A recent MacTech article, a startup guide for the VMware vSphere Hypervisor, makes interesting reading. The author says that the hardware compatibility for providing virtual machines can be a more flexible than VMWare's approved list.
Alan Gordon's article can be found in the latest issue of MacTech magazine (costs $8.95 on the news-stand and is not available online). It first runs down some basic principals about virtualization and then looks at setting up a vSphere Hypervisor server. But on what platform?
What caught my eye was Gordon's real-world hardware compatibility list:
When talking about VMware vSphere and compatibility, one often comes across a term called the HCL (Hardware Compatibility List). This is actually a searchable online database of hardware that hardware vendors have certified themselves according to VMware's self-certification program. A common misunderstanding regarding this list is that only hardware on the list will work with where. This is not correct. As stated above, it is a list of hardware that where will attest to that works! Currently, the only Apple machine on the list is the last revision of the Xserve (Xserve 3.1). I can however state that the following machine will also run VMware: Xserve 2.1, (Mac mini 5.1 (iCore5, iCore7), MacPro (latest model), MacPro (previous model) and mind you work very well. So, if you have a piece of hardware that's not in the HCL, try it out — it might work!
Of course, users would want to set this up on a machine with Intel Hyper Threading technology and plenty of memory. The key caveat in the article is "might," which isn't the best recommendation.
For folks who want to test out the installation, Gordon details an installation on a Mac mini, which is the favorite on the cost front but certainly isn't a long-term solution for many reasons, such as it's not advisable to run a bunch of virtual machines on a non-RAID volume.
What do we see when looking at the hardware list above? The Xserve is history, sorry to say. Mac managers miss it. The logical replacement to the Xserve is the Mac Pro but everyone wonders (again) when will Apple refresh the model, which was last updated in July 2010?
Finally, we have to wonder (again) that the Mac mini has a place on the list! It's the little Mac that could (although it only supports 16GB of RAM).