Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Virtualization on Client OS – Part 1

Virtualization on Client OS – Part 1 – Setting up Development Environments using Virtual Box

Virtualization has changed the way we manage and setup our IT systems including our Development/Testing/Production environments. The benefits of Virtualization are well known and documented on the internet and outside scope of this post. I wanted to discuss the Virtualization options for Client OS.

Hyper-V from Microsoft is a great product, and often used as the Virtualization platform for projects on Microsoft stack. However, Hyper-V is not available for Microsoft Client Operating System (Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7). It is available only for server OS - Windows 2008 R2.

Note: In Part 2, I will discuss how this is changing in near future.

So if I have a laptop running Windows 7, what are the options for Virtualization????

VMWare has some good Virtualization products for Client OS like Windows 7.

They are licensed products, so you can’t just download, install and start using VMWare for your projects. There is a cost involved and you need to factor in the same in your project pricing estimation.

The Virtual Hard Disc’s for Hyper-V (with a .vhd extension) are not directly compatible with VMWare (which uses its own proprietary format). You can use VMWare converter to convert from one format to other, but it’s a time consuming process and can take ages.

The various Demo virtual hard disc’s provided by Microsoft come with a .vhd extension.

So if I have a laptop running Windows 7, what are the options for Virtualization????

Microsoft Virtual PC is what I have used in past on Win XP, but I haven’t seen any recent updates for Virtual PC. I am not sure if MS wants to continue or kill the product with the superior Hyper-V.

So if I have a laptop running Windows 7, what are the options for Virtualization????

Virtual Box (i.e. Oracle VM Virtual Box) is an alternative that I explored. It’s a free software under GNU (but please check with Legal for hidden Terms and Conditions).

The Virtual Hard Discs with .vhd extension can be used for Virtual Box.

The installation and setup was easy (Click Next, Next, Next, I Accept). The Wizard helps you setup a new virtual machine and you can choose to create a new virtual hard disc or use an existing one.

Note: You need to do the change documented here to make existing .vhd work in Virtual Box

During installation/configuration, it will ask you whether you want to install the network drivers. Select Yes and proceed. After the VM is setup, it will configure the drivers and network adapters. After logging in to VM, Internet was up and running within the VM. This is cool as we have sometimes struggled to achieve the same in Hyper-V with machines having single NIC’s.

I had previously copied a .vhd file (having Windows 2008R2 OS) to my machine and it took me less than half hour to install, setup and have an VM machine up an running.  


I haven’t tested and benchmarked Virtual Box Performance against HyperV, VMWare or other products. Though I have limited first hand experience, I have friends who have been using Virtual Box for long time and are satisfied. It seems to be pretty decent on my laptop having low end configuration.

Sample Usage Scenarios:

I have SharePoint 2010 running on my Win7 laptop, and MOSS 2007 running on the Virtual Machine. This allows me to execute an SharePoint Upgrade project. I can use the same MOSS 2007 image (.vhd) which I had previously downloaded from Microsoft.

It is not limited to setting up SharePoint Development environments, and Virtualization can be used for projects on any technology.

In terms of Hardware Resources, you still need to have sufficient RAM/Hard Disc space and a decent CPU to meet the requirements of both your Host and Guest Operation System.


Best way is to download, install and use it.

My Recommendations:

For all your Official project purposes, Use Hyper-V with Windows 2008 R2 on your high end servers.
For your Home PC or Low End Laptop running Windows Client OS, VirtualBox is a good product which can meet your need.

In Part 2 of the series, I will discuss how Windows 8 changes the game.

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