How I've been spending my time later? Playing with SharePoint "v3" Beta 1. Sorry, I should have said SharePoint Server 2007, since it's already been properly announced at http://www.microsoft.com/office/preview.

My current effort is to implement a scenario where you have a parent portal and a few geographically dispersed child sites. The main idea is to keep the children close to the user's location (network-wise) while keeping the capability of performing enterprise-wide searches.

My challenge is to do all this testing without actually having a dozen servers to play with. That's when virtual technologies come to the rescue. I am almost done implementing the whole thing in a single notebook.

First, I wiped one of my notebooks clean. It's an HP NX6125 with an ADM Turion x64 CPU running at 2.20 GHz equipped with 2 MB of RAM. The Host OS (the outside system running on the real machine) is Windows Server 2003 SP1 x64 (yes, the CPU on this notebook is the mobile version of the 64-bit Athlon CPU).

To be able to run without any network dependencies, I installed the Microsoft Loopback Adapter in addition to physical network card in the notebook. This way, I can get a fixed IP required for a DNS server/Active Directory domain controller and also enjoy DHCP connectivity wherever I might connect.

With a fixed IP on the loopback adapter, I was able to load the DNS server and create a zone for my domain. Then I ran DCPROMO to get Active Directory installed on that namespace. I also installed SQL Server 2005 and Virtual Server 2005 R2, both in their x64 editions.

Next, it was time to set up the guest OSes (the virtual machines running under that main host). I ended up setting 3 guest each running Windows Server 2003 SP1 x86. I was able to dedicate 448 MB of RAM to each one without starving the host OS.

Each guest was configured with a virtual network connected to the host's loopback adapter. They got their fixed IP addresses and became members of the domain. I also installed IIS, the .NET Framework 2.0 and the Windows Workflow Foundation (beta). Those are all pre-requisites for SharePoint Server 2007.

I also leveraged Virtual Server's ability to do differencing disks. I created a base image with all the components I needed first. Then I ran sysprep on that image and shut it down. I then created three disks based on that image and did the customization there. That meant that instead of 3 very large virtual disks, I ended up with one large base virtual disk and 3 smaller disks with the customizations.

Next it was time to install SharePoint Server on the three servers, using the host SQL as the storage for all of them. I'm still working on some of the details on the SharePoint customization, but I can already see that this is going to provide the test environment I needed.

Tomorrow I will continue to work on this one, with the goal of configuring two farms in a parent-child Shared Services configuration. Wish me luck...