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1 bigger machine vs 2 smaller machines

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January 22, 2010 3:57:56 PM

Hey,

My next purchase will be for building a virtual development lab (Microsoft world, Sql Server, Team Foundation Server, Visual Studio, etc.). I'll be running as much as 6 virtual machines at the same time....

Within a given budget (for example 2000 $) is it better to have one(1) "bigger" machine or many "smaller" machines?

Example of "bigger": i7 with 12Gig of RAM and fast hard drives.

Smaller can be two 1000$ machines, or three 700$ (for example).

Pat
a b B Homebuilt system
January 22, 2010 4:37:50 PM

So you'll be running Windows Server 2008? How many licenses are there? If 1, your only option is to get a pc. Do you have license for 6 VMs? Don't forget to factor in those in the TOC.

It's a PITA to work from a server to another. Even if there's a KVM, you still have to flip the switch. If you have only 1 server, you sit your rear on it all day long. Def. get an ergonomic keyboard & mouse and a good office chair.

Decide on how many servers you're building first. I'm leaning towards a powerful i7 920 server with 12GB RAM, 64-bit OS, RAID 5 with 3+ hard disks and a disaster recovery plan, a low-end multi-output video card, 2 Gb LAN: 1 for router; another for maybe a E-SATA backup drive, one of those Antec simple cases, a DVD burner, and a quality 500W PSU.
a b B Homebuilt system
January 22, 2010 4:39:58 PM

In general, I would go with just 1 big machine.

If you buy multiple machines, you have to get multiple OSes (not a problem if going with Linux, but likely a problem with Windows), multiple cases, processors, RAM, etc.

I'm not sure why, if you're working with VMs, you would even consider getting multple physical boxes. Unless, of course, you're trying to play with VMotion or similar software.
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January 22, 2010 5:27:37 PM

Thanks p55 and coldsleep,

Background !

I currently have 3 physical machines (1 is good, and two that are actually quite bad, slow and rebooting all the time for no reason). My kids are using them to play games on the internet (miniclip, so no graphically demanding games).

I like the physical machines to be as lean as possible so that can boot fast (no unnecessary software/service). I like ubuntu, but the kids like to play Age of Empires (windows) and games that require shockwave so that's why the physical machines run Windows.

Alright, now, whenever I want to start developing, I've setup a virtual environment/network where:
- machine 1: domain controller: server 2008 core for AD, DHCP, DNS, etc.
- machine 2: dev server: server 2003 standard for SQL Server, TeamFoundationServer, etc
- machine 3: build server: xp for continuous integration and builds
- machine 4: QA/staging server: server 2003 standard
- machine 5: Dev workstation: where I develop.

I also have different OSes in various languages to test localization of whatever I build.

So: Virtual Machine 5 runs on my fastest machine right now and the other virtual machines run the two other physicals.

Soon, I'll have the budget for replacing the two slow/faulty/buggy machines and was wondering if I should be replacing them with one powerful or two less powerful.

And for licences, I'm fortunate to have access to many licences for development.

Hope this makes my question easier to understand/answer.

Pat

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a b B Homebuilt system
January 22, 2010 6:15:33 PM
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I would still go with 1 more powerful machine over 2, even though the OS licensing isn't a problem. If your budget is actually $2k, you could easily get an i7-920 and 12 GB RAM, with an ok video card and a lot of disk, which would be pretty great for running a pile of VMs.

Not that it really matters, but what are you using to run your VMs? I use VBox on Ubuntu to run my XP virtual machine (a couple of apps that sadly only work on Windows/IE) since it does everything I need for free. It sounds like your setup is pretty stable, just curious what you've got going on.

Actually, that might be a solution for you, get one new powerful machine that can handle all your VMs, give the kids the one that's currently performing ok and if they're not running anything demanding, put Windows VM on there with the games loaded on it. :) 
January 22, 2010 6:44:49 PM

Thanks coldsleep.

I've tried many variations of Virtual PC (2004/2007), Virtual Server 2005 and sun's VirtualBox. I'm now running VirtualBox everywhere.

One bad/less-good comment about VirtualBox vs VirtualPC is that I find that moving virtual images from one physical computer to another is easier with VirtualPC.

One powerful machine running all the the VMs seems to be right setup.

Thanks for your time...
a b B Homebuilt system
January 23, 2010 11:59:26 AM

You say some of your boxens reboots for no reason and then go on to say you let your kids play on the boxens. :)  I think we can guess where the problem is. Especially with kids, they're very smart. Some of them can even take over your systems. aka root.

Agreed. Scrap together a light gaming pc or two for your kids. AoE is a very old game. Sell the rest. Use the $2000 to buy an i7 920 rig. Oh, and I STRONGLY recommend multiple monitors so that you can run multiple VMs on their own screens. Just ALT-TAB to that OS.
January 23, 2010 12:01:53 PM

Thanks again.
February 2, 2010 4:56:26 PM

Best answer selected by patware.
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