VirtualBox, Virtual PC, VMware Workstation and a few other software packages help you create and run multiple virtual machines on your desktop or laptop enabling you to run multiple operating systems simultaneously on a single computer.
My personal favorite is VirtualBox (recently acquired by Sun Microsystems), not only because it is freely available as Open Source Software and runs on Windows, Linux and Macintosh but also because it has great features and supports a large number of guest operating systems.
Last Saturday I used VirtualBox to create a new virtual machine (VM) running Windows XP Pro and Oracle Database 11gR1. First, I created a “base” VM with only Windows XP pro SP3 installed. I then detached the virtual disk file (VDI) from the VM. I ended up with a VDI file that I can clone as many times as I want eliminating the need to install a new operating system every time I create a new VM.
Cloning a virtual disk in VirtualBox is done using the command line. For example, to clone WindowsXP.vdi as a new virtual disk called WindowsXPProOraDB11gR1.vdi, you would issue this command:
VBoxManage clonevdi WindowsXP.vdi WindowsXPProOraDB11gR1.vdi
You would then assign WindowsXPProOraDB11gR1.vdi as the virtual hard drive of a new virtual machine.
The installation of Oracle Database 11gR1 on a new Windows XP VirtualBox VM on my laptop went very smoothly, but I had to troubleshoot a couple of things on the VM: A missing loopback adapter and a 100% CPU usage.
My laptop and the newly created VM do not have a static IP address. Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) is used to assign dynamic IP addresses on the network. According to the documentation, before installing Oracle Database onto a computer that uses the DHCP protocol, you need to install a loopback adapter to assign a local static IP address to that computer. I followed the instructions found in the Oracle Database Pre-installation Requirements document to install the loopback adapter. After that, the database installed without any issues.
Now that my WinXP VM and 11g Database are up and running, I noticed that the oracle.exe process was consuming 100% of the CPU. I waited a few minutes, but the CPU usage did not go down, it stayed at 100%. After a quick search, I found these two forum posts: post 1 and post 2. Since this is a test database, I did not hesitate to follow the instructions in post 2 and was able to bring the CPU usage down to a normal level.
Virtual machines are a great way to learn and try new software and applications without the need to buy new hardware or messing up your existing computer. You may even have fun embarking on some virtual adventures.