Oracle VM VirtualBox is a virtualization solution which is (now) supposedly targeted at "enterprise as well as home users" according to its web site.

In the past, we've been mostly hostile to VirtualBox questions since the perception is that it's rarely used and mostly unsuited to professional and server environments.

But people are attempting to use it as such anyway, and sometimes they come here to ask their questions.

This question is motivated in part by a recently closed question that was flagged for reopening, in which a user was running a Windows Server lab environment on VirtualBox and having issues with the Server 2012 guest.

Obviously questions about using VirtualBox for home/desktop virtualization don't really belong here, but do they belong here when it's being used for professional purposes (whether it's a good practice or not)? When should such questions be closed, or left open with a "don't use VirtualBox" comment, or answered?

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I once tried to use their "headless" stuff, just to see if I could make any headway with it. It was utter crap and I wouldn't even think about deploying it. Though this was during 3.x so maybe it's improved by now. Or maybe not. –  Michael Hampton May 29 '13 at 21:27
    
innocent whistle don't know who flagged that. Nope, not at all. I think now while VB is entirely unsuited to production enviroments for a dev or test lab working on "proof of concept" it's fair game in my opinion. If it is a VirtualBox issue then that would then be off-topic as you're unlikely to use that "properly". –  tombull89 May 29 '13 at 21:27
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Reminds me of the cPanel discussion. –  Tanner May 29 '13 at 21:28
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The most common virtualbox questions, and the ones I hate, are all mostly related to trivial questions about how to setup the network. Instead of using a bridged interface 'they' choose NAT, and then ask questions where answer is 'DONT USE NAT'. If you eliminate all the crappy network related questions, almost nothing is left. So my simple suggestion is, that if they are using NAT/HOST mode for their interface, then the question gets killed. Everything else can be decided case-by-case. –  Zoredache May 29 '13 at 21:35
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Each question should stand or fall on its own merits: While just about every VirtualBox question I've ever read has been crap and many of them have been so bad as to make me want to question the sanity of the asker (much like the product itself, to be honest), there's no doubt that its possible to ask an on topic virtualbox question. In theory at least. –  RobM May 30 '13 at 7:18
    
For my $$$ VirtualBox is a poor substitute for the superior and more polished VMWare Workstation. ....So pay the $100 bucks and use something real to get your job done. –  mdpc May 30 '13 at 21:50
    
I side (I think) with @tombull89 - if the issue is centric to Virtualbox being the issue it is OT. If the issue has nothing to do with the type of VM sandbox it is running on, then the question should stand (or fall) on other factors at that point. –  TheCleaner Jun 3 '13 at 13:50
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5 Answers 5

Virtualbox underpins some technologies that we, as the tool creators and maintainers, will invariably have to touch as we assist software developers in their workflows. Vagrant is gaining a lot of traction as a developer sandbox tool, and it's definitely within scope for professional sysadmins to prepare and maintain a Vagrant image for their development team to use. It's certainly a far sight better than a dozen handmade different Vagrant images with a hodgepodge of different libraries and tools installed.

If a Virtualbox question somehow pertains to the bigger pursuits of systems administration (ie, automation, testing failover, etc etc) then I believe it's fair game for the site.

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+1. There are very few virtualbox questions I would consider to be "on topic", and most are related to the deployment and administration of virtualbox as a component of an enterprise solution (e.g. "We would like to provide VirtualBox environments to our developers for testing purposes - what are some ways we can implement this?"). Questions about using virtualbox, or quirks specifically related to virtualbox, should be directed to VirtualBox support (Oracle). –  voretaq7 May 29 '13 at 21:27
    
+1 this. We use it in part because of vagrant. We even use NAT and host-only on those (the lan is mac white-listed (and yes, i know that's retarded)). Just because an individual sysadmin doesn't use VirtualBox does not mean it's off topic for a professional forum, any more than asking about dsl modems just because "mostly" homes use them. –  Sirex Jun 6 '13 at 5:04
    
Now that Vagrant supports KVM, there's little reason to be using VirtualBox even in this scenario. –  Michael Hampton Sep 26 '13 at 1:37
    
@MichaelHampton, most people using Vagrant do not run Linux as a desktop operating system. You may have a deeper misconception about how/why Vagrant is used. –  jgoldschrafe Sep 28 '13 at 17:15
    
@jgoldschrafe I've certainly seen lots of Vagrant and VirtualBox misuse. But please enlighten us. –  Michael Hampton Sep 28 '13 at 18:08
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Oracle would say that, being Oracle.

Frankly I find it very difficult to accept VirtualBox as an "enterprise" product, or actually, anything other than suitable for throwing together a proof-of-concept implementation on your own computer.

I certainly wouldn't like to suggest it's suitable for production environments, regardless of what the vendor might suggest.

If someone's put together a production environment on VB and it's actually a production environment, or similarly, a production dev environment (Vagrant), then I'm inclined to think we should allow it on SF.

HOWEVER.. If it's a question about scripting Virtualbox, and explicitly code-y, it's a StackOverflow question, or at least, it'd be a better fit there I suspect.

I'm concerned that if we allowed all VirtualBox questions, we'll be flooded with home environs and testbeds.

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scripting is on-topic here, it also likely would be related to deployment scenarios, which are on-topic here either. Having said this, I should add that I neither use nor know VirtualBox, so I cannot say anything about its applicability to professional environments. –  the-wabbit May 31 '13 at 8:07
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If someone is configuring/deploying VirtualBox across a fleet of workstations then it's definitely SF.

(Grey area YMMV)

If it's a single user development environment (that someome probably configured for themselves) then SO or SU is the place for it.

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...or they should talk to their local IT personnel / sysadmins. –  voretaq7 May 29 '13 at 21:53
    
@voretaq7: If they have one yes. –  Iain May 30 '13 at 14:27
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It may be rarely used, but I use it, for an honest-to-goodness Enterprise Resource Planning system. OTOH, we're small and they were using VBox before I started (when they were even smaller), so it's pushing it to call our usage Enterprise.

I'm biased: I prefer answers from other sysadmins, people who have to make systems work for their clients/users - not just for themselves. So I can imagine that there could be good questions about using VBox in a production environment and I'd like to see them here - I may ask some myself - but the other side of the coin is if the tool is mostly used by people working on their own, then SU is a more appropriate site.

So I'd like to see enterprise-level questions about VBox here, but I don't know if there are any...

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+1; as I know sysadmins that have used VB to test deployment of Windows desktops using WDS. I'd imagine the majority of sysadmins shouldn't have too many issues with VB, but I'd certainly consider those questions to be on topic. –  Bryan May 30 '13 at 13:14
    
I also have used VirtualBox in a professional capacity. (We needed two hosts outside our firewall, didn't want to connect the ESXi to the Internet, and only wanted to throw one physical box at it. VirtualBox was a nice, lightweight solution.) If it's professional, it should be allowed here. –  asciiphil Jun 1 '13 at 12:34
    
OTOH = on the other hand –  user156643 Sep 29 '13 at 6:36
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It is yet another of those things which, in the absence of reasons to believe otherwise, indicate that the environment is non-professional. It is similar to cPanel and to consumer router/WAP/modem devices in this regard.

Regardless of what Oracle may say, it is totally unsuitable for infrastructure use. It is (still) not stable, in addition to a litany of other indictments.

If someone is doing something with virtualbox like running production servers with it, they should probably be told to not do that, but the question doesn't need to be closed - just the answers they get won't help them abuse virtualbox for that.

If someone is asking about virtualbox because they are using it for labs or something the question should definitely be closed. Similarly, if the problem is only a result of virtualbox being garbage, the question should probably be closed with a comment that virtualbox is garbage.

I don't see why we would want to fill the site with questions about how to do things that shouldn't be done, and answers telling people how to do things that will only cause pain later.

The only time we should be actually answering these questions with a solution about how to use virtualbox, I think, is if virtualbox is the user application being maintained. It's a user application, not an infrastructure component, and questions about it being used as an infrastructure component should be treated the same way as questions about a linksys WRT54G being used as an infrastructure component.

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