When I started using VMware Workstation, I took the name of the tool literally and installed it on my workstation. Although I had a high-end PC with 2 GB RAM (which was quite much at that time), I often ran into performance problems. Usually, I test software for servers which are dependent on other systems. So, I often had three or four virtual machines running at the same time. You can imagine that 2 GB is not enough for this. CPU power and hard disk space were also often a problem. The conclusion is that you shouldn't install VMware Workstation on a workstation if you test software for server systems.

So I decided to use server hardware for VMware Workstation. There, I have plenty of memory, hard disk space and CPU power for any testing scenario. I didn't like having this server in my office because it sounds like a jet on take-off whenever it boots up. However, I was afraid that I would have to go too often to the server room if installed there. So my first idea was to use VMware Server (GSX Server) instead of VMware Workstation. VMware Server is supposed to have better remote management capabilities since it is designed for this purpose.

However, I found out quite fast that this was not a good idea. VMware Server lacks two important features which I need for my testing. I didn't want to work without cloning and multiple snapshots. Besides, the better remote management capabilities of VMware Server proved to be useless for my purpose. Using a web interface to configure my test systems was simply too long-winded and the remote console of VMware needs greater bandwidth than RDP.

In the beginning, I had some problems working with VMware Workstation within a Terminal Server session on my server running Windows Server 2003. The mouse pointer was jerky and the graphical output of the virtual machine was sluggish. Please, check out this article about RDP and VMware Workstation to solve these problems. It is possible to connect to your host system by RDP and manage the virtual machines using the VMware Workstation console. It is even doable with a low bandwidth connection, if you follow the guidelines in this article.

The only exception is when running Linux in a virtual machine. My SuSE 9.0 didn't even start KDE when VMware Workstation was running in a Terminal Server session. I tried to solve this problem by changing some KDE settings, like reducing the number of colors, etc. I was able to start it then, but it was not fun working in this environment, since some applications didn't work properly, anymore.

One way to solve this is to go to the server room, boot up Linux on the server console, and then connect by RDP to this session. However, KDE will be a bit sluggish even with a 100 Mbit connection. I didn't try Gnome, but I think it will be more or less the same. However, you can always connect directly to a virtual machine using VNC or if you don't need a graphical interface by SSH.

Another problem was that I often need CDs to install software on my testing system. That would mean a too-often visit to the server room just to insert CD. This problem is easy, though. Just create and ISO image, copy it to the host system and mount it within the virtual machine using the VMWware Workstation console.

During the installation of my testing system, I created ISO images of all my important CDs on the host system. I have been using this setup for several months now, and I didn't have to go to the server room, not once. You can create an ISO image with any CD burning software. If you don't have one for your server, there are free burning tools available.

Often, I download the software I want to test from the web. For my test systems, I only use virtual networks. They are not connected to the internet or to our intranet. This way I don't have to worry about anti-virus software, patch-management, firewall issues, etc. I download software only on the host system. Thus this is the only system I have to keep up-to-date. To access the downloaded file on a virtual machine, I use the Shared Folders feature of VMware Workstation.

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All in all, I am quite content with my testing environment. My host system is powerful enough to even run performance tests. I can connect to my testing environment from my office, from home or wherever I am. In former times, I had four or five test PCs in my office. How much easier (and less noisy) is it nowadays to evaluate software.

4 Comments
  1. David 16 years ago

    With the KDE desktop, if you are using W2k3 server try connecting to the console using RDP with MSTSC /console. Then try starting the Linux VM. I had a similar isue and that seemed to help…..

  2. Thanks for the tip. I tried that, but it didn’t work. Which version of KDE do you have? Mine is 3.1. Did you change any KDE settings?

  3. Nuxu 13 years ago

    Hi,
    I’m planing to move some performance testing on WMWare, but I haven’t decided which one to use: Workstation, Server or ESXi.
    I need a feature that would allow me to mentain the same performance regardless if all instances are running or not. Is this posible in WMWare Workstation?

    Regards,
    Constantin

  4. conrad 11 years ago

    Hi there.

    I want to start with MCITP but don’t have the required hardware as sated by you. I got a Dual core Wolf dale and 4 gigs of memory. Also have a couple of old P4 PCs lying around. Now I know I need a lab at home. Do you think this will do for Server 2008. My company is not all that interested in providing me with a real lab so I have to make do with what I have.

    Any advice would be awsome!

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