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VM-in-a-VM Is Broken, for Now ...

"Greyhound" comes to a screeching halt in the virtual world.

If you're a fan of VMware's high-end ESX 3.0 virtualization platform, then you're likely familiar with the process of running ESX 3.0 within a VMware Workstation 6.0 instance. I wrote about the process to accomplish this in Redmond magazine a number of months ago. I've long used that crucial capability to demonstrate ESX 3.0 both to myself and in classroom settings.

But, if you've recently upgraded from ESX 3.0 to 3.5, you may have noticed that booting virtual machines in your Workstation demo environment crashes the environment. It turns out that ESX 3.5 upgrades its hardware virtualization support in such a way that it breaks this ability to run VMs within VMs on most chipsets available today.

According from a document from xtravirt.com, this new hardware-assisted virtualization support may enhance virtualization, but it also comes at a price. The document reads, "ESX 3.5 enables support of new Hardware Assisted Virtualization [a function which requires chipset support] which may not exist in the majority of chips currently in circulation."

The document goes on to mention that AMD Quad Core "Greyhound" chipsets have been successfully tested to work with VM-in-a-VM. But these chipsets are relatively new, and so it's likely you don't have them in your current environment.

So, c'est la vie. With VMware's ESX brand of virtualization relying so hard on hardware chipset capabilities, we should have known this day was coming. Until then, all of our demonstration environments will come to a screeching halt until VMware can build an emulator for our demo needs (hint, hint!) or we upgrade to the latest and greatest in chipsets.

About the Author

Greg Shields is Author Evangelist with PluralSight, and is a globally-recognized expert on systems management, virtualization, and cloud technologies. A multiple-year recipient of the Microsoft MVP, VMware vExpert, and Citrix CTP awards, Greg is a contributing editor for Redmond Magazine and Virtualization Review Magazine, and is a frequent speaker at IT conferences worldwide. Reach him on Twitter at @concentratedgreg.

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