Why I Prefer Virtual Server

Following a post I made earlier this month about my preference for Virtual Server over Virtual PC, I’ve received comments and e-mail asking me to elaborate. 

Ever since I learned that it works on Windows XP, I’ve preferred Virtual Server 2005 R2 over Virtual PC for running virtual machines on my notebook.

From: Rob Caron : Free Download: Virtual Server 2005 R2

The original decision to use it on my notebook was driven mostly by my use of Virtual Server on a desktop machine running Windows Server 2003. Once I learned that I could run it on Windows XP (thanks to Andrew Coates), I made the switch on my notebook. Here are some of the reasons I prefer it, and I’ll add more as I think of them (this is not intended to be an authoritative feature comparison of the two products):

  • Virtual Server’s Master Status page provides me more information about my virtual machines than the Virtual PC Console
  • Virtual Server permits remote management without having to use Remote Desktop
  • Virtual Machine Remote Control (VMRC) provides easier toggling than Remote Desktop Client when accessing virtual machines remotely
  • VMRC can be added as an object in a PowerPoint presentation, which means you can go into a virtual machine without having to exit your presentation
  • Virtual Server provides greater configurability over CPU usage
  • Built-in PXE support
  • Although I haven’t done much of it, you can script Virtual Server (see Script Repository: Virtual Server)

There are drawbacks. Currently, Virtual Server doesn’t support some Virtual PC features, such as sound and shared folders, but those aren’t high on my priority list. Perhaps the virtualization technology in Windows Vista Enterprise (Virtual PC Express) will compel me to reconsider.

Some good virtual machine blogs:


Comments (8)

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  1. Lauren Smith says:

    Any thoughts on VMware?

  2. RobCaron says:

    I like VMWare. They have great products. In fact, a good friend of mine works there. However, I switched to using Virtual PC when we acquired it because I try to use Microsoft software whenever we have a product that does what I need it to do, and I tend to throw my business at companies who use our software.

  3. Lauren Smith says:

    Thanks for the response.  I must have been living under a rock or something because the first I had heard of virtualization technology was a post here on blogs.msdn.com that announced Virtual Server as free.  Since then, I’ve just been bombarded with information about virtualization technology.  VirtPC, VirtServer, VMWare, Xen, not to mention other technologies on other platforms.

    As an embedded guy, these things are very very interesting.  I only wish I had more time to tinker with it.

    I didn’t know about the PowerPoint feature!  I’ll try that one in my next presentation.

  4. Bil Simser says:

    I agree with you on all of the points and they do make VS a notch above VPC. My choice is for VPC (still) because a) I can’t drag/drop from my desktop to the client and b) I can’t copy/paste into the client from the host. Otherwise, yeah, VSR2 rocks!

  5. Rob Caron tells us about the Code Coverage & Performance Tool FAQS, Microsoft taking less traveled road…

  6. Huge difference why I love Virtual Server over Virtual PC is the fact that Remote Desktop causes "Terminal Server" alike connection.

    This causes some programs behave differently whereas the Virtual Server Remote Console behaves just like real console.

    As this is real console, one can reboot the machine and run stuff "on boot" such as drive imagers with remote connection as with real computer.

  7. I tried virtual machines years-and-years ago before they worked well…  This week I loaded Virtual Server 2004 on my notebook – just to test-drive some software before I decide if I want to keep it or not…

    Damn!  This thing runs lickety-split!  Subjective performance is as fast as (or faster!?!?) than my notebook’s host Windows XP SP2!

    I spent a good half-day trying to determine if I should use VPC2004 or VS2005 – without any real good reason I chose VPC2004, mostly based on Megan’s paper.

    As you’ve written, there are some good reasons to use VS instead…  and some reasons not to…

    It seems to me that merging the two products and allowing users to select which capabilities and how they’ll use them would be a Good Thing.  (I love the seamless integration of a VPC2004 window on my desktop!  No way do I want to give that up!!)

    I’ve got an every-few-days slowdown on my notebook; it’s plagued me for half a year or so.  (every few days it’ll slow down to the speed of an 8080 [remember them!?] – I can literally watch it draw every object on the screen.  nothing fixes it but a reboot – and saving my in-process work is often a 15-20 minute job during this molasses…)

    (task manager – and Sysinternal’s Process Explorer – show no task taking anything more than piddling amounts of time, btw – I suspect it’s something like network/disk requests getting serviced extremely slowly for some reason)

    I’m very seriously considering moving my entire notebook to one or more virtual machines – the host OS would be a clean install of XP SP2 and anti-virus software and Virtual PC 2004 (or Virtual Server – oh drat!  a quandary!!) – and all my work will be done in the virtual machines.  Lose a bit of resources due to the virtualization overhead, but the ability to use different VMs for different purposes is tempting – e.g., one vm for Firefox (uh, sorry guys… :), email, etc, another vm for windows desktop development (Visual Studio, MSDN, etc), another for Pocket PC development (with the older tool chain), etc – so a single Windows XP "machine" doesn’t get cluttered with so much junk that it gets corrupted.  (my notebook must have seen more than 500 programs installed – and many deleted – over the two years I’ve had it; even with cleaners there’s disk and registry clutter…)

    Multiple VMs would reduce or eliminate interactions between programs – this dev environment needs these DLLs, that needs those, or paths/SDKs/etc…

    And with many smaller Virtual Machines, a backup to DVD before upgrading software makes it easy to fall back if anything starts acting twitchy – much more completely and easily than doing an uninstall…

    It’s a tempting thought…

    Now I need to figure out if I should stay with VPC2004 or switch to Virtual Server…

    I hate having to choose between fairly-close choices!  (and yes, I often get both chocolate *and* vanilla ice cream!  🙂

    – Al Weiner –

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