Microsoft takes stand on ‘virtual’ licensing

By | October 11, 2005

Ran into this article over on CNET news. MS is addressing consumer concern about liscense models with the advent of the dual-core processor. No longer does the dual-core processor model work like it used to. People are becoming fans of the whole virtual pc option for saving on hardware investments, yet is that a questionable option in the long run?

While MS adapting is a good thing, I do question the virtualization trend though. I have been testing MS Virtual server 2005 out on my own laptop here at work. (Beefed up from its origonal specs for work – 1.5gb RAM, 1.8ghz Pentium M) Now running a virtual instance of Win-2k3 Server over an install of Winxp Pro, just barely works. So, taking that into account, the specs one would need to run more than one instance of a virtual server on one machine, would in my estimation cost the equivelent of 2 machines.

So here is my point – run the two individual machines! Why you ask? This is even more important in Enterprise setup, but smaller setups do sometimes need to worry about this as well… but do NOT set yourself up with a single point of failure. You are running 3 virtual servers on the same machine, IIS, exchange, and your DB server… machine hardlocks for some reason (ram cooked, drive read error, power out etc) and boom you just lost all of your resources, not just one. You can get 2-4 servers for the price of one dual-core beefy box and if you find your db server is starting to max out (for example) then upgrade that. Selective upgrading folks. Don’t just throw money at the problem, throw it at me and I will find you a proper (more intellegent) solution. Admittedly big is fun, but not practical and can create future stress for your sysadmin. I know I wouldn’t be able to sleep tonight if I was relying on a single server to do the workload of 4.

What does everyone else think? Let us here at SGB know what your oppinion is.

9 thoughts on “Microsoft takes stand on ‘virtual’ licensing

  1. flaurijssens

    Hmmm… you might want to take a look at VMware or Xen. Virtualization does work, the fact that VS 2005 does not run well on your laptop doesn’t prove much, does it?

  2. Thatedeguy

    I don’t think the point of the post was whether or not virtualization does or does not work. In fact it is plainly stated that it does work, just not very well on Jake’s Laptop. The main argument here is that for what it would cost for a server that could run several instances of VS, you could essentially buy several physical servers and not run the risk of “lose one, lose all” type setups.

  3. Jake

    It is a valid point however, just because it doesn’t run well on my laptop doesn’t mean it doesn’t work. However, the resources needed to run one virtual instance well is above the specs I have… and thats using 90% of available system resources. (This setup runs enterprise level software quite well in the non virtual setup.) So more than one virtual server on a server? That is putting a staggering amount of resources in one machine.

    So the real point is… why not distribute that horsepower to share the load? Clustering works quite well for this. Many of our customers (I do tech support) do this, and the larger they are the more they share the load accross systems and sites so they do not have a single point of failure.

    Though it is agreed… just because it doesn’t run well on the lappy doesn’t mean it won’t run just fine on something with far more than 2gigs of ram.

  4. flaurijssens

    Virtualization is as well about using your HPs. Many application servers don’t do anything. Print servers for example are happily idling all day, but for stability or coexistance reasons you don’t want to combine everything on one box.

    Various applications have various demands. Some need processor power, others are just memory or disk intensive. You can easily combine these on just one physical server with virtualization wothout coexistance problems.

    Throw in some extra RAM, and extra CPUs and you’ll find that an 8-way server with 8 GB of RAM is far more efficient than 8 single-CPU machines with 1 GB of RAM each, because
    the big machine can easily run 10, 20, 30 virtual machines. With some tricks it is possible to ‘overbook’ your memory requirements without penalty, so you really don’t need 20GB of RAM to host 20 1GB machines. Many memory pages are exactly the same so why store them more than once?

    With virtualization you can standardize your hardware. Never really worry about drivers again! New server? Just move your VMs to the new box. With VMware’s VMotion you can do that on the fly, without shutting the VM down. VMotion moves terminal servers from one to another physical box without connected users noticing the move. Or, if one physical box gets too busy or fails, your management software can automatically determine which other box has resources left and move VMs accordingly.

    And so on and so on. And no, I don’t have shares in VMware or EMC. But ESX is just a too good example of how well virtualization works, that it hurts to see someone state that it is ‘not intelligent’. Virtual Server 2005 may not be the answer, but hey, isn’t the same the case with some other MS products?

  5. flaurijssens

    Oh, and the 8-way, 8GB machine should have enough redundancy built in to avoid “lose one, lose all” setups. As long as you monitor the box and replace components that fail, you’ll be fine. In the long run you’ll save enough on floor space, electricity and cooling to justify the extra money for the box with extra redundancy. If you’d take separate boxes, you’d equip them with redundant power supplies and RAID sets as well, so no big difference there.

  6. Jake

    Interesting, I really should see how the other types work. The way MS Virtual server is when it us running, it uses up the whole block of memory you set aside. So you want the server to use up to a gig, it uses the whole gig. Do the other types out there handle this better?

    Have a point there though on the larger servers having built in redundancy. That and the part about actually putting your memory to use. It is still hard to see what the best option would be for a company on a budget (ie like a startup that only has say 5k for servers and networking equipment). I did however discovere last night that Fedora Core 4 has built-in Virtualization — Xen.

    Would spending 4k on a single server be the best bang for the buck using virtualization though?

  7. Jake

    On a total side note… this is the best commentary we have had on SGB yet. This is some good stuff that makes people think.

  8. Irrision

    And I think we’re missing one of the best applications for virtual servers…. Testing possibly unstable or malicious applications on a production machine. You can open up a suspicious app in a VS window and if it smokes everything the only thing that crashes is your virtual server without any damage to the core machines data structure.

    Oh here’s another one that it may actually be used for… data kiosks and atms… if someone does something shady with the machine it can have a virtual machine instance set to auto reload on error thereby preventing direct access to the underlying windows install. (And yes atms often run windows… I’ve seen several with a blue screen of death on them).

  9. flaurijssens

    This is the announvement made by Microsoft regarding the licensing of Windows in virtual environments, stating that you need no more than one w2k3 enterprise license for four virtual machines. Talking about bang for the buck…

    BTW, usually I spend about 5k for a “simple” server and 10k for a more complex one.

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