So I needed to setup build, dev and staging servers on a limited budget. Getting 3 new servers in a small company is not always feasible as you probably already know. The solution? Microsoft Virtual Server 2005. Although I was familiar with the concept of running virtual servers I had not actually done it before (Shame on me!). So I was very surprised with just how easy it was to setup and configure MSVS! The configuration is so intuitive that I literally didn't read a word of documentation (Which really appealed to my male, "I don't need to read the directions" side... ;-)) and had a virtual server up and running in no time. The other thing that really surprised me was performance. I'm running Windows Server 2003 Standard on a 2.0 GHz AMD Athlon XP 2400+ box with 1 GB of memory (Not a very beefy box). The host system is acting as the build server and two virtual servers are running as a development and staging servers (Both running Svr 2003). I'm very surprised how "zippy" the virtual instances run.

Our network admin had a great suggestion; first create a template server which can be copied for new instances. That way you can create new instances with out having to start from scratch. When you create the new instance you need to give Windows a unique SID. Sysinternals has a free SID changer tool called NewSID which will do this. You can then take it a step further and create instance specific copies. For example I can get our dev and staging server's setup exactly how I want them and make a copy of those instances. Then if either one of those servers gets hosed I can wax them and copy out a fresh version literally within a few minutes.

MSVS installs a net driver that allows all instances to share a single NIC. From what I have read, each instance is assigned a random MAC address. The NIC is put into promiscuous mode and packets are filtered and routed to the virtual servers.

All in all I'm very impressed with MSVS. And I'm pretty hyped about how easy it is to setup complex test and R&D environments with minimal hardware. I would be curious to see how it compares with VMWare. I guess I'll save that for another weekend... ;-)

Microsoft offers Virtual Server 2005 as a free download here.