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Vmware Help, Please!


driveingnow
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I am trying to help a client, he has 10 windows 98 mechines.

He uses them to send out faxes (swears nothing past 98 will do a good "hand shake").

He wants to reduce his power consumption, and number of monitors, mice and keyboards (clutter control).

What I came up with is one tower, running 12gb of ram, and a good processor (i7, or a screaming amd) and 3-4 hard drive in a raid array for redundancy and backup (right now he has 0 form of backup!).

Then connect 10-12 USB modems to it.

My questions are,

Is VMware workstation stable enough to handle 10 or more OS's running concurrently? Or would you recommend another VM program that would be able to hand it?

What OS would you recommend running VMware (or another VM program) under to maximize both ram and CPU usage?

With win98 able to run on only 512mb or less of ram (trying to give a little over head) will 12gb be enough to run 10 versions of win98 and the primary OS?

I am also running on the thought that you can assign one modem to each instance of VM (please correct me if I am wrong).

I am also thinking I am going to have to reinstall win98 for each instance, and not just make an image of each drive that he already has and drop it into The VM with a little tweeking to the setting for each instance and have it just run?

It would be really nice if I could!

If I do not give the instances of VM access to the Internet (no Ethernet support and they are not dialing a ISP) should I still run some sort of anti virus in each instance of VM or just on the main OS?

Yes I know this will be a hair pulling headache! But if it takes care of my client and its what he wants then its what I will do.

Any and all help will be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

driveingnow.

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Each virtual machine requires some overhead memory to manage it, which means each uses a total of up to about 1.3 times the amount of memory (RAM) given in the virtual machine settings, yes windows 98 will easily run off 500 megs of ram, its maximum was 1.5 gb

486DX2/66 MHz or higher processor (Pentium processor recommended)

16 MB of RAM (24 MB recommended, it's possible to run on 8 MB machines with /nm option used during the installation process)

At least 500 MB of space available on HDD. The amount of space required depends on the installation method and the components selected, but virtual memory and system utilities as well as drivers should be taken into consideration.

you should be able to image the system, vmware virtualizes the hardware so you dont have to worry about different hardware then original

you can assign hardware to each virtual machine yes

there is no reason to use av on win 98 vms with no net, virtual machines can not infect host, host cant infect vms, wont transfer over

10 clients is a bit iffy but to give you an idea i run my host windows 7 and 3 others relatively comfortably on an i5, then again thats giving them each a core. but running all the way back in win 98 i think it should pull it off.

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Is VMware workstation stable enough to handle 10 or more OS's running concurrently? Or would you recommend another VM program that would be able to hand it?

Vmware workstation is quite good, it runs stable. And with your current specs, you should be able to run them just fine. Just make sure you constantly monitor the performance of your overall system.

If you notice any sluggish performance, you will need to invest into a fast storage system, as well as a decent network card adapter. Because as the number of VMs grow, the number of ops (operations per second) drops and this significantly affect the performance of your overall virtual machines.

A DAS (direct attached storage) is what you will need, its a lot faster than a NAS, as it doesn't rely on the network to send/receive data, thus eliminating any congestion or protocol overhead.

In the future, I would recommend using ESXI instead of Workstation, to get more performance gain, as it doesn't rely on any host OS, plus you don't have to share any system resources between the host and guest OS. Just something to think about.

Edited by Infiltrator
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If you do see high CPU usage from the machines then I would suggest checking if there is anything that you need to do to get 98 to idle the CPU. DOS and thus 95 and 98 use a loop to wait rather than halting the processor. This results in them taking up every cpu cycle available, which isn't a problem when they are the only OS running on the machine but can make it difficult to virtualise.

There did used to be quite a few CPU idle programs available for 98, but I don't know which will run fine under VMWare, so you might have to experiment a bit.

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I still don't quite understand, why you want to use an ancient operating system. Try using Windows XP or Windows 7 instead of Windows 98. Even though, they won't be connected to the internet, they will prove to be more stable than Windows 98. Just my thought.

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Windows 98, even on bare bones hardware, can not use more than 256megs of true physical ram to begin with, so in a VM using workstation if you limited EACH vm to like 128mb of ram each, and they we're only doing faxing, you could have probably hundreds of them running at the same time. On the USB end though, that would be where your bottleneck would come from, since for every daisy chained USB device you hook up, you reduce the throughput of the USB devices and their overall speed, and USB has a limite of only 127 devices, which if you truly had that many, would be pretty much useless in speed and communications might fail between concurrent devices talking back and forth. Better solution, would be to do it over the network somehow, but I understand if the customer only has USB to hook these "fax" machines to the workstation, then thats what you would have to do. In general, most workstations have a limited number of ports though, so you would also need to purchase hubs, and when each workstation is powered on, be able to correctly map each usb to each fax one at a time, if they have to use specific fax lines/phone numbers, etc.

In esscence though, with Win98 you could have hundreds of those puppies running, so long as you have disk space, ram and fast I/O drives, such as the raid or solid state drives. I have VMware Workstation on my home machine and I can have mutiple VM's open at the same time with no problem and some of my VM's are Vista, BackTrack, WordPress Apache Servers running uBuntu and so on, and they can all hum along together at the same time with no issues. Its mainly HDD throughput that tends to bottlneck things before anything else though, and lack of ram second, since VMware will also use files on the HDD as ram, which slows down processing if physical ram is not enough to keep up with tasks. ALL VM's create physical virtual ram files on disk anyway, which is why having fast drives and if needed, dedicated disk drives for each VM an even better option if running Virtual Servers like Server 2003/2008, but for win98, you shouldn't see much of any issues other than the USB side becoming the bottleneck.

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To avoid the USB Bottleneck make sure you spread the devices evenly over the available USB Controllers rather than chain them off the one port.

Note most motherboards these days have a number of USB headers on them as well as the ports on the I/O plate at the back. You can get USB Back plates that will let you increase the number of USB controllers accessible (If your motherboard has 6 or more controllers then you might as well make use of them rather than push everything through two or three).

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To avoid the USB Bottleneck make sure you spread the devices evenly over the available USB Controllers rather than chain them off the one port.

Note most motherboards these days have a number of USB headers on them as well as the ports on the I/O plate at the back. You can get USB Back plates that will let you increase the number of USB controllers accessible (If your motherboard has 6 or more controllers then you might as well make use of them rather than push everything through two or three).

Just adding to what he said, you could even go with a dedicated USB card controller, that is if the motherboard, has any PCE-x slots available to begin with.

Edited by Infiltrator
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Thank you all, you all have given me a lot to think about and work with.

I have come up with a couple of hardware solutions, and now have to run them by my client and see what his thoughts are.

If I end up doing it, I will let you guys know what I used and how it worked out.

Plus any SNAFU's I may hit and the work arounds I come up with.

Thanks again.

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The problem with efax is he is sending hundreds of faxes a day. For someone who is just faxing contracts or something 200 (the largest amount efax offers) a month would be plenty, but when you are sending out advertisements at 100's a day it's not worth it. Plus he would have re-enter all of his numbers (of which he has thousands) into an efax system. With my way we just port his databases over and uses the same programs. He is just reducing power consumption, and simplifying usage (right now he has one mouse and keyboard for each computer).

But I would like to thank you for the idea. Thank you.

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Agree, eFax is far from cheap, especially with the kind of bulk you are talking about, there are cheaper alternatives, it 'might' be worth going through the costings of it, 10 x Phone rental, Cost per Fax, then factor in the power consumption. I remember looking for an alternative to eFax and found a UK provider offering unlimited faxing for something like £30 a month? I didn't look into the T&C's, it could be that advertising business like the one described are prohibited from using such services :P

Anyway, good luck with your project, its certainly been an interesting read :)

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