Summary: I'm once again soliciting thoughts on virtualization from ed tech readers (or anyone else who wants to weigh in for that matter). I found a nice walkthrough yesterday on running VBoxHeadless on an Ubuntu server to deliver virtual machines via RDP.


I'm once again soliciting thoughts on virtualization from ed tech readers (or anyone else who wants to weigh in for that matter). I found a nice walkthrough yesterday on running VBoxHeadless on an Ubuntu server to deliver virtual machines via RDP. VBoxHeadless is a version of VirtualBox designed, not surprisingly, to run on a headless server and manage virtual machines in such a setting. The walkthrough outlined how to create a virtual Ubuntu server within the existing Ubuntu server and make it available on the desktop.

Creating multiple virtual servers of this sort would provide students with a virtual sandbox for everything from web design to database development, create new testing environments for administrators quickly and easily, and, of course, easily manage multiple virtual servers in production environments.

What I'm curious about, though, is the use of VirtualBox in this way for desktop virtualization. Is VirtualBox robust enough to deliver student and staff desktops to thin clients? I'm a year away from refreshing a whole thin client/server backend infrastructure and, as always, am more than happy to look at anything "not Windows". While our Windows Server 2003 Terminal Services setup has actually served us quite well, I'd always prefer to spend more on hardware and less on software licensing.

Tell us about your experiences with VirtualBox. How well does it scale? What have you found works well in terms of server hardware per number of users?

Topics: Hardware, Open Source, Servers, Virtualization

Christopher Dawson

About Christopher Dawson

Chris Dawson is a freelance writer, consultant, and policy advocate with 20 years of experience in education, technology, and the intersection of the two.

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  • VMs and RDP

    We've been considering a similar VDI solution for our schools computer labs. (VM the xp/vista os and use thin clients to RDP to the VMed OSs) The main problem I'm run across is with streaming video over RDP doesn't work so well, which will be a problem for us. I'd be curious about other people's thoughts on that problem.

    From a VM standpoint since VM release their ESXi product as a free download, I'd prefer using that rather than a headless virtualbox system. I've also been investigating virtual iron.
    • VM's and RDP

      I'm in the same boat. I have been able to produce good results for streaming video in a small environment on RDP, on large networks it seeems to suffer. I'm hoping that our upgrade to an MPLS network with QOS controls will fix that. Otherwise it's a no go, unless we build turn-key computer labs where the whole lab, network , server and clients are custom packaged. I'm surprised no one has tried to sell me that yet.
  • Getting ready to deploy vmware, have worked with virtualbox in the past...

    VMWare seems to be the enterprise solution. Virtual Iron is playing catchup to VMWare right now, so i wouldnt say they are ready just yet. They are cheaper though!

    Of course virtualbox is free, which is why i assume your toying with that. I think for a small deployment/testing lab.. virtualbox would be fine.. but not for production use. Maybe personal use?

    VMWare has them beat.. you are able to shift between servers live and on the fly, utilize all the hardware you buy, not just part of it and the management is nuts. Its expensive though.

    We use citrix here and they are not virtualized. I spoke to our citrix VAR, they said that the virtualization of the citrix servers would yeild us no benefits other than management.
  • RE: VirtualBox

    i am sick and tired of the widnows, but there is no alternative for some applications. so i downloaded ubuntu 8.04 with vmware. now what do i do with this? can anyone help? i need a simple step-by-step guide to instal it on my desktop/laptop, not as a server.
    help please!
  • RE: VirtualBox

    What's nice about VirtualBox is that you can use immutable disks. This in conjuction with your proposed VDI structure, gives the following benefit: you create one (and only one) virtual disk which is shared my many virtual machines. When you have to update that disk (new program to be installed), you only have to modify one virtual disk.

    I've already tested this solution and it seems to run quite fine (some minor glitches to be solved); however, this was not a real production environment...

    Current problem for VirtualBox in the proposed headless environment is the lack of a management tool for remote control, access, etc. I'm trying to solve this by developing such a tool: