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Build a High-Powered Ubuntu Linux Workstation (part 3) - page 2

Virtualize Everything-- If Your Hardware Can Handle it

  • October 15, 2009
  • By Paul Ferrill

The third approach to the problem is to use a server installation with direct support for virtualization through either KVM or XEN. Choices in this group include Red Hat Enterprise Linux, Novell's SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) and Ubuntu's Server edition. Novell's SLES uses XEN along with tools like ZENworks Virtual Machine Management and PlateSpin tools for migration and workload management. Red Hat and Ubuntu have chosen KVM (Kernel-based Virtual Machine) for their server offerings. While it is available for SLES it isn't currently supported.

Since this article had an emphasis on low cost we decided to go with Ubuntu Server 9.04 as our operating system of choice.

The basic Ubuntu server install process prompts you for a few things like language and keyboard options, system and user names, which disk drive to install on and so forth. The last thing you will be asked is what core software packages to install. Choices include:

  • DNS server
  • LAMP server
  • Mail server
  • OpenSSH server
  • PostgreSQL database
  • Print server
  • Samba file server
  • Tomcat Java server
  • Virtual Machine host
  • Manual package selection

Once you make your choices you have one more input to make for the MySQL administrator password, and the rest will happen while you wait.

We also chose to install the Ubuntu Desktop to make it possible to use the machine as a server, a virtual host and a desktop system. This requires a few extra steps from the command line after the install completes but isn't complicated at all. Assuming you have the proper repositories (Universe and Multiverse should be set by default) configured, you simply issue the following command at a terminal prompt:

# sudo apt-get install ubuntu-desktop

Wrapping Up

With the system installed along with the familiar Ubuntu desktop we proceeded to configure a few virtual machines. The first step was to install Virt-Manager, the virtual machine manager tool. Once this is installed you can configure any number of different virtual machines (VMs) limited only by disk space and memory.

We decided a good acid test would be to try the RTM version of Windows 7. As you step through the "create new machine" process, you'll need to make a few decisions including the initial size of your virtual hard disk. You'll want to go with at least 8GB if you're trying the same Windows 7 or a Windows Vista install. We also went with 1024 MB of memory knowing that to be a good number for respectable Windows performance. Point the wizard at an ISO file of the distribution media and away it goes. Everything worked as expected although we only had two options for screen resolution (800X600 and 1024X768).

All in all, we're very pleased with the final product. The machine handles multiple virtual machines without missing a beat. It will also serve as a great test bed for all kinds of new projects.

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