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VM Solutions

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January 10, 2012 2:21:02 PM

I'm interested to know what VM solutions the good folks down here are running and what recommendations people make and why.

At the moment I'm not working and trying to keep my skills up to date. Unfortunately the limited IT job market in the UK is somewhat focused on the MS product lines; there are Linux jobs out there but I don't have commercial experience with linux but do have extensive Windows support and some sys admin experience. The upshot of this is I want to play with the latest MS platforms, but integrating them into a larger virtual network using things like virual routers and iSCSI storage.

Last time I had a good look at this MS were making server images available on Virtual PC and there were a couple avialable on VM Ware. I'm suspecting that if I want to play with things like 2k8 I'll need to host Virtual PC on my Windows install and then add any Linux machines via an alternate solution as MS never seemed to like playing with Linux, although that might have chanaged in the last couple of years. Maybe I can convert a Virtual PC image to another platform or maybe MS have some offerings on other platforms.

I'm wondering if I can also gain some commercially usefull experience on something like vSphere or other commercial hypervisors. Any recommendations or observations on this front would be most appreciated.

In terms of kit I have a couple of spare discs in my PC which is a E8400 C2D with 4Gb of RAM. If I get into this I can probably find some more RAM as I suspect this will become limiting. I'm not to concerned about performance as it's a play environment and will not be used for anything other than experimentation. It would just be cool to be able to sell it as an area of interest and know the basics.

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January 10, 2012 4:15:12 PM

Good as they are it's just not commercialy used enough. I've played with both a couple of years ago. Virtual Box is fine for a basic couple of machines but it's the more commercial side I'd like to play with as those are the skills employers seem to want. I'm more inclined towards KVM as I'm not a fan of certain organisations and their business practices.

I think I'm going to register with vmWare and get the free vSphere installed. I've never played with a bare iron Hypervisor and I'll be interested to see what the performance is like compared to the open alternatives. That's if I can get it to run on my HW.
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January 10, 2012 4:39:57 PM

Your CPU has Intel Vt-x, that's a godsend for VMs. Honestly I would highly suggest KVM or Xen, VirtualBox is fine for me, but it is tainted crap.

I would lean towards open source if possible, but VmWare makes damn good software.
January 10, 2012 5:37:33 PM

I've tried VMWare (workstation, server, ane vSphere), Virtual PC, andVirtualBox. Nowadays I stick with VirtualBox. It seems to be happy with any OS I want to use, has all the features that I need (including booting from an iScsi disk) and runs any of the hard disk image formats. It just gets better with every new release and is the only solution I can host on Windows, Linux, FreeBSD, or Solaris.
January 10, 2012 5:47:03 PM

I've got VT-d. It's one of the reasons I went with the e8400. At the time I wanted to play with the system images for a then new job that I had... hmmm job :(  The amusing thing with that was that I had the same chip in my machine at work (we used VM's for support of different platforms and products) but I found they ran a lot faster at home. A bit of digging reveled that the Dell machines at work actually disabled VT in BIOS, lord only knows why but they did and we didn't find a way to make it work before I left there.


I'd forgotten XEN so I'll have to do a bit more research on that, it might be an excuse to play with CentOS which I've not touched for a good few years.
January 10, 2012 5:52:03 PM

Ijack said:
I've tried VMWare (workstation, server, ane vSphere), Virtual PC, andVirtualBox. Nowadays I stick with VirtualBox. It seems to be happy with any OS I want to use, has all the features that I need (including booting from an iScsi disk) and runs any of the hard disk image formats. It just gets better with every new release and is the only solution I can host on Windows, Linux, FreeBSD, or Solaris.


Thanks for the input. It's good to hear the other side of this as I must admit to being a bit closed to it for a few personal reasons. It's a small download so I'll have a play, if it can run the Virtual PC images then that really would be handy.

What did you think of vSphere? Worth looking at to gain some experience or just a whole world of corporate hurt?
January 10, 2012 7:09:33 PM

I think it's worth looking at anything that you can get your hands on for free. I suspect that vSphere provides a more stable and secure solution than VirtualBox although it probably doesn't provide as many bells and whistles for the clients. But well worth a play, especially if you are thinking of an enterprise environment. Any experience is worth it (and most of it hurts a little).
January 11, 2012 1:50:10 AM

After the decent into a vegitative state the last 8 months of non work has induced anything that involves thinking is likely to cause pain... :/ 
January 25, 2012 6:22:57 AM

audiovoodoo said:
After the decent into a vegitative state the last 8 months of non work has induced anything that involves thinking is likely to cause pain... :/ 

Along with amdfangirl I wish you good fortune in the job hunt (which unfortunately, looks fairly grim for EU in general these days).

But yes, keeping up skills and keeping the mind sharp is a fine pastime and can only help.

+1 for VirtualBox (much improved networking support, unlimited snapshotting, usb device sharing, very decent performance for any virtualized-accelerated architectures)
January 25, 2012 8:18:08 AM

I've got an interview tomorrow morning to go temp at a former employers. Not a tech role but some of the skills will help.

It's work, but the psychological damage when you realise that they moved my last job to India and that I'd be on considerably less money than I was when I was there 4 years ago is considerable... Mind you I tend to find Jobs are like buses, the number of times I've had two offers come along at the same time after hunting for a while is uncanny.

To think, this time last year I was sat under palm tree... man, that turned out to be an expensive bit of escapism :-/

January 25, 2012 9:11:34 AM

This might be a bit inappriate to ask but how is the I.T jobs market in general? I'm considering getting a degree in linux admin/computers or literary or chinese history & culture or something like that.
January 25, 2012 11:05:57 AM

UK Wise there are still quite a few jobs out there, but there is more focus on development and web solutions than anything else. Administrator wise not much doing, where there is they also want development or web. I suspect in my case that my time in support roles is what is working against me, back in '96 I was offered a European consultancy role on Windows NT as I was freshly skilled in a new market (didn't take it for a number of reasons). Nowadays I can't show any serious exposure on anything current, that's the killer.

From your base there would be a lot to be said for gaining Chinese language skills. Combine that in a joint honours with IT and you would be in a great position. I actually went to study Environmental Technology and transferred to IT, it was the early 90's and the bubble was building, not many people knew about technology and it looked like a plan. As it turned out that cast me to 4 years surrounded by blokes all looking out the window at the pretty hippy chicks on the course I'd originally joined. IF I'd gone the environmental route I could now be doing all sorts of crazy things, but back then global warming was still just an academic theory.

At the end of the day you have no guarantees. Do something that you find interesting. Don't be afraid to mix it up or of the fact you may never use it in your working life. Most people don't end up working in the subject they study.
January 26, 2012 3:33:28 AM

audiovoodoo said:
...
At the end of the day you have no guarantees. Do something that you find interesting. Don't be afraid to mix it up or of the fact you may never use it in your working life. Most people don't end up working in the subject they study.

+1. I actually didn't really study IT at all in school, just enjoyed it and knew that the skills I would acquire would be helpful since the direction I was heading (also always been into engineering) was going to mean working with computers anyway.

It did steer me towards some of the topics that bridge the (admittedly small) gap betwixt the two; things like "UNIX filesystems" and "Network Security" (which approached the topic from a theoretical POV rather than pragmatic)
January 26, 2012 6:59:07 AM

I've always thought that SW modelling and Object Orientated classification is really digital philosophy, I'm not talking the old 'Does Root Exist' but more the attempt to define and understand a world which you are creating. Certainly there are ties between HCI and psychology, graphics and fine art, at the end of the day if there is a thread of academia in the real world then logic dictates there will be a digital equivalent.
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