Virtualization Lab: Part 1 – The Basics

Virtualization Lab: Part 1 – The Basics

Many people are wondering what virtualization is really all about, and for good reason. In this multi-part series, I will take the virtualization novice from the ground up to a working lab/light production system.

I’ll start with a bit of a rant: It seems that people on the Internet and everyone in the tech industry in general never seem to run out of buzz words. Everything is virtual, or it is green, or it is in the cloud. As my friend Numchuk would say, “Set my hair on fire and put it out with a sledge hammer.” I hate it for the most part, and for good reason. Everyone starts flapping their jaws about this and that and all reality goes out the window. That is to say, principals and baselines are momentarily forgotten.

With that being said, virtualization is here to stay. Albeit a popular buzz word at the moment, it is the most usable and beneficial thing that I can think of at the moment.

Most technicians and engineers have used some sort of virtualization product at this point. If you haven’t that is fine, but it is time to catch up with the rest of the pack.

My first experience was with VMWare’s Workstation product running on Windows 98 or 2000, I honestly cannot recall. But back then, it was all about installing Linux and BeOS and still being able to use my Windows box when I got stuck somewhere. Nowadays, I have ditched VMWare’s Workstation and started using Sun’s VirtualBox. What I virtualize has also changed, I now use VM software to virtualize Windows for the very few applications I use that don’t run properly in Linux, which I now use exclusively. Products of this type are excellent for running older or differing operating systems so that you can access that Windows application on your Macintosh, or that Linux application on your Windows box.

While that is all very convenient and good, the real fun starts when you start virtualizing servers. With a single high-powered physical server you can run 3-10 virtual servers depending on their types. Your company only has one domain controller and it is running WINS, DNS, and DHCP? What if that one installation of Windows goes south? Spread it out across physical and virtual servers.

But before we get ahead of ourselves we must learn the in’s and out’s of such a system prior to putting it into a production environment. You have heard the old adage along the lines of “with great power comes great responsibility” or something like that right? Well that is most certainly the case with virtualization.