Tip: How to make your own virtual server system with free software

“What if i could play around with a lot of server systems at the same time? Totally for free of course!”


Ready for trying out different server systems on one single piece of hardware?Got some old, but still powerful hardware around and have no clue what to do with it? Go virtual! Make a lot of servers and run them simultaneously!

Try to install VMWARE ESX software. Yes, it is totally free for one hardware server.

What do i need?

Well, for hardware you don’t need a lot, but the more servers you want to install on one system, the better the hardware needs to be. Got an old Xeon system with 1.5 Gb of ram? More than enough! P4 with 512 MB? Don’t expect that much performance. Basically get as much memory and as much GHz possible. :slight_smile:

But remember, it all depends on how powerful you want your server(s) to be!

Basically just some hardware then?

Well, yes. Although VMWARE ESX software doesn’t work really well with moest SATA or IDE controllers. Plain old SCSI usually works perfectly and is relatively cheap. A standard network interface card is required.

Just one network interface card? I’m gonna make 10 virtual servers!

Doesn’t matter. The VMware system will make very good use of your single network card. :slight_smile: Don’t worry. Every server will have it’s own ip and the VMWare system will handle everything. Yes, every ip works.
The system will even define its own virtual switch. Standard this is a 56 port switch so you have plenty of ‘virtual connections’ available. Or you just make more of them. :slight_smile:

If you have more hardware available (two network cards, more harddisks, etc) then you can all use them in the VMWare system, provided they are recognized by the system. You can define if you want to use them seperately, as failover system or team them together for better performance. You decide.

So, what do i do?

Well, first you register yourself at VMWARE.com and get your download link for VMWARE ESX(i) and the serial code via email.

Download the ISO file, burn it on a cd and boot your server with it. You will see some Linux like boot system. It will tell you if it can or cannot install depending on your hardware specifications. The harddisk will be formatted of course.

So, it installed and i rebooted, now what? Can i make servers now?

If correctly, you now see an IP adress on the screen. Go to a client computer on the same network and type in the IP in your webbrowser. You should see a local website where you can download the VMWare InfraStructure Client software for your windows system.

On the server you can press F2 to configure the server system a little. Set a password for the root user.
After that you don’t need a screen, keyboard or mouse on your server system anymore.

I got the client and try to login. Says i got 60 days of evaluation.

Execute the VMWare InfraStructure Client, have it connect to the ip of the server, login name root and the password you created in the previous step.

It will greet you and you should see your single ESX server there. Click on it, click on the tab Configuration, click Licensed Features, Click the edit at License Source, Click Use Serial Number, type in the serial number you got from VmWare in your inbox. Click OK and ignore all the warnings of all other plugins and addons that will be disabled, since you don’t need them anyway.


Done! You now have your own personal free virtual server center!

Now you can make servers as much as you want to! Linux, Unix, BSD, Windows, Windows Server, you name it, you can make it. Just right-click on your esx server name and choose New Virtual Machine. It’s up to you how you define your server, how much power you give it and how much space.

What are the advantages of virtual servers?

  • Single management center for a lot of different servers
  • Virtual servers can communicate with each other inside memory. This means that they can communicate almost as fast as the memory banks are! (And that’s a lot faster than 1 Gbit!)
  • Cheap maintenance. Make one, destroy one, all in a minute.
  • Servers only take the performance they need. Most servers run pretty good with 500Mhz and 256MB of memory
  • All kinds of operating systems next to each other on one system. Make as much machines as you need.

Any more tips?

  • Make an ISO file of your favourite os disc(s) and put the ISO file on your data storage (See Configuration Tab, Storage and double click the required storage container). This way you don’t need the discs anymore

  • There are TONS of free virtual server systems. Take a good look at The Bitnami Stacks for a lot of nice server systems.

  • Server that doesn’t work? Just kill it! Make a new one.

  • Want maximum security of your VM data? Encrypt your servers with TrueCrypt. Also totally free of course.

  • Your windows system need a license! Depending on the license form of course, but if you have a single server license, don’t make more than one system with the same license! Linux servers are of course totally free, so you could make as much LAMP Ubuntu servers as you want to for free.

Can i convert other virtual systems to this VMWare ESX thing?

Yes you can. Download the free VMWare Vcenter Standalone Converter Standalone Software at vmware.com! It can even convert your own client system to a VM!

Just go to http://www.easyvmx.com/ to make free VM’s

Cool . . . this looks interesting. I’ve got a couple of older PCs that I might try this on.

Additional info:

32 bit or 64 bit?

For 32 bit hardware you need

VMware ESXi 3.5
Download ESXi 3.5 to create virtual machines on 32-bit hardware.

Features & Benefits

Virtualize even the most resource-intensive applications with the hypervisor that sets the industry standard for reliability, performance and cross-platform support.

VMware ESXi lets you:

•Run multiple operating systems on a single server
•Save on hardware, power and cooling costs
•Enable easier back up and restores
•Run the most resource intensive applications in production

YOUR TRIAL INCLUDES (get the key and it’s fully registered. See post #1)
•VMware ESXi 3.5
•VMware Infrastructure Client

64 bit

For 64bit hardware you need

VMware ESXi 4.0. Latest build: Version 4.0 Update 1 | 208167 - 11/19/09

VMware ESXi 4.0 is certified to run on a broad range of 64-bit hardware. Check the Hardware Compatibility List to ensure that the server model you intend to use is certified to run VMware ESXi 4. (Don’t worry, most 64 bit consumer pc’s also work, just get some SCSI!)

Wait a minute! Can i run a 64 bit os on my 32 bit ESX!?!?! Please!?!?!

A common question. The unfortunate answer is, No. VMware does not provide CPU virtualization. All the CPU requests are processes from the Guest to the Host’s real CPU. Because of this, you need a 64-bit processor to run 64-bit Virtual Guest operating systems.

Seperating data and processing on seperate machines.

Common question:

I have a system with lots of disk space and not so-much cpu power i want to use to put Virtual Machines on. And i have a seperate system with not-so-much disk space but lots of cpu and memory i want to use as an ESX. Can this work?

Yes, it can. ESX can work with attached iSCSI volumes.


See Wikipedia. By carrying SCSI commands over IP networks, iSCSI is used to facilitate data transfers over intranets and to manage storage over long distances. iSCSI can be used to transmit data over local area networks (LANs), wide area networks (WANs), or the Internet and can enable location-independent data storage and retrieval.

Your system with lots of disk space and not so-much cpu power must be able to use selected volumes (those are “disk drives”) as iSCSI volumes. A free alternative is for instance FreeNAS.

So how do i do that?

Basically you just install ESX on the designated computer. Then “add extra storage containers” to the ESX server via Configuration, Storage, Add Storage.

Big advice: Get a very good network speed between those 2 computers! 1 Gbit or better is highly advised! Make sure your network switch also is 1Gbit or better.

Reminder: both systems have to be on 24/7 of course! The system with lots of disk space and not so-much cpu power for the data. The system with not-so-much disk space but lots of cpu and memory for the processing. This 2-way setup will also take up some network bandwith of course, all depending on how much access your systems need from each other.

This helped me. However i used AppWeb :slight_smile: