Sunday, February 20, 2011

Playing with virtual tech

I spent a good portion of yesterday evening experimenting with various virtual technologies in an attempt to see what I could get running on my old HP desktop. The idea is that VMware is talking about discontinuing the paravirtualization feature in ESXi. I'm looking for an alternative to ESXi, preferably an open source one with a graphical management tool.

Note: I'm able to play with multiple technologies due to having a couple BlacX eSATA docks. In other words, I can experiment without overwriting the installed ESXi hypervisor.

The issue is that I bought the HP right when they started including hardware virtualization in commercial desktop systems. The problem is that the hardware is an early version of what's under hypervisors nowadays. The end result is a very finicky system. Some things work and some don't.
  • ESXi 4.x runs nicely on it, with more than a little driver customization (it took about 8 hours to get it working). This is the tool that I'm trying to move away from.
  • Proxmox 1.7 refuses to install.
  • CentOS 5.5 (required for HyperVM's use of Xen or Proxmox) installs but refuses to boot (even before installing HyperVM).
  • While Xen 4.0 does compile properly on Ubuntu 10.4.1, there's something wrong in the kernel that causes it to run very slow. It's well beyond my ability to troubleshoot (i.e., n00b).
  • Xen 4.0 on Debian Squeeze builds and runs nicely, but needs a front end for management.
  • XCP 1.0 installs nicely but also needs a front end. Also, the syntax is slightly different than regular Xen's, enough to be painful.
  • Citrix's XenServer installs nicely but is a commercial product
  • Virtualbox runs nicely but runs at the OS level.
  • KVM runs but I can't get the storage to resize and there's no good web front end.

Ignoring the learning curve, I've been spoiled by ESXi. The feature set just isn't there for most of the non-commercial offerings. I'll keep you posted on how it's going.

For now, you can list me as "still looking". In the long run, I'll probably settle on the Debian Squeeze solution. If anyone knows of a good web-based management tool for Xen 4.0 (running on Debian Squeeze), please let me know.