Lately, I have been pouring a lot of time into getting ready for the daylight savings time (DST) change coming next month. A few of the admin's I work with are in charge of the VMWare ESX server. This cool piece of software is a virtual computer server. What that means is one computer can effectively act as several computers, complete with their own operating system. At work, we have migrated about twenty systems to one VMWare ESX solution. The ESX solution is a cluster, complete with failover. That is right! If the physical system is experiencing problems, the virtual systems can be migrated over to another physical computer with no downtime! Really cool stuff!
Back to the subject . . . I wanted to get some systems on the ESX server to test out my scripts that I have written to fix the DST issue. However, the ESX servers are for "production" use. I didn't want to keep reloading software on my PC, so I came-up with the poor man's ESX system. I took an old PC (2.8G Pentium IV, 512M RAM) and put in a relatively large hard drive (200GB). I installed Red Hat Linux in the minimal configuration. Then I downloaded VMWare server. Why? Because it is free! I suppose I could have used a free Linux distro as well, like CentOS or Fedora, but we have pretty much standardized on Red Hat at work.
I partitioned the drive with 2G for root, 2G for /var and 2G for swap. Everything else went to /export to store my virtual systems. I also installed the remote web management package and the Windows remote client. Since I don't really like to rely on Windows, I decided to include the few things I needed on the server so I could forward an X window back to my Solaris system. That required a few more packes to be installed on Red Hat, like xauth and the X font server.
Thanks to the cool networking features in VMWare, all my virtual systems can be on the local network (direct or NAT) or they can be on their very own private network. I can also mount iso images and have them act as a directly connected CDROM, making installs a snap.
If you do IT support for many different operating systems, this is the way to go. In a snap, you can have an OS running for tests without dedicating a computer to each OS you support!
For your viewing pleasure, here are some screen captures of VMWare at work:
VMWare web interface
VMWare Linux console interface
VMWare Windows console interface