Some of my VMs

It might be the done thing in DPE circles to use shuttles-sized PCs, but what if you're a consultant on the road that needs to be able to store and run large numbers of virtual machines?

The image down the left is a subset of the VPCs that I carry around with me (I couldn't fit any more onto my screen). At the same time we want to have a solution that's as lightweight and portable as possible.

Personally the main machine I use today is a Toshiba Portege M400 Tablet PC. It is light (2kg), but still packs a 1.83 GHz Core Duo CPU, 2GB of RAM, and a high resolution screen (1400 x 1050). Just by itself it is quite a little performer according to Vista (aside from the graphics score):

Vista System Score for Toshiba M400 Tablet

To further boost VPC performance I increase the number of hard disks that I have available to me. The modular bay has a second hard disk, and I attach one or more external disks connected via USB. All up, with 2 x 80GB and 1 x 100GB drives, this gives me 260GB of storage.

Disk Configuration for the M400 Tablet

So, what is performance like? In the screenshot below I am running four VPCs: a Active Directory domain controller, an Exchange 2003 server, an ISA Server 2006 box, and a Windows XP client that is accessing a published OWA website (click for full-sized image). The ability to simulate small networks (3-5 machines) on a single, lightweight laptop at reasonable speed I find indispensible. Being able to carry around 30 or so pre-configured VPCs makes it easy to test and validate any design decisions that I'm making on the job.

Running 4 VMs - click for full sized image

I actually carry a number of these small 2.5" laptop drives around with me - the total amount of storage I carry in my laptop bag is 420 GB. Not too bad for 2.5kg.

Disk Configuration for the M400 Tablet

That doesn't really help me simulate a larger network though. For that, we need two laptops. I have similarly configured Dell D600 Latitude. With WLAN, Ethernet, Local-only and Bluetooth PAN, I have four network connections in each laptop to play with (which allows for routed networks using ISA Server or Windows RRAS). With about 4 VPCs on each machine, I can can simulate a decent sized network, whilst carrying just two laptops and a couple of external 2.5" bus powered hard disk enclosures.