For VMware vSphere Lab testing you need testing VM. I've gathered Top Three Lightweight Linux Distros which can be used as testing VMs in a VMware lab environment. A testing VM is a VM which is not a filer or other type of VM that provides core network services for your lab environment (DC, DNS, DHCP firewall… ). It's just a VM to test vSphere features like HA, vMotion, FT etc…. So this VM must be as small as possible to consume as less resources as possible.
You certainly have a laptop that is installed with VMware Workstation. And if your laptop has only for example 8Gb of RAM (like mine which is getting oldish…) you're certainly concerned about RAM resources. I use my laptop as a mobile test lab. I like to run two VMware ESXi hosts, vCenter Server, and a domain controller with perhaps Starwind ISCSI target as well in the same VM (to get some shared storage).
So any other VM you add to this will consume additional resources, so careful selection can be done in order to minimize CPU, Memory and storage resources. Usually you seek for a VM which is:
- Very small in size
- Can boot fast
- Take as less resources as possible.
Usually you need this kind of VM when running nested ESXi hosts in VMware Workstation or on ESXi, or also when used as a test VM in a bare metal ESXi deployments. It's really something that is a must-have in each VMware lab.
Top Three Lightweight Linux VMs for VMware Lab
In no particular order… here is the list.
1. Damn Small Linux
You can follow a guide by Mike Brown how to install it to the hard drive (you have to use IDE otherwise the hard disk is not detected).
Update: You can download the compressed ZIP archive which has already the “VM” version… (for example this: dsl-4.4.10-vmx.zip)
2. Tiny Core Linux
Check VMware Communities here where you can download directly an OVA file (simpler to deploy… ) The VM boots very fast and goes right into desktop. No need any login/password. Here is a screenshot. Pretty rudimentary, but apparently the VM consumes just 4Mhz CPU cycles, and has 48Mb of RAM. Can't really get any better than that.
3. TTY Linux
TTY Linux is a very small Linux distribution based on a 2.6 kernel. For installation, it requires only 12 MB of disk space and 32 MB of RAM. It has no GUI, but does have a text-mode web browser and ssh server.
Download here. PDF documentation here. The installation on to the hard drive does not work out of the box as on modern Linux distributions, so some Linux skills are necessary to properly install the distro.
TTY Linux is also used by my friend Alastair Cook over at Labguides.com where together with Nick Marshall they using it in their automated kit for deploying nested ESXi hypervisors, vCenter server and shared storage. The whole free solution called Autolab can be downloaded there (free registration is required).
Note that there are other distros which does looks and feels better, but are heavier, consume more RAM and disk space. So if your workstation or lab resources are limited those are the ways to go.
If you know an easy-to-deploy and use VM, or you have built your own VM like this, don't hesitate to comment and I'll add it to this list. If you find this post useful, just share…