Thursday, November 13


Virtua Server

I've been looking into using Virtuozzo to rationalise and better control the servers that run,, and all the little spin-off sites.  The problem is that Virtuozzo is not only a commercial product, it's an expensive commercial product, and you can't just go and grab a copy for testing.  You can get a test copy if you ask, but it expires after 30 days, and I kind of didn't get it installed before it expired.


But Virtuozzo is built on OpenVZ, which is open source.  Since I was setting up a new development server for work today, and our developers had been asking for their own environments, and since I had an 8-core machine with 8GB of ram to play with, I thought I'd throw OpenVZ on there and see how it ran.

It ran pretty well, in fact, at least in my brief testing.  Certainly, once you have it installed (which is pretty easy, but requires a reboot because it installs a custom kernel), and you've downloaded one of the prebuilt templates, creating a new container (OpenVZ's terminology for a virtual machine) is very fast and only takes a few arcane commands.

I'm going to reload Guchuko with CentOS 5.2 x86_64 and toss OpenVZ on there and see how it all runs.  Only problem is that I need to download CentOS 5.2 x86_64 first, and my ISP only has the CD ISOs on their mirror.

Hmm.  Since I'll need to use this as my desktop as well while I'm running on Guchuko, maybe Fedora 9 is a better bet.  I already have an ISO for that.

So, install Fedora 9, load OpenVZ, create a container, install CentOS in the container, load Minx on there, and test the performance.  That should keep me quiet for a few minutes...

Okay, while that's going on -  Oops.  Maybe I should have done a backup first.  I am installing into a different partition, of course, and nothing should go wrong, but still...

Oh well.  Worst case I lose a few days of tweaking on the Minx code and docs.  Anyway:

OpenVZ is, of course, free.  And it delivers what I need, a memory-efficient Linux virtualisation platform.

What it doesn't have is any sort of user-friendly management tools, and that's what Virtuozzo comes in.  But where OpenVZ costs nothing, Virtuozzo starts at $60 per month for 3 containers.  Mind you, 30 containers only costs $125 per month.  It's a pity that they start the pricing so high, but they are targeting the VPS hosting market here, and most VPS hosting companies would be packing as many containers onto each physical machine as possible.

Now, the flip side of this comes if I want to offer Plesk instead of CPanel.  Plesk comes from the same company as Virtuozzo, and so they work together nicely and have (I believe) integrated control panels.  And Parallels (the company) offer serious discounts for Plesk on Virtuozzo over Plesk on OpenVZ (or any other virtualisation platform).  Plesk on OpenVZ would start at $18 per month per container; on Virtuozzo it's just $6.  So if I need 10 containers running Plesk, and 20 containers running other stuff, a Virtuozzo license has paid for itself already.

The other other problem is that 30 containers, unless they're pretty specialised containers, is really pushing it for a server with 8GB of memory; 16GB would be better.  But Softlayer's cheap single-socket servers only go up to 8GB of memory.  Their two-socket servers go up to 32GB, but you're looking at an extra $100 per month for the server, plus the cost of the extra memory, plus the cost of Virtuozzo, and then since your servers are now a lot more expensive you can't have as many and need to put more people on each one, so you can't just rely on clever replication routines, so another $100+ a month for a hardware RAID controller and the additional disks, and so it goes.

I'm hoping that the next-generation Core i7 servers from Softlayer will start at the same price as the current quad-cores, because they'll be able to go to as much as 36GB of memory on a single-socket server.  As to when those machines will make their appearance, though, I'm not holding my breath.

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