We started with Virtual PC back in 2007 when I realized that to develop a new class or test an install the trainers would install the product in the classrooms. With the classrooms full more than half of the month this process caused a delay in the development or testing of new changes. I came from a development background where we used Virtual Server to host all of the QA machines and that experience transferred easily into Virtual PC. So virtual PC it was.
With the popularity of Windows 7 and the virtualization built into that operating system called XP mode, Virtual PC became an extra and unnecessary install. It still worked, but if one of the trainers opened a vpc image using the xp mode virtualization software it could cause problems if we needed to share that image. It was time for a change.
64 bit was the real reason we switched to Virtual Box. I had always installed by Linux machines into Virtual Box and I regularly downloaded new linux flavors in the form of .vdi files. The great news is that Virtual Box allows for 64 bit OSs. So we now use Virtual Box for the team’s images internally since we have also moved to a 64 bit OS: Windows 2008 Server R2.
We host all of our training classes for Sage SalesLogix online. Students do not fly into Scottsdale and take a week off work, but instead students attend a short call in the morning and have trainers, a book, videos, and a vm to practice on. This vm you practice on is hosted with a company called Skytap. Skytap likes vmware images though. Not virtual box vdis.
When we used Virtual PC we used the Vm Ware Converter tool to transfer the vhd (virtual hard drive) to a Vm Ware compatible drive and then uploaded it. This took hours. With Virtual Box it takes minutes. Just convert the vdi to a vmdk and upload it. This is the same process we are using for the Boot Camp image. We are going to provide it in both Virtual Box format and VM Ware format.
These are all great solutions for single images on a single box but what you have an entire QA lineup of images you need to host? That is where a server component comes in. I have a good desktop/server machine with 12G of ram and 2TB of HDD that I use to host images. I run Windows 2008 Server R2 and I installed Hyper-V on top of that. Very similar to the other tools I can load in Hard Drives and manage snapshots of images. I can remote into the images from outside and inside my network and I use these machines for development, testing, and QA. Hyper-V is from Microsoft and VM Ware has a similar product called VM Ware server. I believe our QA and Tech support teams use VM ware server.
If buying a dedicated box to host all of your images isn’t something you want to deal with there are plenty of cloud based solutions too. Little management, VPN access from anywhere (even an iPad!), and redundancy you do not have to configure.
The point is, if you aren’t taking advantage of virtualization you might want to consider it.