Setting Up a Virtualised SharePoint Platform

When I’m setting up a SharePoint farm, the first decision I have to make is whether to go physical or virtual. There are many reasons to go virtual:

Consolidation (bringing all your under utilised servers onto one or more physical server),

Flexibility (the ability to create a point-in-time snapshot of a machine and revert to it should something bad happen),

and also perhaps reasons of convenience (you’re mocking up a development or test environment and want to have one-for-one logical mapping between servers you develop against, and those in the eventual production environment).

There are more reasons than this, and the decision tree is vast.

Whether you’re thinking of VMware or Microsoft, or even one of the open source players in the market, here’s a video worth having a look at. This interview shows two differing clients with different needs, making different choices in platform.

But for many development scenarios, and increasingly more production environments, virtualisation makes a great way to build a server farm.

In the good old days of SharePoint 2007, you could make do with Virtual PC or Virtual Server 2005 and 32-bit hardware. Well, these days we don’t have that luxury, as SharePoint requires fully 64-bit hardware, from web front end to database.

For most virtualisation platforms, you’ll also need physical hardware that supports Intel VT / AMD Virtualisation Extensions – which is usually configurable in your machines’ BIOS.

A good platform to consider from Microsoft is either Windows 2008/R2 with the Hyper-V role, or the free Hyper-V 2008 server standalone virtualisation platform. Hyper-V is a role that you can install in Windows 2008 and 2008R2 servers. I’m often asked by developers how you’d go about installing Hyper-V on its own.

In this TechNet video, Gordon Ryan from Microsoft walks you through the steps to install the free Hyper-V 2008 on a server.

For a development machine, you could also consider Windows VHD Native Boot, and here’s link to an overview of Windows Native Boot to VHD at TechNet.

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