Visual Basic Software Strategies
Microsoft's Hyper-V Virtualisation
As a Visual Basic programmer, I keep a collection of PCs with various combinations of the Windows Operating Systems, and all the Microsoft Office Professional versions dating back more than 10 years. And as soon as a new Microsoft Operating system or Office Professional appears, I have to add another PC to the collection.
It is guaranteed, that as soon as I got rid of one of the PCs, I will soon have a desperate client request for a conversion from just that version of Microsoft Access.
Amalgamating all of my PCs
My desktop PCs were well past their prime, and becoming less reliable (overheating, disk errors). So it was a very attractive, cost effective proposition to convert all the systems to Virtual Machines (VMs) with a Hyper-V BackEnd (the process is called virtualisation). Hyper-V enables the consolidation of workloads onto a single physical Back-End PC. Hyper-V is a seamless solution for the small business operation with multiple PCs.
My main criterion was that there should not be the software complexity of any Server, Active Directory, DNS, IIS, DHCP, etc, etc.
A small device footprint
My Back-End PC now uses the free stand-alone version of Microsoft Hyper-V – which supports most of the features of the Windows 2012 Server (with some restrictions). With the aid of Graphical User Interface software, the system is reasonably easy to administer. The software is still in its early days, and I expect improvements over time. But the Hyper-V concept is brilliantly conceived and very acceptable (especially as it is free).
My device footprint is now much smaller. From 6 PCs, I now have only two. All the VMs are accessible from a Windows 7 Front-End computer using a Remote Desktop RDP connection, and they are housed in the Back-End PC. Additional VMs are easy to add. The Back-End PC also stores a mirror image of each VM – for Backup and Disaster recovery.
Make sure that you have the Windows Activation codes!
The biggest problem was the reactivation of all the past PCs. Contacting Microsoft to activate each PC and Microsoft Office was time consuming. An old version of WinZip stopped working, but that was easy to replace. The printer had to be re-configured and Microsoft Outlook needed to be re-installed on the Front-End PC.
Whew! Quite a busy few days, without a stitch of work being done, but it was well worth while. All is now in place. And I am a productive Visual Basic programmer once more!
And after a few months
Whilst there are undoubted benefits of Microsoft Hyper-V, some negatives are now apparent:
- The initial support costs were high
- The Hyper-V software is unfriendly without a GUI Front-End
- Without training in Hyper-V, there is a loss of control of the system
- The VM Windows Operating Systems requires a solid-state drive (SSD) for acceptable performance
- Regular defragmentation is essential (but not for a SSD!)