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Virtualizing Windows Home Server

Virtualizing Windows Home Server

I'm thinking about virtualizing Windows Home Server, mainly just for some testing and troubleshooting (right now, anyways -- nothing long term). I've got hardware that should easily pull it off, but because WHS can be a bit of its own beast the way it does file replication, etc., I was wondering if there are any "gotchas" or anything else I should be watching out for? Most particularly, I'm curious if anyone has had any luck using WHS with multiple virtual hard disks to simulate how an actual physical WHS setup would work, or if I have to stick to the one drive. I'd rather not invest time on this if it's a lost cause. Can anyone else share their experiences (if anyone's even decided to do this)?

Asked by: Guest | Views: 53
Total answers/comments: 2
Guest [Entry]

"I've been playing with WHS in a VM for a while now and I'll summarize my experiences.

After dealing with some hardware failures on my fileserver, I wanted to find a way to abstract the hardware from my fileserver. I'd heard some talk about running WHS in a VM with external harddrives so that if the host hardware goes down, you can simply move the VM and external disks to a different host and reboot with minimal downtime (That was my basic motivation).

I took two passes at this. For the first pass, I installed WHS in a VM running under VMServer 1.x, and gave the VM direct physical access to a number of harddrives that were in external enclosures. This worked fine for a few days, but then the VM would occasionally reboot and have to scan through all the files looking for consistency checks. I was never able to figure out just what was causing this, but my suspicion is that the drives were spinning down or 'sleeping' and the VM wasn't able to properly wake them when a file request came through. Since it was particularly scary seeing the 'consistency check' screen time and time again, I decided to go back to a natively hosted file server after about three weeks of fighting with this. (Btw, I posted a question one of the Microsoft support forms and the official line is that running WHS in a VM is 'unsupported' so you're basically on your own..)

For my second (more successful) pass, I installed WHS in a VM running under VMServer 2.x. However, rather than giving the VM physical access to the disks, I created virtual disks to fill up each of the external drives. My reasoning was that by doing this, I could move the virtual disk files around without having to complicate things with WHS. (ie, I could upgrade the drive capacity and just copy the VHD files without having to remove the disks from WHS..). This setup has been rock-solidly stable now for about a month now. I want to some more testing before moving all my files over, but I'm very hopeful based on what I've seen. (ie, it's much more solid in this configuration than the previous one).

So bottom-line for my experiences:
- VMServer 2.x > VMServer 1.x (makes sense)
- Virtual HDs > Direct Physical Access

One additional thing to note is that if you do use virtual disks, they all show up simply as 'Virtual IDE Drive' (or something similar) so they can be hard to differentiate. You might want to size the virtual disks differently in order to keep it all straights.. (ie, rather than having 4 * 500 Gb disks, have 480, 485, 498, 500 etc..)

You were looking for shared experiences, so I hope this helps."
Guest [Entry]

Because WHS runs on very cheap commodity hardware, and because it's targeted at home users (thus the name, Windows Home Server), it's not a typical candidate for virtualization. As such, you won't find "Best Practices" for virtualizing it.