Recently I installed Windows Server 2008 R2 Enterprise Edition on a laptop. My goal was to see how well the laptop could run an operating system that is really intended for server hardware. If the laptop could perform adequately it would be a boon to students, teachers, software developers and salespeople who need a convenient and portable test bed to study new operating systems and applications. I also personally enjoy pushing hardware to its limits, to see just what its maximum capabilities are.
The laptop in question is a Lenovo Model T61 Type 7665-CTO. This is a typical laptop, widely used on corporate networks. It has an Intel Core 2 Duo T7700 @2.4GHz and 4 GB of RAM. It also has 160 GB SATA hard drive that spins at 7200 RPM. I was to find in my testing that fast disk access is an important feature. I installed Windows Server and added Active Directory Domain Services (AD DS), DHCP, DNS and Windows Deployment Services (WDS). Active Directory and the other services were necessary for WDS a service that deploy Windows Image files across the network using unicast or multicast transmissions.
After Hyper-V was installed, it would be an interesting test to see if WDS could install Server 2008 into multiple virtual machines concurrently using a multicast stream. This test succeeded, WDS was able to multicast Windows Server 2008 R2 Standard Edition 64 bit into four VMs. At this point the laptop was supporting 5 total installations of Windows and Active Directory. Each VM was allocated 512 MB of RAM on the host system. With 1.1 GB of RAM still available I decided to create two more VMs at 512 MB of RAM each to see if the system could handle the additional load. It could, and even with only 4 GB of RAM the laptop could support a total of 7 instances of Server 2008 running at the same time. The computer was quite busy of course, the processor was running at an average of 20 % Usage and only 6% of RAM was still available. The disk drive was the busiest during the image multicast and file copy operations with att. With a peak disk I/O of 19 MB per second the drive was able to cope with the demands of all 7 OSs. Of course, the VMs were not on a production network and no clients were making demands upon them as server. In that situation proper server hardware is definitely required. Still, it proves that current laptops have enough horsepower to be a great training aid and a convenient platform for software developers.
Perhaps soon the new, very small netbooks will be able to match the performance of the Lenovo. Something to look forward to.