How does it go again, Steve? “Developers, developers, developers”? As we move further and further into the 64 bit world, Microsoft’s virtualization path on non-server operating systems will leave some developers out in the cold.
MOSS 2010 is going to be a huge release and will only be available in 64 bit. Naturally PerformancePoint Services and all the other good stuff that’s going to be baked into this next version will be 64 bit too. The pure 64 bit direction is a good one, I am looking forward to the solid baseline scalability and power that will come from not offering the 32 bit option. All of this is good news.
Now here’s the catch for developers looking to get up to speed with the latest and greatest. Virtual PC 2007 and the soon-to-be-released Windows Virtual PC do not support 64 bit guest operating systems. The only Microsoft supported way to run a 64 bit virtual environment is through Hyper-V. The inability to support a virtual 64 bit OS on a Vista / XP / Win7 box means that the usually trivial task of spinning up a VPC and kicking the tires with the beta bits is just not possible. This a pain point that is already shared by many, just take a look at this newsgroup thread.
If you’re a consultant like me your laptop is your life. You do a great deal of your learning, development, testing, demos, conference presentations on a variety of VPC images. You store these images on an external HDD and run them within your primary, non-server OS. If you want to continue doing this kind of thing (on a 64 bit platform) you will need to seek out non-MS virtualization technologies to support your efforts.
So what are your options if you want to retain a pure Microsoft environment? The only MS answer to a 64 bit virtual environment is Hyper-V, and that means running Server 2008. If the cost of licensing Server 2008 is not an issue here are some of your options:
- Run Server 2008 as your primary OS
- Dual boot your laptop using Server 2008 as a secondary OS
- Buy another laptop and load Server 2008 on it
None of these choices really do it for me. I have a good laptop with plenty of RAM and a 64 bit processor that supports virtualization technology. Nonetheless I am unable to run a MS-based 64 bit virtual guest OS without using Server 2008. So in order to continue to do things the way I am used to I have to go with a non-Microsoft virtualization technology that supports 64 bit guests. Here are the two frontrunners in the desktop 64 bit virtualized guest world that I have found.
I recently reimaged my laptop with the RTM build of Windows 7 and have been using VirtualBox for a few days now. I’m used to the VPC way of doing things but I’ll just have to adapt, I guess. That being said, VirtualBox is a pretty good alternative.
As MOSS RTM draws nearer in H1 2010 I have a feeling we may begin to see virtual demo environments that are not hosted in MS technology. MS is pushing virtualization more and more (and so they should) but how’s it going to look if the person presenting at a user group / conference / customer site is using non-MS virtualization technology to host their demo? The next time I present that may well be the case. Disappointing.
UPDATE (Oct 21 2009): It has just been announced that MOSS 2010 will be supported on both Vista and Win7 for developers (not production deployments, of course). Although this doesn’t completely eliminate the problem that is the subject of this post it very definitely helps. The ability to run your own local developer version of MOSS should be great. I had heard about this possibility of this kind of support under NDA some time ago but it was never confirmed until now.
Anyone else got an opinion, alternative to the situation we will soon find ourselves in? Feel free to comment.