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Virtualization inside WHS, possible? If so whats software? RRS feed

  • Question

  • Hello,

    Im highly considering a WHS as i need the backup functionality and beleive it would help centralize all my data. Im also considering a HTPC, mainly for playing back dvd/blu ray iso's...but possibly other things.

    What im wondering, is it possible to run VM's in WHS. For instance id like to run Vista or Windows 7 in a VM from a WHS box, and use the visat/7 VM as a "front end" for playing back media. I'd even be interested in running a linux distro like ubuntu desktop in a VM as well (most liekly not at the same time, 1 VM up at a time). This way instead of building 2 comp's, with 2 energy footprints, i could have 1 computer preforming multiple roles.

    If it is possible to run a VM in WHS, what is the best free/cheap software for which to do this with? I have never run a VM before, so im not familiar with the companies/software used to do this.

    Another concern of mine...assuming the above is possible, is RAM. I'd ideally like to have 8gigs ram in this hybrid box...however with WHS as the foundation/native OS, wont only 4gigs be available due to WHS being 32bit? So even if i install vista/7 ultimate 64bit in a VM...wont i still only be able to utilize 4gigs total for both the native OS and the VM? Or can VM software (with a 64 bit OS) utilize the additional memory?

    **To summerize**
    -Can i run VM's in WHS?
    -If so whats the best/cheapest VM software
    -Can more then 4gigs RAM be utilized by WHS/VM (w/64bit vm'd os)

    Thanks.

    Friday, July 17, 2009 7:42 AM

Answers

  • As far as I know all the currently available VM tools that support 64 bit guests require that the host OS (in this case Windows Home Server) be 64 bit as well. Since Windows Home Server is based on a flavor of Small Business Server 2003, it's 32 bit. So no, you won't be able to run a 64 bit guest operating system.

    That said, running a virtual machine as a guest on Windows Home Server isn't supported (by Microsoft, and probably not by the publishers of virtualization tools). If you decide to try it, the best advice I can give is to install an additional drive in your server, but don't add it to the storage pool. Use that additional non-pool drive as the drive on which your virtual disks are stored.

    I don't really recommend the use you're contemplating, even if virtual machines were supported. Unless you overspec (by Windows Home Server standards) your server to support virtualization, you will likely not get great performance from your virtual machin, and possibly not from your server either, while a VM is running. And if you do build your server so that it's designed to be a good virtual host, you will wind up using server grade components, multiple processors, huge amounts of RAM, etc. So you won't realize nearly the power savings you anticipate. Probably you'll consume less power overall if you simply turn off the HTPC when it's not in use.

    I'm not on the WHS team, I just post a lot. :)
    Friday, July 17, 2009 3:29 PM
    Moderator

All replies

  • As far as I know all the currently available VM tools that support 64 bit guests require that the host OS (in this case Windows Home Server) be 64 bit as well. Since Windows Home Server is based on a flavor of Small Business Server 2003, it's 32 bit. So no, you won't be able to run a 64 bit guest operating system.

    That said, running a virtual machine as a guest on Windows Home Server isn't supported (by Microsoft, and probably not by the publishers of virtualization tools). If you decide to try it, the best advice I can give is to install an additional drive in your server, but don't add it to the storage pool. Use that additional non-pool drive as the drive on which your virtual disks are stored.

    I don't really recommend the use you're contemplating, even if virtual machines were supported. Unless you overspec (by Windows Home Server standards) your server to support virtualization, you will likely not get great performance from your virtual machin, and possibly not from your server either, while a VM is running. And if you do build your server so that it's designed to be a good virtual host, you will wind up using server grade components, multiple processors, huge amounts of RAM, etc. So you won't realize nearly the power savings you anticipate. Probably you'll consume less power overall if you simply turn off the HTPC when it's not in use.

    I'm not on the WHS team, I just post a lot. :)
    Friday, July 17, 2009 3:29 PM
    Moderator
  • Not entirely true, Ken. VMWare Server (http://www.vmware.com/products/server/) is able to run 64-bit guest operating systems on 32-bit hosts, as long as you're running on a 64-bit CPU which supports hardware-assisted virtualization. The best thing about VMWare Server is that it's free!

    Andreas M.
    Friday, July 17, 2009 4:52 PM
  • Not entirely true, Ken. VMWare Server (http://www.vmware.com/products/server/) is able to run 64-bit guest operating systems on 32-bit hosts, as long as you're running on a 64-bit CPU which supports hardware-assisted virtualization. The best thing about VMWare Server is that it's free!

    Andreas M.

    Thanks for both your replies. I dont think server grade components are going to be needed, although i have not used virtualization in the past i cant imagine it puts that enormous of a strain above the normal strain on a system. I was planning on using a AMD Phenom II X3 or X4 chip which supports hardware virtualization, has a 65watt tdp, and has starting clock speeds of about 2.5ghz (and i hear they easily overclock above 3ghz.)

    I also would normally go with 4gigs ram but ram is cheap and 8gigs would hopefully allow each system a healthy amount of available ram, assuming of course that a 64 bit os in a VM is not limited by whs host os's 32 bits.

    Andreas, any idea if VMWare Server can handle RAM outside of the host OS standard behavior? In other words i dont expect WHS to utilize more then 4gigs, but if i install VMWare Server and install vista ultimate 64, would that OS in a VM see more ram?

    Thanks again guys. Anymore input would be great...if anyone is actually doing what im thinking please let us know how and if it works well.
    Friday, July 17, 2009 5:19 PM
  • I only use VMWare server occasionally at work so I may be wrong, but I can't imagine that VMWare Server can make use of more RAM that the host operating system can see (if it can, I'd be very interested in the technical details which allow it to do so). If you plan to build a custom WHS with lots of RAM and dual/quad core CPU you may want to consider running Hyper-V and deploy WHS as virtual machine.

    Andreas M.

    Friday, July 17, 2009 5:59 PM
  • Cool! I see that now. I think the s64 support is new. :)

    For the OP: It still won't use more than 4 GB of RAM total, even with PAE and the /3GB switch set. And I still recommend against it for the reasons I've stated.

    If you want to go the VM route, set up a Windows Server 2008 box with HyperV and host Windows Home Server for the backup tool only. It will be more reliable overall, and will almost certainly give better performance.

    Regarding overclocking: Overclocking a server is, umm, ill-advised. Overclocking, no matter how careful or knowledgeable you are, still has a negative effect on system stability and lifetime. Servers aren't very useful if they aren't stable and reliable. You will be doing yourself a dis-service if you think of, and treat, Windows Home Server as a desktop operating system.

    I'm not on the WHS team, I just post a lot. :)
    Friday, July 17, 2009 6:07 PM
    Moderator
  • I just off the phone with VMWare. The VM is limited by the host OS as far as what it sees in the hardware, so since WHS is 32 bit and can only use 4Gb RAM, even if i run a 64 bit OS in the VM it will only be able to use 4GB bc of the limitations of the host OS.

    I agree Ken, overclocking would be a compramise i would not be willing to take. I wouldnt think it would be needed in such a system. If WHS can run on a single core atom process running at 1.6ghz, id imagine 1 core at 2.5 would be plenty, and the other 2-3 cores should handle a VM'd OS like Vista or windows 7.

    Doesnt Microsoft also have a product similar to this VMWare Server, and if so can it virtualize non MS OS's like Ubuntu?
    Friday, July 17, 2009 7:54 PM
  • ...
    Doesnt Microsoft also have a product similar to this VMWare Server, and if so can it virtualize non MS OS's like Ubuntu?
    See above where both Andreas and I recommend Windows Server 2008 and HyperV...

    As for virtualizing any given operating system, it's a function of whether drivers are available for the virtual hardware, and whether they work well or not. For example, there's no obvious reason for this, but a lot of people have huge problems with mouse support for some flavors of Linux in Microsoft Virtual PC. I don't believe it's because Microsoft sabotages anything (they aren't that stupid), it just doesn't work for some reason. Or video might be messed up. Et cetera.

    I'm not on the WHS team, I just post a lot. :)
    Friday, July 17, 2009 8:26 PM
    Moderator
  • Well after googling and doing some research, it appears im back at the beginning. Some people say and claim they can utilize more then 4gb ram with a 32 bit host and a 64 bit guest using VMWare Server.

    In theory it sounds reasonable...i mean if 64 bit support in the VM is hardware dependant (and not host dependant), then so could other things, like RAM. It'd be reasonable to think that if your hardware is capable of recognizing and using more then 4gigs of ram, then the VM software could be made to use it. The problem would lie in how the VM and the host OS communicate and allot the RAM as to not try using the same physical ram/space.

    As a poster over on VMWares site tried themselves, they had 32 bit XP as the host, installed 8 gigs ram, and were able to allot 6gigs to the VM. However at this time of posting they had not had success getting it to keep the settings. Upon setting it as such they got a message saying there wasnt enough physical memory for the VM. So it sounds like maybe the VM software can see it, but not utilize it completely at this time?

    There was speculation that this was a windows issue too, that 32 bit linux could run a VM for another 64 bit os and utilize and correctly assign more then 4gigs.

    If theres anyone out there who can test this, please let us know. If you can test it on WHS or server 2003 as the host all the better, but vista/xp 32 might be fine too as host. See if you can install a 64 bit OS (even if the 64 bit os is a free linux distro) as a guest, and utilize more then 4gb in the VM, say leaving the host with 2-3gigs and the guest with 5-6gigs.

    Thanks.

    Friday, July 17, 2009 8:39 PM
  • Well after googling and doing some research, it appears im back at the beginning. Some people say and claim they can utilize more then 4gb ram with a 32 bit host and a 64 bit guest using VMWare Server.

    They are wrong.  I'd love to see proof of that.

    In theory it sounds reasonable...i mean if 64 bit support in the VM is hardware dependant (and not host dependant), then so could other things, like RAM. It'd be reasonable to think that if your hardware is capable of recognizing and using more then 4gigs of ram, then the VM software could be made to use it. The problem would lie in how the VM and the host OS communicate and allot the RAM as to not try using the same physical ram/space.

    No, it's not reasonable.  The guest OS lies inside of the host OS and the host OS can only use 4 GB.  It will never work.  (Again, I'd love to see physical proof, not just some guy "claiming" anything.)  I would concede that, in theory, it might work with Hyper-V, but since that's only on 64-bit systems, the point is moot.

    As a poster over on VMWares site tried themselves, they had 32 bit XP as the host, installed 8 gigs ram, and were able to allot 6gigs to the VM. However at this time of posting they had not had success getting it to keep the settings. Upon setting it as such they got a message saying there wasnt enough physical memory for the VM. So it sounds like maybe the VM software can see it, but not utilize it completely at this time?

    There was speculation that this was a windows issue too, that 32 bit linux could run a VM for another 64 bit os and utilize and correctly assign more then 4gigs.

    If theres anyone out there who can test this, please let us know. If you can test it on WHS or server 2003 as the host all the better, but vista/xp 32 might be fine too as host. See if you can install a 64 bit OS (even if the 64 bit os is a free linux distro) as a guest, and utilize more then 4gb in the VM, say leaving the host with 2-3gigs and the guest with 5-6gigs.

    Thanks.


    My suggestion is if you really want to know, you should try it yourself and see if it works.
    Friday, July 17, 2009 11:51 PM
    Moderator
  • If i had the hardware to test it i would, unfortunatly my desktop is ancient and lacks 64bit hardware. My laptop could do this, but i use it for work and cannot experiement on it.

    While im far from an expert, id have to disagree and say that while it may not be likely that a 64bit guest can handle more ram then the host...it is certainly plausible.

    Unfortunatly i cannot test it myself, as im planning on building this WHS/HTPC in the near future...but i want to make sure that im not headed down a dead end. If my idea isnt feasible then id likely just buy/build a cheap energy efficient WHS and build a HTPC sperate. However for the sake of space, ease of use, and energy id like to incorporate them into 1 box.

    Again if anyone is capable of testing this in any capacity please let us know.
    Friday, July 17, 2009 11:57 PM
  • If i had the hardware to test it i would, unfortunatly my desktop is ancient and lacks 64bit hardware. My laptop could do this, but i use it for work and cannot experiement on it.

    While im far from an expert, id have to disagree and say that while it may not be likely that a 64bit guest can handle more ram then the host...it is certainly plausible.

    The reason it will never work is because VMWare Server is just an app that sits on top of the OS.  All the OS sees is 4 GB, therefore all the app will ever see is 4 GB.  (That's also why I said, in theory, it might work with Hyper-V, except for the fact that it's 64-bit only so it doesn't matter.)

    Unfortunatly i cannot test it myself, as im planning on building this WHS/HTPC in the near future...but i want to make sure that im not headed down a dead end. If my idea isnt feasible then id likely just buy/build a cheap energy efficient WHS and build a HTPC sperate. However for the sake of space, ease of use, and energy id like to incorporate them into 1 box.

    Again if anyone is capable of testing this in any capacity please let us know.

    Saturday, July 18, 2009 2:45 AM
    Moderator
  • The reason it will never work is because VMWare Server is just an app that sits on top of the OS.  All the OS sees is 4 GB, therefore all the app will ever see is 4 GB.  (That's also why I said, in theory, it might work with Hyper-V, except for the fact that it's 64-bit only so it doesn't matter.)



    I see your point, but if everything were completely dependant on the host OS, then you wouldnt be able to VM a 64 bit guest with 32bit host...so some of the virtualization is hardware dependant not software/host dependant. If the VM can read the processor for 64 bit instruction sets despite a 32 bit host, id assume it could check the memory controller as well in theory...i know in AMD the memory controller is built into the CPU.

    From what i have read on a few websites, this seems plausible. Aparently the guy who did this using windows XP 32 installed 8gigs of ram and VMware allowed him to allocate upto 6gigs to the host.

    In anycase im not trying to argue. It seems most of my questions have been answered, except for the matter of ram.

    According to the feedback here VMWare server is both free and compatible with WHS, any other suggestions for alternatives would be welcomed.

    The last thing i need to figure out is if build a WHS that virtualizes another OS, is it worth getting 8gig ram or sticking to 4gig. Its only a mater of about 50 bux, but thats 50 bux i could spend somewhere else.
    Saturday, July 18, 2009 3:37 AM
  • Thanks again guys. Anymore input would be great...if anyone is actually doing what im thinking please let us know how and if it works well.
    I'm not going as far as you are planning - but I do run VMWare on my WHS. I have a Windows Server 2003 running all the time in a virtual session that I use to push desktops to a couple of old laptops.  I also use it for experiments with XP, linux, etc, but I really have to pause or shut down the Server 2k3 when I fire up the other mvirtuals or things slow to a crawl.  I've also noticed that when I copy alot of files to/from the WHS, that the virtual sessions slow to a crawl.

    I'm running the WHS on just the basic hardware:
    2.4 Ghz Celeron
    1.5 G RAM (I give the Server 2k3 640M)
    I'm also running the virtual disks off of separate USB drive that is not part of the storage pool.

    Just my experience. Hope it helps.
    Saturday, July 18, 2009 6:35 PM
  • Very Helpful DT28994, if your running a VM in WHS based on the hardware you have, especially a celeron which i assume does not have hardware support for virtualization...then i think my planned setup should do the deal even on 4gb ram.

    After some more research, another issue has been brought to my attention. Aparently VM's do not utilize certain video hardware/software?

    So im concerned that if i run windows 7/vista in a VM as a guest over WHS, if the vista/7 guest can utilize enough graphics power to push video as a HTPC. From a hardware standpoint, under normal circumstances, the system im planning could push HD video without a sweat...however if the VM software cannot utilie the graphics hardware and software, then it may not be feasible to use the VM os for a HTPC setup.

    Anyone running windows 7/vista as a guest and using it for video/games?
    Sunday, August 2, 2009 11:34 PM
  • Very Helpful DT28994, if your running a VM in WHS based on the hardware you have, especially a celeron which i assume does not have hardware support for virtualization...then i think my planned setup should do the deal even on 4gb ram.

    After some more research, another issue has been brought to my attention. Aparently VM's do not utilize certain video hardware/software?

    Yes.  VMs use their own "dummy" video drivers.  In essence, all video (whether live-action video, such as TV and movies, or high-end graphics games) will not run as expected (and, in some cases, at all) on a VM.

    So im concerned that if i run windows 7/vista in a VM as a guest over WHS, if the vista/7 guest can utilize enough graphics power to push video as a HTPC.

    It can usually "push" video (to another device) just fine.  Your problem is going to be displaying it within that VM.

    From a hardware standpoint, under normal circumstances, the system im planning could push HD video without a sweat...however if the VM software cannot utilie the graphics hardware and software, then it may not be feasible to use the VM os for a HTPC setup.

    Anyone running windows 7/vista as a guest and using it for video/games?
    My suggestion, since this issue is not specific to WHS (all VMs are like this no matter what OS it's running on), is to post your question in a more suitable forum for VMs (such as Virtual PC, VMWare, VirtualBox, etc).
    Monday, August 3, 2009 12:19 AM
    Moderator
  • Hi there!

    I am currently running WHS on the following:

    Core2Duo E6400 2.13GHz
    2Gb ram
    2x 1Tb HDD

    I installed Virtual Server 2005R2 and created a new shared folder on the server (that is not duplicated, cause balancing would surely mess up something) to house the VM's. Not sure how VMware works, but when you create a VM for the guest OS in Virtual Server, you allocate ram based on total available to your host. I have been succesfully running Server2k3 Enterprise as a domain controller for over a month.

    As far as the VM as an HTPC, you are going to benefit a lot more with a dedicated box of hardware and GPU especially if you'll be watching HD content.

    My suggestion: build an HTPC, recycle an old PC as a WHS and don't look back!
    Tuesday, August 4, 2009 2:55 AM