Virtual Server Core

In my opinion Windows Server 2008 Server Core servers are perfect for virtualization. They don't eat up a lot of resources and they don't have excess baggage. Server Core as a guest might meet your virtualization demands, but think about host configurations…


As a guest

The impact of Windows Server Core as a virtualization guest sounds interesting whether you're using Microsoft's, Novell's, VMWare's or any other virtualization solution: Windows Servers with the newest features and the footprint of a late NT4 Server.

The scenario's are limitless. It's no longer an issue to install two Domain Controllers: Install one domain controller, get one free.* File server and print server functionality separated? Sure! Redundant DHCP Servers with 80/20 DHCP Scopes? No problem! Got 384MB of RAM and 2 GB of Hard Disk space?

* Strictly looking at resources, not licenses


NT 6 or NT 5 settings?

Most virtualization solutions offer pre-defined settings. You can them to quickly configure virtual machine settings.

Virtual PC 2007 (for instance) offers pre-defined settings for virtual machines running Windows Server 2003 (Known as Windows NT 5.2) and Windows Vista. (known as a Windows NT 6 flavor) It doesn't (yet) offer pre-defined settings for Windows Server 2008 or Windows Server 2008 Server Core.

Which one would be best for a virtual machine running Windows Server 2008 Server Core? I think that's a trick question. Windows Server 2008 Server Core is a Windows NT 6 – based Operating System with a Windows NT 5 – based footprint: You can use either one.

I use Windows Server 2003 settings most of the time.

VMWare also offers some easy settings for your Windows Server 2008 virtual machines. Scott Lowe chooses Windows Vista when he installs Windows Server 2008, but his implementations don't include Windows Server 2008 Server Core yet… Geert Baeke installed Windows Server 2008 Server Core on his VMWare ESX server. His advice is to use Windows Vista settings to make sure the VMWare Tools install properly. To install the tools on your Server Core use the following command line:


msiexec.exe /i "<path to VMware Tools.msi>" /qn


As a host

Windows Server 2008 Server Core also makes for a good platform for old school virtualization products, like Microsoft Virtual Server, VMWare Server and Xen. As it turns out you can easily run Virtual Server 2005 on Windows Server 2008 Server Core, effectively creating a 2GB hard disk consuming, 256MB RAM eating virtualization platform to host Virtual Machines.

From "Cypress" to "Viridian"

This to me reads a lot like Novell's plans for Open Enterprise Server 2 (OES2), codenamed "Cypress". With this version of Open Enterprise Server Novell uses SuSe Linux Enterprise Server 10 with ServicePack 1 as a basis and Xen 3.05 as hypervisor to run a completely virtual instance of Novell Netware.

Microsoft isn't about to release Virtual Server 2005 R2 SP1 on top of Windows Server 2008 Server Core as a supported solution though. Windows Server Virtualization, codenamed "Viridian" and System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2007 are the two products that will spread Microsoft's virtualization religion in the Windows Server 2008 era. I think these two products will effectively punch a hole in the virtualization reign of VMWare and prove one of my recent beliefs: "In ten years time, no-one will remember VMWare".

There is no indication we will see a Windows Server Core, Virtual Server combo marketed to address specific virtualization needs. Windows Server Virtualization (WSV) is the product you might want to address your needs if you have any.

.Net strikes again

Using Virtual Server on top of Windows Server 2008 Server Core isn't very efficient actually and the clou is hidden in the command line used to configure IIS 7 on Windows Vista (Beta 2) to accommodate the Virtual Server Administrator website. Since the Virtual Server 2005 Administrative website requires ASP.Net you cannot install this website on Windows Server 2008 Server Core. The .Net Framework isn't available for Server Core. (yet)

If you want to use the Administrative Website, VSPlus or even VRMCPlus to administer your Virtual Servers you need another server or workstation besides your Server Core Virtual Server. You can use this workstation to run the applications and websites that require the .Net Framework or ASP.Net.



Windows Server 2008 Server Core sure has Virtualization Potential!

When you want to virtualize a Windows Server 2008 Server Core installation you can choose the pre-defined settings for Windows Server 2003 or Windows Vista.

Virtual Server Cores are only useful and supported as Guests. WSV, formerly known as Codename "Viridian", is the future of Microsoft's Windows Server Virtualization.

Further reading

Running Virtual Server 2005 on Windows Server 2008 core installations
Virtual Server 2005 on top of Windows Server 2008 Server Core
Running Virtual Server 2005 on Windows Server 2008 core installations
Running Virtual Server 2005 on Windows Server 2008 core installations
Installing Virtual Server on Windows Vista Beta 2
Virtualization: A brief architecture overview of VMWare ESX, XEN and MS Viridian
WSV ("Viridian") part of Windows Server 2008 SP1?
Windows Server 2008 Beta 3 on ESX Server
Windows Server 2008 Server Core and VS 2005 Part II
Windows Server 2008: Installation on VMware ESX 3.0
Testing Windows Server 2008 using Virtual PC (step-by-step)

Disclaimer Beta Software

The information on this webpage applies to software from Microsoft that was in testing phase but utilizable by experienced users by the time the webpage was written. This software has not been released for sale, distribution or usage for the general public. The information on this webpage and the beta software are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind, either expressed or implied, including, but not limited to, the implied warranties of merchantability and fitness for a particular purpose.

One Response to Virtual Server Core


    It's nice to see some people keep trying to make things work. It seems it is possible after all to get the Web Interface for Virtual Server 2005 R2 to work on Server Core installations of Windows Server 2008.

    Check the blog of this Hungarian dude or this alternative location for more info.

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