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Does anyone have experience running Visual Studio inside a VDI environment?

  • Would you recommend it?

  • Would you advise against it?


Our Background

Our department is one of the few in the company that doesn't use thin clients.

The head of the department is getting pressure that we too should be using thin clients, in a hope that the help desk and server admins will be more responsive to other departments complaints and issues.

I agree with the idea behind it, but I'm very leery of running a program like Visual Studio inside a virtual machine.

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4 Answers 4

up vote 3 down vote accepted

It works, but if you are using many of the fancy designers, or have very large solutions you will really be wishing for actual multi-core rather than virtual multi-core processing as most virtual hosts don't give you the same parallel performance you would get on real hardware if you are competing with many other guests.

I personally try to avoid it.

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You need ram and lots of it. Visual Studio works well if its allocated more than 1g ram. 2g or more to ran smoothly you need more if you are running tools like resharper. Most virtual machine can only be allocated half of the host machine's ram memory which means you need at least a 4g 64bit machine.

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I'm not using VS, but I am using Rad Studio C++ from Embarcadero, and have been using it in a VM for years.

If I were using VS (Well, OK, I use a little bit of VS2008 as well) then I would run it in a VM too.

I like running s/w development environments like this in a VM because:

  • it means its completely portable - I can copy my VM from main machine to laptop to carry around if I need to;

  • my main machine runs the standard environment, and the VM is separate. I can keep the functional separation;

  • if my main machine gets upgrade (which it has been - 3 times) then I don't have to re-install anything in the VM - my s/w development environment is unchanged, it just runs faster; and

  • taking a backup of the s/w development VM is a piece of cake - I can copy it to a backup NAS any time in only a few minutes.

The only downside is that performance is not as good as native. However, performance is very good indeed when my host machine is an 8 core Xeon with 8 GB of RAM. I allocate the VM about 2 GB of RAM, and let it see 4 cores for execution, and performance is a dream. So whilst it might not be as good as native, its so good that I really don't care about the difference.

Given a choice, I'd do all s/w development in a VM - always.

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1  
FWIW, I always give my VM the same number of cores as my physical box, with the idea being that when I'm in the VM I'm not doing anything else with my box so why leave idle cores? If your native OS is doing something more than hosting the VM and a couple of idle apps then that's different, of course, but I've found that even developing apps in VS2010 that access a postgres DB running native is quite comfortable. –  TMN Aug 16 '11 at 12:26

It's fine as long as you've got the hardware to back it up. I worked at a place a few years ago where the word came down that all development had to be done using a preconfigured VM image. It was a good idea (all the dev tools were already installed and set up), but then the company cheaped out on the hardware (core duo T2300 CPU with 2G of memory). It might have been workable with some lean development tools, but we were using RAD5 with WebSphere and Message Broker, so needless to say we wound up finding a way to copy the VM to a disk partition so we could boot it directly. In contrast, at home I run a VM with VS2010, IIS and Sql Server 2008r2 on my quad-core box with 8G of RAM and it's totally usable.

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