Update: This whitepaper is now available on Microsot.com at http://download.microsoft.com/download/1/4/d/14d17804-1659-435d-bc11-657a6da308c0/VSvsVPC.doc. Thanks to those of you who gave me comments on the draft.
Here's a draft of a whitepaper I'm working on that will ultimately be posted on Microsoft.com. Comments and suggestions would be appreciated. Thanks!
** This information is provided as-is with no warranties. **
This whitepaper explains the difference between Virtual PC and Virtual Server, and discusses when you would use one versus the other. Virtual PC is Microsoft's virtual machine solution for desktop applications, and Virtual Server is its solution for server applications. While they share many features in common, because of their different usage scenarios, a number of their features are different.
Virtual PC provides an optimal experience for a desktop user who wants to run one or more additional desktop operating systems on his or her PC. The user interface is fairly simple and there is extensive integration between the host operating system running on the physical computer and the guest operating systems running in virtual machines. For example, users can easily drag and drop data between virtual machines and their host. In addition, the sound and display features of virtual machines are much the same as physical computers. On the other hand, Virtual Server provides features to support the requirements of enterprise server applications and administration. For example, due to more stringent security requirements, there is less integration between the host and guest operating systems. Virtual Server also provides a number of features to support greater manageability, scalability, and extensibility.
The fundamental difference between Virtual PC and Virtual Server is that Virtual PC is designed for desktop (or "client" or "PC") operating systems and Virtual Server is designed for server operating systems.
While the two products have many features in common, they serve different needs, so there are crucial differences between them as well. For example, because it supports desktop applications, the Virtual PC user interface is designed with the typical desktop user in mind. The configuration options are relatively simple and easy for the average computer user to understand and use. On the other hand, Virtual Server is designed for running enterprise server operating systems and applications. It provides the configuration and management options that are required for server management, and these necessarily make the user interface more complex. As a result, making effective use of Virtual Server requires some degree of knowledge of server technologies.
As already mentioned, Virtual PC is designed for running desktop operating systems and applications. Some primary usage scenarios for Virtual PC are:
These scenarios are described in detail in the Microsoft Virtual PC 2004 Technical Overview white paper, available the Microsoft Web site at http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=45404. The uses that you can find for Virtual PC are limited only by your resourcefulness, though. For example, you might set up Virtual PC for your family to use for browsing the Internet. That way you don’t have to worry about anything they download because it won’t affect the host operating system. If the virtual machine becomes corrupted or infected with a virus, you can simply delete it and start over.
Virtual Server is designed for running enterprise server operating systems and applications. Some primary usage scenarios for Virtual Server are:
Virtual Server and Virtual PC have a number of features in common, such as:
While they share many features in common, due to the different usage scenarios there are also a number of differences between Virtual Server and Virtual PC, which are described in this topic.
To support the requirements of desktop users, Virtual PC provides the following features that are not available in Virtual Server:
To support the requirements of an enterprise environment, Virtual Server provides the following features that are not available (or needed) in Virtual PC:
For Virtual Server, supported host and guest operating systems are server operating systems, except for Windows XP Professional, which is supported as a host operating system. Supported host operating systems are Windows Server 2003 (Standard, Enterprise, and Datacenter Editions), Windows Small Business Server (Standard and Premium Editions), and Windows XP Professional. Supported guest operating systems include these plus Windows 2000 Server, all editions except Enterprise as well as Windows NT Server 4.0 Enterprise Edition SP6a. See the Virtual Server documentation for more information.
RAM. Support for up to 3.6 GB RAM per virtual machine.
Two-node clustering. Virtual Server provides simple two-node failover from one virtual machine to another for testing and development.
The following are references to additional information and resources for using Virtual PC and Virtual Server.