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Linux - Virtualization and Cloud This forum is for the discussion of all topics relating to Linux Virtualization and Linux Cloud platforms. Xen, KVM, OpenVZ, VirtualBox, VMware, Linux-VServer and all other Linux Virtualization platforms are welcome. OpenStack, CloudStack, ownCloud, Cloud Foundry, Eucalyptus, Nimbus, OpenNebula and all other Linux Cloud platforms are welcome. Note that questions relating solely to non-Linux OS's should be asked in the General forum.

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Old 12-10-2010, 03:14 PM   #1
BillFen
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Elementary virtualization question (windows user migrating to linux)


I'd like some general advice on how to continue my transition from windows to linux. I've started to read the huge amount of net information about virtualization, but some suggestions on where to begin would be helpful.

I have an intel core i7 machine and a number of different hard drives and SSDs. On them I have an XP Pro system, a 2000 system, Fedora 13 and Fedora 14. The windows systems are old, legal and huge. The Fedora systems are relatively fresh. Currently I switch between the systems by changing the BIOS boot drive. I have installed and used boot managers in the past, but currently I do not use one.

Is there a way I can use virtualization under linux to run the windows systems without reinstalling them?

From what I understand, the core i7 instruction set will support full virtualization, but my impression is that I need to reinstall any windows system that will be virtualized, and I would like to avoid that. Is that correct?

Should I pursue virtualization, or just use a boot manager?

Thanks.
 
Old 12-10-2010, 04:43 PM   #2
wpeckham
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Virtualize or multiboot

I would grab one of the processes to virtualize a physical box and use it to create virtual images of these machines. There is no reason to use a boot manager and run one at a time when you can easily run two or three without waiting for a reboot.

1. Fedora is easier to P2V than Windows. You may want to do and test those first.
2. Make sure and use a good tool that is known to work with Windows, and read ALL of the instructions! There is one from VMWARE that you can grab and use for free. You should NEVER have to reload an OS just to migrate it: but there are some interesting issues involving windows migration.
3. TEST THE RESULTING VIRTUALS. Never blow away your physical server until you verify the virtual.

Unless you want to go with a hypervisor, I recommend VIRTUALBOX for the host level. It can load the resulting VMWARE disks as is, or convert them to its own format if you wish.

Be aware that while Fedora and even RHEL licensing takes virtualization into account, your MS license may complicate things. I have run into software application licenses that allow you free or paid use of an application that clearly state that the entire license is invalid if the application is used in a virtual machine. (Yes, some lawyers still think it is 1991 DESPITE when their calendar and blackberry say! )

Last edited by wpeckham; 12-10-2010 at 04:45 PM.
 
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Old 12-10-2010, 05:20 PM   #3
syg00
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Can't disagree with any of that.
I personally prefer to run natively, but when I do run guests I use VBox, and use Windows as the host. Linux/OpenSolaris only as the guests - I haven't attempted to virtualize Windows at all due to potential licensing issues.
I need Windows for work, and can't afford any grief - legal or technical.

<Edit:> Forgot to mention - the i7 on Win7 Ultimate runs VBox just fine. Mine's a laptop (8 Gig) and runs several guests without even noticing they are there.</Edit:>

Last edited by syg00; 12-10-2010 at 05:32 PM.
 
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Old 12-10-2010, 05:44 PM   #4
tronayne
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First off, I have been using VirtualBox for some time and highly recommend it (and, hey, it's free). You simply go to the VirtualBox web site (http://www.virtualbox.org/), select Downloads, select VirutalBox 3.x.x for Linux Hosts, then select the Linux distribution you wan to use to host the virtual machine(s). You probably want to pick the AMD64 package (it is a 64-bit box, right? if not, pick the X86 package).

The installation really needs to be done logged in as root, but you do not install a virtual machine as root, you install it as your log in (so, get VirtualBox installed, then log out and log back in as "you" or whatever user account you want to use for running virtual machines). I do recommend that you do not install virtual machines in your home directory (which is the default location); set up a Really Big disk partition for your virtual machines -- if you're going to copy existing Windows stuff (as suggested by wpeckham), make sure that you've got at least the current size of the existing Windows partitions plus 20% if you intend to keep adding stuff to the Windows virtual machines. When you set up virtual hard disks, make sure to all them to grow as needed.

Unless you really have a bunch of Windows stuff that you're going to continue using on a day-to-day basis, and you're positive that your Windows installations are free of all those wonderful extras you can pick up by clicking on the wrong link (or just having the thing sit there running, eh), I'd do clean installs. You can copy any important stuff off to CD-ROM, DVD, or flash drive then add it back if needed. Kind of bear in mind that almost everything you're going to be doing once you make the switch will be done on the Linux side of the world and you will find yourself using Windows less and less (it's kind of like quitting smoking, ya know?) unless you're doing Windows development work or something. If you're going to copy, make sure the blasted things are clean: run a registry fixer, clean out all temp junk, defrag, all the usual.

You will need to add a group, vbokxusers and will will need to add the user accounts that will be creating and using virtual machines to that group; do that before you install VirtualBox.

Other than that, read through the How-to's on the site to get a feel for what you're going to be doing.

Once you're up and running (and it really is pretty easy, just take your time), you can boot Windows, do something, shut it down and get it out of the way and life is tolerable.

Hope this helps some.
 
Old 12-11-2010, 01:21 PM   #5
BillFen
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Thanks for the comments - they have helped me better understand what I'm reading and narrow my google searches.

What I would like is to either boot a windows system natively or to run the same system in virtual mode - i.e. to run off the disk partition rather than an image file. From what I have read it appears that neither vbox nor vmware player will do that(?). I haven't quite figured out if kvm (or the non-free vmware products) will do that or not.

Because of the size and fragility of my windows stuff, I think a prudent approach for me is to get experience with virtualization by first trying vbox and vmware player hosted on XP. Fresh installs of the windows systems are not practical - there are dozens of installed applications and many GB of programs and data on the C drives.

I'm afraid that if I use an image of my XP system that I'll lose the ability to boot it natively after it has been updated in virtual mode. (I understand the value of snapshots.) Is there a way to convert an image file back into a native partition? Does some form of virtualization update files in the native partition rather than the image file? Am I misunderstanding things?

Because I've used windows since before 3.1 it will be a slow transition. Cygwin has been helpful, but (unfortunately) I expect to need windows for some time yet, including running native if necessary. (But my long range target is a linux host.) Should I be looking at xen? Or does using virtualization mean that native operation must be abandoned?
 
Old 12-13-2010, 11:52 AM   #6
wpeckham
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Virtualization support

1. VirtualBox CAN handle partitions. I have used it that way, but cannot recommend it for Windows, as it is a bit tricky/touchy.

2. I cannot recommend virtualizing physical machines onto the same box. I would virtualize them, bring up and test the virtual version on another box (base platform is NOT important to me, what IS important is that the virtual machine does everything you need it to do), and migrate them back over to your primary machine ONLY when you feel it is safe and reasonable to recover the space from those existing partitions as space to host your virtual machine.

I have made a LOT of things work that I would not recommend. I LOVE playing with the great toys/systems we have, but for critical or production use you want what works WELL, not what you can MAKE work with enough time and attention. Better to put in some time up front so that you can work more efficiently forever after, rather then having to baby along a non-standard configuration forever! Just because you CAN, does not mean you SHOULD!

Naturally if someone else has found an easy and stable way to accomplish the same thing, we would BOTH like to hear about THAT!

(If anyone has been lurking and snickering that what he needs should be SOOOO easy if only we knew what YOU know, this would be your cue!)
 
Old 12-15-2010, 02:55 AM   #7
jiml8
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Everyone is talking about virtualbox, and I use VMware workstation. It ain't free, but I use it for work and it does an excellent job.

As for virtualizing Windows, that'll be a bit complicated if you do it in the same box. VMware provides a tool that is client/server based, and you have to have Windows up and running to virtualize it. So you would load your Windows system, install the tool, then start the other half of the tool on another machine and let it perform the virtualization. Once the Windows installation was virtualized, you could move the new virtual machine back to the machine your Windows came from, placing the virtual machine on a different partition, then start Linux and load your virtualized Windows.

After doing this, you'd have both the native copy of Windows on the box and the virtualized copy. The native copy would be just data; you wouldn't use it though you could mount that partition as a data partition in the virtualized copy of Windows if you wanted to. It would be no problem to keep the two copies separate until and unless you decided you never wanted to boot into the native copy again.

Going from a virtualized Windows back to a native install would be tricky. I haven't tried it with Windows but would expect it to be the same as moving a Windows installation to a new motherboard environment; possible but difficult.

I have done it with Linux, and it is straightforward.

As for using physical partitions as partitions in the virtual machine environment, I do that all the time, with Windows guests. VMware makes it very straightforward. Don't know about virtualbox, but I would expect it to be able to do that.

Habitually, I don't use physical partitions for my Windows system partition; I generally virtualize that just so I can move it around more easily. But I have a number of NTFS partitions for ancient historical reasons (back to the days before I had Linux on this system, actually) and as I roll forward for a variety of reasons I keep the same general architecture for Windows (mostly so my Windows 2000 VMs don't complain). Physical partitions are not a problem.

These days I commonly run one Windows 2000 VM that serves those partitions (using Windows networking) across my physical and virtual LAN to other machines (physical and virtual) that need them. It works quite well, actually.

I run Windows 7 Professional virtualized this way on this system. The Windows Experience indicator gives the VM very high performance marks. The lowest mark is a 5.4 which is for video and is consistent with my Nvidia GT-240 video card. The hard drive score is a 6.1...on a virtualized disk hosted on a 15K RPM Ultra-SCSI drive. I have full Aero capability and the system performs in a fashion that is indistinguishable from a native install.

Last edited by jiml8; 12-15-2010 at 03:00 AM.
 
Old 12-15-2010, 05:20 PM   #8
phil.d.g
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jiml8 View Post
As for using physical partitions as partitions in the virtual machine environment, I do that all the time, with Windows guests. VMware makes it very straightforward. Don't know about virtualbox, but I would expect it to be able to do that.
With respect to VirtualBox I'm not sure if you can map physical partitions as partitions within the guest, but you can certainly use physical partitions (indeed any block device) as hard drives within the guest. The physical partition will end up with a MBR and it's own partition table.

I use LVM2 logical volumes for my virtual hard drives. It requires two commands, one to create a meta file, and one to register it, the second step can be done through the VirtualBox GUI, but not the first one. I don't tend to use file backed drives, fscking a 1TB partition takes a long time!

Quote:
Originally Posted by jiml8 View Post
I run Windows 7 Professional virtualized this way on this system. The Windows Experience indicator gives the VM very high performance marks. The lowest mark is a 5.4 which is for video and is consistent with my Nvidia GT-240 video card. The hard drive score is a 6.1...on a virtualized disk hosted on a 15K RPM Ultra-SCSI drive. I have full Aero capability and the system performs in a fashion that is indistinguishable from a native install.
This is where vmware definitely has an advantage. Virtualbox does support 3d acceleration in guests but only OpenGL. DirectX isn't supported, so no Aero. There is a project called WineD3D that translates DirectX calls to OpenGL, but I don't know how well it works.

Also note there are two versions of VirtualBox and one of them isn't free for commercial use in certain circumstances.

Last edited by phil.d.g; 12-15-2010 at 05:35 PM.
 
Old 12-16-2010, 01:06 AM   #9
jiml8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by phil.d.g View Post
With respect to VirtualBox I'm not sure if you can map physical partitions as partitions within the guest, but you can certainly use physical partitions (indeed any block device) as hard drives within the guest. The physical partition will end up with a MBR and it's own partition table.
Hmmm...

That seems like a significant disadvantage. Can you then mount that partition on the host as a normal partition? Wouldn't seem to me like it would work, though perhaps it would if the mbr and partition table were handled as a file by the host...

VMware is aware of the whole physical hard drive and assigns the partition to the guest. The guest therefore also knows about the physical hard drive, and I would presume that you COULD reformat other parts of the physical drive from the guest; the disk manager does show the entire drive and reports Linux partitions as "unknown" partitions. I have not attempted to do this, but presumably it would be a good way to tear the hell out of a system.

Quote:
This is where vmware definitely has an advantage. Virtualbox does support 3d acceleration in guests but only OpenGL. DirectX isn't supported, so no Aero. There is a project called WineD3D that translates DirectX calls to OpenGL, but I don't know how well it works.
I had understood that a 3D driver was under development for virtualbox, but I don't know the details.
 
Old 12-16-2010, 02:48 AM   #10
phil.d.g
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On the host you can use partprobe on the partition to register the partitions with the hosts kernel. The partitions get /dev names such as /dev/sda1p0, /dev/sda1p1 ... Then you can mount those like any other partition.

I just looked up the docs and it looks like VirtualBox will do the same as vmware. You can optionally use a file for the MBR and the vmdk meta file contains the details of the partitions on the drive the guest is allowed access to. I assume if you don't use the MBR file, then it'll use the MBR on the drive.

I like to use LVM LVs as complete virtual drives because they are nicely self contained then. They are easy to manage, and maul about with. It avoids having file systems on big partitions. However it doesn't allow you to overcommit your storage as does growing file backed drives.
 
  


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