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Heard on .NET Rocks!: Virtual PC and Virtual Server : Page 3

In episode #114 Brian Randell offers some insight into Microsoft Virtual PC and Virtual Server.


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Virtual Machines and Longhorn
Carl Franklin: Wait, wait, wait, hang on. What about Betas of Longhorn? Brian Randell: I am going to address that, because I want to bring up one of the little tricks that make Virtual PC and Virtual Server work really well with Windows.

Because whenever we do virtualization to get better performance, they have you install something called the "Virtual Machine Additions". These Virtual Machine Additions are highly tuned to current versions of Windows. In fact, you will notice when you are installing, for example, Windows XP SP2 that it can be dog slow in terms of the additions in it, and then all of a sudden, it's like magic. The additions are very sensitive. Well, the problem is, they currently do not have any public version of the additions that are available for Longhorn. Longhorn is probably the most painful experience in a virtual machine you will have next to Netware. Just say no. Buy yourself a second hard drive for your laptop or even a shuttle-type drive for your Desktop if you want to play with Longhorn and you don't have an extra physical machine.

And the other thing is, understand: Longhorn's hardware/software requirements right now are really high even for a lot of people with Desktops let alone trying to shove it into Virtual Machine and limit its RAM and its hard disk. So just don't go there. It's just a bad thing right now. Richard Campbell: So friends don't let friends run Longhorn in VPC.



Brian Randell: Not until Microsoft releases additions, and then we will see; but that will be a while, because Longhorn is not even into real Beta yet. It's at that early adopter, you're-a-sick-person-if-you-want-to-play-with-this kind of thing. Carl Franklin: Get a hot, swappable, removable boot drive for that.

Richard Campbell: Or you've got a PC you really don't like any more. Carl Franklin: No, it should be a big one.

Brian Randell: But, no well, you don't want to do that, because the problem is, "I'll use my secondary, old machine," which makes the experience worse, too. Carl Franklin: Get a honkin' machine.

Richard Campbell: Well, I've got a high-performance machine here that keeps catching fire, so it's great for Longhorn. (Laugh)

Carl Franklin: It will just speed up the fire, that's all. Richard Campbell: We've got to get back to the important part, which is, "How am I going to get this existing drive that's not VPC'd into a VPC?"

Brian Randell: There are two ways to do it, okay well, actually, three ways and it depends on do you want the supported way, or do you want the way Brian would do it, or what are you looking for? Richard Campbell: You know I want how you would do it.

Brian Randell: Okay. Richard Campbell: You know I do.

Brian Randell: First of all, Microsoft has its supported way to do it, which is good if you want existing servers and move them to Virtual Servers. It's called the Virtual Server Migration Toolkit, it's a free download, and it's designed in particular to upgrade your Windows NT 4.0 boxes from physical hardware into a virtual machine. Richard Campbell: Cool.

Brian Randell: Yes. Now, this is important, because, you, obviously, Richard, as the toy boy know this, and I am sure Carl and the rest of our listeners know this. Windows has some certain hardware dependencies, right? And you know how NT 4.0 worked, right? It was very sensitive to the HAL it ran on, as well as the peripherals. It didn't support Plug and Play very well. To get it to run a laptop was somewhat of an art in the old era, right? Richard Campbell: It was awful is what it was.

Brian Randell: Exactly. So now, you're going to throw it into this new box. It's not like XP, which just says, "Oh, there are new devices. I'll Plug and Play and fix it and make it work." They have to do some tuning, and they fix the HAL and make it work, especially if you are migrating off, say, a dual Prodigal/Pentium Pro Box, right? They have to map the old uni-processor HAL in. They do a lot of magic to make that work. That's the way you should do it if you are trying to do this for production servers too, you know, maybe do consolidation: Virtual Server Migration Toolkit, VSMT for Virtual Server. Okay. That's good and fine for production. Now, you want to screw around like this, okay, here is what you should do. Number one, use True Image, Drive Image whatever product you have for doing imaging Ghost. Richard Campbell: Acronis, right?

Brian Randell: Back up your host machine first. Do that first, because you are going to have to reuse that image later. Now then, sys-prep that operating system if it's not a domain controller. And when you do sys prep, there are different ways and levels of doing sys prep. The one way you're going to do sys prep here is, you want to do the one where it tells it to look for hardware changes. Richard Campbell: Yes.

Brian Randell: Okay, if it is a version of the operating system that supports this. Then, you image that one that you've sys-prepped, and then you go to Acronis True Image, have it image it onto your virtual hard drive. When you boot up the virtual hard drive, it will discover hardware, and you are ready to go. Carl Franklin: No kidding.

Brian Randell: That's the most compatible, safe way to do it without using VSMT. Richard Campbell: Then you've got to restore the image on the original machine, so it's back to what it was, right?

Brian Randell: Before the sys-prep. Richard Campbell: So you are talking three, four hours to snap the image in the first place, another couple to restore it, plus the fiddle time in between. That's not bad.

Brian Randell: It's not that bad. In fact, you'll love this. I actually did it recently. I was doing some tests with Virtual Server with the fixed hard-drive performance. So I actually tried the imaging there, and it worked great. In fact, it didn't take that long to do a restore in the virtual machine. Under Acronis, they were able to do a full restore of about a 6-gigabyte hard drive, and it took it only about 12 minutes total. Richard Campbell: Nice. Definitely, you want separate spindles for that.



Carl Franklin is a frequent contributor to CoDe Magazine.
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