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Top 5 virtualization 'helpdesk' responses

Last month, we saw high activity in our experts section -- curiosity about I/O limitations, how virtualization uses memory and more. Here are the top five questions for the month.

Our Ask the Experts (ATE) team answers calls for help when IT pros need answers about server virtualization implementation issues or strategies. We counted this fall's clicks to find the most-read ATE responses and put them on one page to give you easy access.

Questions are answered on a continual basis, so visit frequently to check for the latest advice by the savviest team of virtualization experts on the Web!

Top five responses

Lance Harry

Virtualization management expert Anil Desai

Q: Why are I/O limitations making the news as a possible bad effect of virtualizing servers?

A: Great question -- I'm glad you asked! Personally, I've always felt that input/output (I/O)-related concerns have taken the back seat in many performance discussions (not just for virtualization, but also for database servers and other high-use systems). Vendors (and consequently IT staff) tend to focus on processor speeds and memory bandwidth, and leave I/O design as an afterthought.
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Q: How do we use existing tools to evaluate our current physical processing requirements and convert that information into what we'll need in hardware to meet our virtual processing requirements?

A: To answer your question briefly, I think that the approach that you take to performance monitoring is just as important as your selection of tools. A good start is to use tool like the Windows System Monitor for Windows-based guest and host OS's. Measure statistics related to CPU, memory, disk and network utilization. Tools are generally available for other platforms (such as Linux or VMware's ESX Server platform), though they can be a little tougher to work with.
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Q: Will VMware or Microsoft Virtual Server be able to take advantage of having more than 4 GB RAM on a 32-bit system with Windows 2003 Enterprise Edition?

A: Virtual Machines (VMs) that are running on the 32-bit edition of Microsoft Virtual Server are limited to using up to 3.6GB of physical memory each. However, your Virtual Server host systems can certainly take advantage of more physical memory. The overall limit is based on the amount that is supported by the host operating system. So, for example, if your Windows Server 2003 Enterprise Edition computer has 12GB of physical memory, you can allocate this among your VMs.
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Andrew Kutz

VMware expert Andrew Kutz

Q: I wanted to find out more about disaster recovery. I haven't been able to find much information floating around the Web on VMotion and High Availability (HA) that comes in VMware. Can you tell me how HA handles disaster recovery?

A: VMware High Availability (HA) has very little to do with disaster recovery when you think of disaster recovery in terms of recovering from a catastrophic loss of data or network. HA is actually a very cool technology new to VMware Virtual Infrastructure 3 (VI3) that will automatically restart virtual machines (VMs) on different ESX hosts if an ESX host fails or is isolated from the other hosts. I will be doing an in-depth article on HA in the future, but for now you can always check out the official VMware documentation on HA.

Q: Could you offer some advice on how to get started with using VMware's free virtualization utilities (VMware Server; VMware Player and VMTN Virtual Appliances)? Are these the only tools that I need to master to manage VMware?

A: The answer to this question depends largely on whether you are running Windows XP, Windows 2003, or Linux. If you are running Window XP the you should get started with VMware Player since VMware Server is not supported on Windows XP (no IIS 6 on Windows XP). If you are running Windows 2003 or Linux then hands-down you should start off with VMware Server. I use it for all my personal virtualization needs, (I gave up Workstation as great as it is,) and I will be talking more about it in an upcoming article.

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