Sun’s VirtualBox allows for the virtualization of almost all operating systems made. With VirtualBox, computers can be expanded into multiple computers using the same hardware. VirtualBox is free and is released as open source software which falls under the terms of the GNU General Public License (GPL).
When planning for the hardware needs for virtual servers, host computers should have plenty of RAM, hard drive space, and multiple processors. These resources are invaluable and play a key role in the performance of both the host computer and the virtual computers.
Although VirtualBox only supports one processor, multiple processors on the host system are used with the main (host) and with applications on the server. Key planning is needed when using Sun’s VirtualBox. High end applications such as Microsoft’s SQL should be installed on servers with multiple processors; therefore virtual servers with VirtualBox may not be ideal if the SQL server is a high demand and high performance machine.
With higher speed processors, Virtualbox can easily run any application and server software if the server computer is loaded with plenty of RAM and the VirtualBox configuration is given plenty of RAM to work with. Hard disk prices are economically feasible and the virtual server should be given plenty of room to grow if necessary.
The largest expense imposed by virtualization with VirtualBox is the operating system and the applications that are loaded on the host computer. If a server has Windows Server 2003 on the computer and Windows Server is loaded as a second server on the host computer, then a license must be obtained for the OS and applications (including antivirus) on the virtual server.
Protecting Virtual Computers
If virtual servers are implemented within an organization, they must be checked for software updates (even if WSUS is implemented) and be protected against malicious activities. The same policies with backups, firewalls, IPSEC, encryption, antivirus, malware and other forms of protection applies to these servers. The host server does not protect the virtual server. Although this is a virtual server, it is considered to be a separate node on your network.
Creating a Cross Backup
With Virtual Server, servers can be expanded to become two for one. If a server has enough resources, information technology departments can expand the hard drives in two computers (physical) and load VirtualBox on each server thus creating four servers from two. With excellent programs such as Acronis, the one physical server can backup to the opposite physical server’s installed virtual server and vice versa. This form of cross backup allows network administrators to restore data rapidly. If the files are copied over to the virtual server and the physical host server crashes, a network administrator can create users on the virtual server, assign appropriate permissions, and share or move files while the physical server is being repaired or replaced.
Backing up Virtual Servers
All virtual computers should be treated like their physical counterparts. Data and system states on the virtual servers should be backed up and saved to the appropriate media being used by your information technology department. Using the system drives on the host server should never be an option.
In the event of a catastrophic failure with the host disk sub system; any data backed up from a virtual computer to the host computer could and probably will be lost. Separate drives, network drives or tape drives are an acceptable method to backup these virtual servers. For more general information on server backups, see the series of articles Understanding Backups in Windows Server Environments.
While VirtualBox is one of many virtualization programs available, virtualization saves money on hardware installation, server room space, energy and allows for quick restoration of virtual operating systems. Virtualbox also allows for the testing of new servers or operating systems, ensuring the operating system has been thoroughly tested before being deployed. With the dynamic needs of today’s information technology departments, virtualization is becoming the choice for server expansion.