Using VMware Server as our new server platform

When we first heard about the free VMware Server, we got really excited. We have been planning to replace our aging servers with some new hardware and thought about reducing the server count. Besides our internet server which is located at our provider, we have three internal servers working as a file server, intranet and database server, source control server, mail server, SUS server, domain controller and a bunch of other things. Three servers may sound a lot for just two users, but we wanted to separate things a bit for security and performance reasons.

Now that VMware Server is going to be released for free, we are thinking about getting a nice dual-core server with 4 GB RAM and just hosting different servers with VMware. I see some advantages of using VMware Server instead of using separate boxes:

  • Adding a new server is just a click away as long as there is enough free RAM and general performance available
  • Backing up the different servers becomes ridiculous easy with VMware, as we can just burn the virtual machine images to DVDs
  • The hardware is used much more economically as we just need one really fast server which should be enough even when the server is under high load

Some services such as the file server will still be running on the native Windows server for performance reasons. But all non-Windows services like our email and intranet servers will run on Linux or FreeBSD virtual machines.

Has anyone used something like this before? I know that Mike Gunderloy is using a VMware GSX server for his server infrastructure and he seems to be happy with it. He wrote on his blog:

“For example, I’ve taken a single Dell 1850 dual-processor server and used VMware GSX to simultaneously run a Subversion server, a Cruise Control .NET server, a Windows Software Update Services server, a Data Protection Manager Server, and several more servers – without the hassles of worrying about whether any of that software will conflict or fight over ports. In addition to keeping the software separate, this also enables me to make much better use of server hardware by running it at a higher average load, which in turn means paying for less hardware.”

If anyone has experience with such a system and can report on the performance of such a setup, it would be great if you could comment on it.