VMware and stuff…

I realize I’ve been a little quiet of late, but life has been really busy and something had to give…

Flights for my conference dates are now sorted. Big thanks to Victoria, LaShon and Sylia. I better get on the case and book my hotels. The plan is:

Birmingham > Frankfurt > San Francisco > Auckland > Perth > Sydney > Gold Coast > Auckland > LAX > Frankfurt > Home

Just looking at it is giving me the fear. That’s some serious air time. I’m way to fat to fly coach at the moment. I better lose some weight and get some anti-DVT support socks… :)

I’ve still got to sort out my talks for the conferences. It’s all stuff I’ve been teaching recently, so the material isn’t the problem. The hard thing is trying to compress something that takes me 3.5 hours to teach into 45 minutes without sounding like a list of bullet points.

Recently, I’ve been doing some work with VMware ESX Server. I may have something coming out on the VMware VIOPS site soon. I’ll post again if that works out. By the way, big thanks to the VMware guys (Steve, Tushar and Chris) for hooking me up with the software. I’ve been wanting to play with this stuff for a long time. I was going to start using the free ESXi stuff, but I’ve now got the pukka gear… :)

The OCP stuff has hit the back burner for the moment. I was aiming to take the exam this week, but that’s not going to happen now. I’ve got pretty much all of the notes sorted, but I’ve not had time to learn them. Maybe I’ll get time before OpenWorld, or even at OpenWorld…

Cheers

Tim…

Desktop Virtualization Tools…

Some quick thoughts on the state of desktop virtualization tools…

Background

If you’ve been checking out my RAC articles, you’ll have probably noticed I’m a bit of a VMware fan. I originally used VMware Workstation, but switched to the free VMware Server when it was released in 2006. I don’t have much cause to complain about VMware Server, but it’s always good to take a look at the competition to see if I’m missing out…

I guess before I start talking about virtualization, I should define what I mean by desktop virtualization. For me, “server” virtualization tools should install on the bare-bones hardware, like Oracle VM and VMware ESXi. I don’t want to waste resources on having a host OS running as well as my virtual machine. On the other hand, desktop virtualization tools should run on top of my host OS, so I can play about with other operating systems, but don’t have to dedicate my hardware to that task.

Vmware Server

Even though the name contains the word “Server”, I still think of this as a desktop virtualization tool as it installs on top of the host OS, not on the bare-bones hardware. That said, it’s the most server-like of the desktop virtualization tools I’ve used. It’s very stable and very feature rich. That’s a good point for someone like me, but may be off-putting to the more casual users.

I guess the standout feature for me is the ability to share disks between VMs. This makes RAC installations using ASM, OCFS2 and raw disks possible, which is a pretty big thing for me. Obviously, if you never do RAC installations using shared disks this is irrelevant.

I guess my only real gripe about this product is VMware are slow to add new OS support. I’ve been waiting for the final release of version 2.0 for a long time, so I still don’t have proper RHEL5 support. That said, I’ve not yet run into any problems running RHEL5 or any other OS, so I guess I’m being mega-picky considering it’s free. :)

If you’re an Apple fan you are out of luck. VMware Server is a Linux and Windows tool only. That’s not as much of a limitation as it sounds since it’s supposed to be a server tool. VMware Fusion supports Macs, but it’s not free.

Parallels

I got my current laptop about 1 year ago and it came with Windows Vista. I tried to use VMware Server on it and ran into a bunch of network related problems. I knew some people who were using Parallels on Apple Macs and I saw from the website it was compatible with Vista, so I spent some money and got a copy of it.

Parallels was easy to use and “did what it said on the tin”. I had no problems running Windows and Linux guests, but it wouldn’t let me share virtual disks between VMs and it cost money. The first point was a major issue for me. The second one wasn’t so bad, but a little annoying when I was used to using a free product. :)

While using Parallels on my laptop I was still using VMware Server on my main Linux boxes. Not long after buying parallels I found a solution to my VMware Server on Vista networking issues, so I switched back to VMware Server and never launched Parallels again.

I guess Parallels trump card has been the support for Apple Macs, so you can use one tool for Windows, Linux and Mac.

Xen

This has been knocking on the door of VMware for some time. I guess two really big steps for Xen, as far as people like me are concerned, have been its inclusion in enterprise distributions, like RHEL5, and the introduction of Oracle VM. The enterprise linux distributions (Red Hat, SUSE etc.) approach is to run Xen on top of the Host operating system, making it look very much like a desktop tool. This is a bit unfair as it’s certainly got more to it than that, but that’s how it appears. Oracle’s approach with Oracle VM is to “remove” the host OS and allow it to be installed on bare-bones hardware. I say “remove” because it is still there, but it’s a very small footprint, not a complete kernel+tools installation. This is much the same as the approach used by VMware ESXi. The inclusion in heavyweight distributions like RHEL and its use by Oracle in Oracle VM send out a strong signal about the power of Xen.

As soon as I got my hands on CentOS 5, I gave Xen a try and was pleasantly surprised. It works well and has the “server clout” that some of the other tools lack. When chatting to some Red Hat staff about a year ago, the general consensus was Xen out-performs VMware for Linux VMs, but it a little slower than VMware for Windows VMs. I’m not sure if that position has altered since then and I certainly have no evidence to backup that statement. :)

I guess the biggest issue for most people will be that Xen is only available on Linux. That’s fine as far as server virtualization is concerned, but it means it drops off the map where desktop virtualization is concerned because it’s still a MIcrosoft world out there.

VirtualBox

Available for about 18 months, and acquired by Sun about 5 months ago, I only noticed VirtualBox a few weeks ago when I was looking through the “Add/Remove Applications” utility on Ubuntu 8. A bit of Googling and it turned out to be the current darling of desktop virtualization. Of course, now I know it exists I can’t go a day without noticing someone else writing about it. So today I thought I would give it a shot, which ultimately inspired this post.

I’ve done a test drive of Virtual Box Open Source Edition (OSE) on Ubuntu and it’s pretty sweet. The interface is very simple and it works fine. I can’t speak for the paid-for product, but the OSE edition has no pretensions of being a server virtualization product, so it lacks some of the things I hold dear, like shared disks. What’s more, looking through the forum, it is unlikely to add this type of functionality in the near future, as its quite rightly not considered a must-have for the desktop.

If you are thinking about running Oracle 11g on VirtualBox, you might want to read this post by Eddie Awad.

I guess the two big plus points in favor of Virtual Box are its free, and its available for Windows, Linux and Mac. Those two alone make it pretty compelling.

Others

I know there’s a bunch of other virtualization tool out there, but I don’t consider any of them particularly mainstream. I know Microsoft Virtual PC 2007 could be considered a biggy, but I would never use a Windows only product like this because I’m not a Windows only guy. Call me biased, but it is my blog.

Update: Look at Qemu if you need non-x86 emulation, or coLinux if you only use Linux VMs. :)

Conclusion

For the time being I will be sticking with VMware Server. The main reason for this is it allows me to do my RAC installations using shared disks. Added to that, I can share my VMs between my Linux and Windows boxes with no problems.

If you don’t need shared disks I would seriously consider VirtualBox because it’s simple, free and supports all the right platforms. Seems like the obvious choice for most people. :)

I’m interested to know your feelings on these and other products. After all, I’m just speaking from my experience of them and it’s always good hear differing opinions.

Cheers

Tim…

Vista SP1 and VMware Server 1.0.5…

Anyone following my tweets last night would know I installed Vista SP1 and VMware Server 1.0.5 last night.

While I was doing the Oracle workshops I didn’t really want to mess with my laptop much, but now I’m having a right good rummage.

The Windows Vista SP1 installation took about 45 minutes and didn’t report any problems. Since the install I’ve seen no problems. My AntiVirus software (AVG) works without complaint. My VPN software (Checkpoint) is happy as Larry. The box still talks to my Linux boxes and my NAS, which is a Linux appliance using Samba. So all in all it worked out OK, considering the various worry mongering going on in the press.

Remember, this is one laptop being used by a computer gumby. I’m not suggesting it’s safe for your whole organization to go Vista ans SP1. I just thought it was worth a mention.

While I was waiting for the SP1 installation I thought I’d give VMware Server 1.0.5 a go on my Linux (CentOS 5) server. It installed fine, and apart from having to update my VMware tools on each VM, everything ran as before. There doesn’t seem to be anything new compared to 1.0.4, probably just bug fixes, but I guess the big change will be when version 2.0 comes out of beta.

Once the SP1 installation was complete I put the new version of VMware Server on my laptop and it worked fine there also.

So it was a pretty successful evening, considering the devastation that could have resulted. :)

Cheers

Tim…

Oracle 11g RAC on Windows…

I guess you would have to be in a coma to not notice that Oracle 11g is now out for Windows 32-bit.

To celebrate this release I’ve done an 11g RAC on Windows 2003 article, which is an update of my 10g RAC on Windows 2003 article. With both installations, if you get the networking stuff sorted, the installs are a breeze. Miss any steps out and you’re in for a world of hurt. :)

Cheers

Tim…

Articles and stuff…

Articles:

I think I’m finally getting myself back on track. It’s been an unusual few weeks though.

I spent quite some time complaining that I couldn’t think of anything to write about and hoping 11g would inspire me. Since the release of 11g and the inevitable installation articles, I’ve felt rather lethargic again. Getting into a new version of the database is always a bit odd. For me it’s a combination of excitement and denial… :)

Well, I’ve finally updated the VMware RAC article for 11g, which was dependent on a RAM upgrade. It works fine, but very slow. Unless you want the ASM experience, I think the NFS RAC method is a lot cleaner and easier.

I’ve also started to plug through the DB new features. The first thing I played around with was Partitioning. I’m hoping I can keep up the momentum for a while. I wanted to sit the 11g beta OCP exam, but I know so little about 11g at the moment it seems really unlikely I’ll get to grips with it before the beta exam closes. It’s a shame really because it’s nice to be involved in the process.

Stuff:

I finished reading Vittorio the Vampire. Of all the Anne Rice books I’ve read I think it’s the weakest. It’s all a bit flowery and “mills and boon”. Not my cup of tea.

On a more serious note, my 5 year old nephew was in A&E last night with pneumonia. I was with him all day yesterday and although he wasn’t well, we didn’t suspect something so serious. A bit of Calpol and he was up attacking a balloon octopus with a plastic sword… Things got worse through the night which resulted in the A&E visit and the diagnosis. The doctor was surprised he was so active and chirpy considering. Tough as old boots! :) He’s back at home now and all looks good, but it’s very unnerving. I suspect within a couple of days he will be back in full effect.

Cheers

Tim…

WordPress 2.3 and VMware Server 1.0.4…

It’s been an exciting couple of days on the upgrade front…

First, VMware released VMware Server 1.0.4. Don’t expect any new functionality. I can’t see anything different here, but it allegedly contains a whole bunch of security fixes, which is nice. Still no RHEL5 in the guest OS list, and the Vista support is still labeled as experimental. Both OS work fine, but I would have thought by now they could have sorted this. I guess you get what you pay for… :)

Next, WordPress released version 2.3 of their blogging software. If you’re reading this, the upgrade when well. :)

Happy upgrading…

Cheers

Tim…