VirtualBox – Wow.

VirtualBox - Nice way to handle those VHDs

VirtualBox - Nice way to handle those VHDs

I have been using the Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 software for the last many years.   I used to have quite a collection of boxes laying around each running a domain function or two and miscellaneous webservers to boot.  It generated a lot of clutter and it generated a lot of heat in my office area.

For the last several years, I had been running MS Windows 2003 Servers on some old P4 machines with virtual servers on both – a domain controller and a webserver on each. Reasonably sufficient.  A staging web server and a development  web server. Good stuff.  And I really do like the beauty of virtual machines – it really makes the most of some hardware.


The P4s are/were getting a little long in the tooth.  Servers like I use really don’t need to be that ballsy – web servers and simple file serving are not strenuous activities for a server OS.  After spending the last weekend putting all the virtuals on one to make the servers a little more solid and easy to manage, I was pretty well satisfied with everything.  All was well and even found a great app that I’d never worked with before – VMRC+ from the MS PowerToys line of stuff.  MUCH easier to use than the horrible web-based interface for managing the MS 2005 virtual machines.

And all good things DO come to an end…

And then this morning I went to connect to my webserver and…. nothing.  STOP error had occurred in the middle of the night.  Took down the whole box – and all the VMs with it. Ugh.  Here we go again.  As fate would have it, I had played with VMWare just a bit across the weekend toying with the idea of going with an industry standard for virtual and one of my bigger clients really uses it to the max… So I had thought it might be a way to go.  But the needs were pretty hefty and truthfully, something, thought I can’t remember what, kept me from actually installing it though I had tried.

So here I sat this morning with 4 virtual servers that needed a host – thought I don’t necessarily run them all at once, it’s nice to be able to do such.  So really wanted something with a little more oomph and that could handle all 4 at one time.

And then along came VirtualBox

VirtualBox to the rescue

VirtualBox to the rescue

Hmm… my Ubuntu Linux 10.04 server *might* just do the trick if I could find some virtualization type software to handle my VHDs. What can I find to run on it?  Remembered the name “VirtualBox” that some of my techs mentioned using in their MCSE classes.  And sure as heck, it ran on my Ubuntu version.

As well, VirtualBox would happily use the MS Virtual Hard Disks (VHDs) from my Microsoft server.  No reconfiguring needed.  Just copy the disks over and set ’em up.  It honestly took considerably longer to transfer the 90 GB worth of VHDs over than it did to set them up.

I am tickled to death with my new Windows virtual servers running on Linux.  Was able to put a much stronger machine under them with newer (and fatter) hard drives; a lot more memory than I could put into my 32 bit Server 2003 host install; and finally much more processor – all without any major reconfigures of either my Linux box or my VHDs. Tickled.

Sitting there tonight with VirtualBox running quiet and clean.  CPU with all 4 servers running at about 15%. Not bad.  I think I’m going to like this VirtualBox.

Some helpful VBox commands

Launching a headless server

VBoxManage startvm "SERVERNAME" --type headless

Cleanup a duplicate UUID – I had used the same disk for several versions of my VHDs. Did get the duplicate UUID warning message when trying to add one of the disks. That was my ONLY scare in the whole process.

VBoxManage internalcommands setvdiuuid /path/to/virtualdisk.vhd
VBoxManage internalcommands sethduuid filename.vhd

One can also convert the VHD to a VDI format and change the UUID there in that process as well. I think in the code above, the first one with the setvdiuuid may be targeted towards a VDI file, but can’t remember if I used that or the second one…

Author: Eric Erickson

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