Best Practice Ezine #61 The Tip that no one wants
This week’s ezine featuresTest Networks and also,Virtual PC Software
The tip that no one wants is – get yourself a test network. The reason that this tip goes down like a lead balloon is that either the people already have a test network, in which case they say, ‘Guy you are preaching to he converted’. Or, the company is so poor that they lack the money for hardware.
If you are receptive to new ideas and have the budget, then extend the idea of a test network to building a service network. My proposal is to have a parallel network on a different subnet. The idea is case of a problem with one of the servers, you can just change an IP address and replace the sickly machine. Alternative scenarios would be planned upgrades or remove machines to apply service packs. I know, don’t tell me, you have a service network already. Or are you going to say, ‘I could not possibly afford the hardware’.
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Virtual PC Software.
Now for a more upbeat vein. In my opinion, both rich and poor companies will benefit from Virtual Machine software. I am not on commission here, I just want to pass on my enthusiasm for Microsoft’s Virtual PC 2004 (Acquired from Connectix). Incidentally, I have also flirted with VMware, which is equally as good. The benefit is that with physical hardware you cannot escape from having to pay out real money for real kit. Whereas, Virtual software is cheap and there is even a no cost alternative the form of evaluation software. Indeed, if you have a test project such as migration, then the free 45 Trial version will suffice.
Guy Recommends: The Free IP Address Tracker (IPAT)
Calculating IP Address ranges is a black art, which many network managers solve by creating custom Excel spreadsheets. IPAT cracks this problem of allocating IP addresses in networks in two ways:
For Mr Organized there is a nifty subnet calculator, you enter the network address and the subnet mask, then IPAT works out the usable addresses and their ranges.
For Mr Lazy IPAT discovers and then displays the IP addresses of existing computers. Download the Free IP Address Tracker
As you get to know me, you realize that my speciality is getting you started. All I want to do is persuade you to give Virtual machines a chance. Virtual PC is my sort of software because you don’t have to read the instructions, you just click on setup and follow your nose. Don’t get me wrong, there are zillions of options, it’s just that all the settings are easy to find and intuitive to configure. Actually, the best operating system for the host is not Windows Server 2003, but XP Professional.
When I think back to when I was a greenhorn to the ways of Virtual Software, I still remember the thrill when I installed my second Virtual Server and it was able to talk with the first server. Then I pressed my luck and joined the second server the domain and even promoted it to be a Second Domain controller everything worked perfectly. One more pleasant surprise was that the Virtual Machines could talk with the other ‘real’ machines in the network, so not only can you copy files, but also you can test trial migrations. These days I realize that all of the above Virtual Server operations are obvious and routine, but that first time I did not believe it would really work, so it was a magic moment to get that connectivity.
I have to admit that in the early days of Microsoft’s Virtual machines the performance was poor and the software flaky, so make sure that you get the Virtual PC 2004 version and at least 1 GB of RAM (officially it works on 256 MB), but with 2GB it has gives me an exceptionally good experience. There are a couple of other trivial points that amuse me, I can install more servers while carrying on my normal work on the same machine, it still surprises me how easy it is to switch between real (local) and virtual machines, sometimes you need to just touch the alt key to make sure the mouse knows which window is active but otherwise it just seems too easy, too good to be true. Well you have guessed that I am a genuine fan of Virtual PC 2400.
Remember to Save Settings when you finish a session, that way you can carry on where you left off next time you experiment with Virtual PC.
Paul F. Kindly wrote to me with an unofficial list of operating systems that work (and do not work) with Virtual PC 2004. See list of OS with Virtual PC 2004.
See interesting cloud and virtualization articles