Moodle Servers: Windows, Linux, Virtual or "Real"

by Rusty Meyners.  


Regarding Windows or Linux:


Moodle is a Linux native along with the majority of the available support. My duties, skills and salary are too Windows-dependent to devote the time to mastering Linux that I’d like; but having said that, I couldn’t personally recommend Windows for a Moodle.



Regarding the Virtual vs. “Real” question:


Our Moodle has been a Linux virt from day one around 2.5 years ago and I’d do it again exactly the same today. BUT it is on the OpenVZ flavor of virtualization which is quite different from the VMWare solution that most people default to.



VMWare is one of many flavors of FULL virtualization which use processing and memory resources for a software imitation of the hardware components in an imaginary machine on which you install your system. Fully virtual machines for the most part do not even know they are not actual boxes of metal and silicon. A subset is “para-virtual” where the virt has special drivers and awareness that it can get more direct and efficient access to the “real” hardware. Other solutions including (Free/OpenSource) such as KVM (on Linux but able to host Windows) and XEN work in a similar fashion to VMWare.



OpenVZ only virtualizes or “partitions” the operating system and uses hardly any extra resources to do so. This keeps most of the advantages of virtualization and brings more benefits to the mix, especially in the way of performance. OpenVZ only works (last I heard) with Linux systems, though there is an expensive proprietary version for Windows that has gone by various names such as Virtuozzo and (I think) Containers(?). If you are using or even considering Linux implementation, getting familiar with OpenVZ would be an extremely valuable investment of your time, as I believe it almost never makes sense to virtualize Linux any other way. With OpenVZ I have can (and often do) have a production Moodle system running alongside a production KalturaCE, BackupPC, FOG and sandbox space for trying out any flavor of Linux system that catches my attention (Mahara is next on that list). Normally we have these spread out over several host boxes but the beauty of virtualization is the portability, disaster recovery and load balancing potential.



ProxMox is the actual “brand” of virtualization we use and it is Free/OpenSource with pay support options. It combines KVM Full Virtualization and OpenVZ OS Virtualization for multiple Linux AND Windows virts in the same host system and may be one of the fastest ways around to get into the virtualization business. It requires fairly new 64bit hardware with virtualization support which includes almost any decent server hardware you would be considering anyway. I would love to help anyone in education trying to get started with ProxMox.

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