Wednesday 10 September 2008

VMWare Server 2.0 RC2 on a 64-bit host with a 64-bit guest

I recently decided to consolidate a number of physical servers onto a virtualised platform to save space, save energy, and make life easier to backup and manage. Doing this with 32-bit software wouldn't have been a problem: install host, deploy guests, away we go. Instead, since Windows 2008 has RTM'd and MOSS scalability supposedly benefits from a 64-bit environment and MOSS 2007 is supposedly the last 32-bit version of said platform, I figured I'd go whole hog and install 64-bit W2k8 as both host and guest. Not so fast, cowboy. 

The first problem I encountered was the need for 64-bit hardware support. Intel CPUs have offered 64-bit bits for a while now--the Celeron machine I built for my father in-law a few years back offered support for a 64-bit OS, for crying out loud. Not only does a machine require these extensions to run a 64-bit host but apparently some extra special extensions are also required to then run a 64-bit guest. Okay fine: I had to enable the Intel VT stuff at the BIOS level but having done that I'm ready to go. 

Sort of. 

I'm a habitual Virtual PC 2007 user. VPC doesn't support 64-bit guests, I read somewhere (but don't take my word for it), and I'm a bit over the whole VPC thing anyway. I want VMWare's ESX to nearly omit the host OS. ESXi is now free but attempting to install that requires special hardware and while I did get to the point where the installer was looking for SCSI drives, I gave up for now since I don't yet have a fun new iSCSI thing put together just yet... maybe in the future. I've already experimented with Hyper-V but it doesn't allow you to move VMs around very easily and moving these things to and from my laptop might be useful in the future. 

So I settled on the current version of VMWare Server 1.x (aka GSX). It's free and while I've never used it before, it offers some intriguing features--especially support for 64-bit guests. I bang together my Windows 2008 64-bit host machine (without Hyper-V, of course), install VMWare Server, and surprise, I can't create new VMs as there appears to be no local VM server installed. Googling around and word on the street has it 1.x doesn't support 64-bit hosts. Sigh. 

After uninstalling 1.x, I've now downloaded and installed 2.0 RC2. The installer itself doesn't seem to come in a x64 flavour, which is kind of boring; it also seems to automatically install some sort of thingo requiring a FQDN--which I assume is the web-based management interface that was optional in the previous version and was otherwise installed as an IIS web site. Dunno. The web access bits are definitely there and it seems to have installed Tomcat. Great.

Even still, the thing's installed, so good. I don't know why they decided to go from a Windows UI to a web UI but they have. It's slow, annoying, and boring but it seems to work so far. The worst part is that it keeps asking for certificates and logins and this, that, and the other thing. Just get on with it already! I logged in as myself when prompted but I'm not sure how it determined my password and why it can't just log me in automatically.

Out of the box this release supports Windows 2008 64-bit guests, which is nice. Setting up walks you through a wizard, which isn't really my thing but I've gotta say the memory selection is sooo nice: select the recommended value (1024MB), the minimum recommended, or the max recommended (or set your own value directly). No stupid sliders, just go. The console did require I install a plugin but after I powered on my first VM opening in a new window failed. Powering on the VM in fact did a whole lot of nothing. Despite being pointed at the local drive for the Windows 2008 media, the thing sits there with the VMWare logo grinning back at me. I configured the VM with SCSI drives (the default) and in all honesty I don't know a lot about SCSI and how it relates to things I take for granted with IDE drives.

All in all, the thing's installed now--just need to figure out how to become as proficient with this tool as I am with VPC 2007!


  1. FQDN - fully qualified domain name, you n00b.

  2. Haha! The subject of the sentence in question is "thingo", not FQDN.


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