Background

I'm a fairly green user to server fault, and admittedly to server management. I asked this question regarding an issue with virtualbox which was placed on hold on the basis of

Questions on Server Fault must be about managing information technology systems in a business environment. Home and end-user computing questions may be asked on Super User, and questions about development, testing and development tools may be asked on Stack Overflow."

Furthermore the Moderator claimed

Virtualbox as a desktop virt tool doesn't fit on Server Fault.

and

VBox is a desktop virt tool used for software development and/or home/lab use. We are interested in questions dealing with production environments (VBox is not suited for those).

Researching this topic on Meta shows that the question of the relevance regarding VirtualBox dates back to 2011 here.

If the consensus shifted (or is shifting) on an entire class of questions then is it not much more helpful to provide that context or link to a meta post that explains the context.

Why I am asking this question

IMO as a Q&A site, it's very important for users such as myself who are new to ServerFault, are not aware of the nuances or consensus of Server Fault, and/or (admittedly) are learning to manage information technology systems in a business environment to have a clear understanding of what is and isn't on topic. Simply stating that X is off topic without a clear explanation is not helpful. This is especially true when the 955 questions and tag on the very subject give users such as myself the impression that Server Fault does support Virtual Box Questions.

Why this came up

Considering the above quote regarding managing information technology systems in a business environment, allow me to explain why this issue came up in the first place. With respect to business environments, my company normally hosts VMs on Azure and discovered a use case to boot VMs in-office for development and testing. Given our need for a hypervisor software and our lack of a background in hypervisor software, we initially looked at VMWare and Hypervisor but were ultimately attracted to Virtual Box because it is free of cost, open source, and supported on Windows 7. Undoubtedly this is also attractive to other organizations who may not be aware of the nuances of hypervisor software (as was the case for my employer) for similar reasons. Between this meta question and this meta question, it appears that the business environment / IT systems depends on the software being used or the context of the usage of the software (environment). Understandably, experts on Hypervisor would suggest VMWare or HyperVisor (windows 10?) as being better suited for production (I would concur).

Instead of arguing the merits of Virtual Box questions myself, I am instead posing the following question:

Is there a canonical answer or consensus on the relevance of Virtual Box Questions on Server Fault?

Errata:

To be clear, I am not here to dispute the hold on my question. If Server Fault does not support questions about virtual box then the question should indeed be closed or better. Similarly as in the 2011 meta post, virtual box questions should be updated accordingly and this change made crystal clear in the tag, help page, or meta post such as this one. Furthermore, I found an answer to my original question on Super User here: namely Azure VHDs are not supported by Virtual Box.

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    It's best to use Hyper-V locally if you expect to run the same VMs on Azure. – Michael Hampton May 22 at 17:19
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    What makes virtual box off topic on server fault? In two words: the moderator. – Michal Sokolowski May 26 at 9:57

I worked at a place that used Virtual Box as our production virtualization environment, and it worked very well for us. We were using Ubuntu Server, and as @kasperd says in a comment, VBox is readily available in the standard repositories. At the time, I would have been happy if VBox had been more accepted here so that there might be posts relevant to my environment, so after some discussion in chat, I asked what's essentially the canonical question about why VBox and the like are off-topic here:

What are the benefits of "enterprise-level" virtualization?

I don't know if it would work for you, and I don't know if there's any consensus here on whether questions about it are on- or off-topic for ServerFault, but you might want to consider using the free version of VMWare ESXi (sorry, VSphere Hypervisor).

The point of topicality is not simply to get rid of stuff that we don't want. It is to make sure that questions end up in a place where they are likely to get a good answer, instead of staying in a place where they won't.

As a corollary, the fact that a product is used by systems administrators does not necessarily mean that ServerFault is the best place to find information about that product. I use Emacs extensively in my work, but I wouldn't post an emacs question at ServerFault - there is a perfectly good Emacs stackexchange. I work with Unix systems, but in many cases the questions about them are better answered by the amazingly knowledegeable community over at Unix/Linux. Likewise, many of us work with networking equipment such as switchers and routers, in addition to servers, and if we want help with those we're more likely to get good answers at Network Engineering.

For VirtualBox, there is a much larger and more knowledgeable community at SuperUser, which make it a better place for those questions. Again, this does not in itself mean that the product is irrelevant to systems administrations - but as a community our main objective ought to be to enable people to find answers and learn things, and by moving questions to the right site, we're doing that.

Perhaps we should try to overhaul the tag information for Virtualbox and other topics covered by other sites, to immediately point out where questions about them are better placed?

End user virtual environments like VMWare Workstation and VirtualBox are the best* tool on the market to troubleshoot and debug, widely used by sysadmins i.e: disaster recovery (reason you pointed), network equipment testing (its software and functionality), pxe boot testing, malware infections, data recovery (different tools different platforms), fast conversions (ie, you want to convert SQL database from 2005 version to 2016). Countless use cases and we didn't even touch app developing.

[*] COW images, snapshots (matter of seconds), portability and safety of your own loopback interface makes it perfect - the compromise between flexibility, quite good performance and fast reconfiguration. Personally I still have every virtualized Windows version starting from Win98SE in case some old accounting software happens along the way or I need some archaic DLL because printer driver in newer OS version is broken and requires it.

Any planned usage of virtualbox is offtopic. SuperUser is more suited for almost all VirtualBox questions.

Any use to estinguish a fire for a temporary case or a question to migrate off virtualbox would be ontopic IMO, but it’s really rare case.

As such for myself I would state a similar opinion as John told in 2011. It depend in the use, but keep in mind John answer didnt aged well, as back in 2011 hyperv support was limited unlike now.

I used virtualbox in some limited context as an admin. In my toolkit I used vmware vserver, but its now EOL (last build 2.02 in 2009), thus virtualbox took over that part. (my limited use to give an example was to save a failing DC, did a dcpromo in a quick setupped vm on a secretary pc, to give time to order a new server). Honnestly I didnt used that tool for year for the reason I told you for the hyperv support.

It was mainly virtual pc vs virtualbox a while back, now hyperv put the virtualbox usage a alot more narrower. For that reason I can see the tag used in the past a lot more than today, as enterprise product is more accessible now for the same task.

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    I agree that "emergency" situations might make it kind of necessary to use VBox. The thing remains: Most users on Server Fault don't use it, but it's quite popular with end users, so I believe it makes much more sense to ask this e.g. on Super User. – Sven May 23 at 14:42
  • @Sven I agree with you, as not much user use it, it’s just I can see a use, even if its only for .5% of all questions, I will edit to show more that and I will edit to direct to superuser, good idea – yagmoth555 May 23 at 17:02
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    I can't agree with this answer. Take for example a server platform such as Ubuntu Server LTS for the physical hardware and consider what virtualization environment you would choose. Using software from the standard repositories when applicable is generally a better practice than installing software through other means. Virtualbox is in the standard repositories for Ubuntu Server LTS, but the alternatives you suggest are not. – kasperd May 23 at 21:18
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    @kasperd I hear you, and you make a good point, but to my mind it's yet another reason why Ubuntu isn't really suitable for server deployment. I know this point of view may not be popular, but I'm definitely not willing to cede to Ubuntu the right to determine what constitutes "best professional practice". – MadHatter May 24 at 7:17
  • @MadHatter Ubuntu has one unified way to upgrade all of the installed software from repositories covering pretty much every kind of software you could need and provides updates for 5 years after release. What other server OS offers that? – kasperd May 24 at 21:36
  • @kasperd I didnt know it was used on linux, but on windows the port is far to be enterprise ready by lacking feature like ha. Can we agree that when a user use that vbox tag + windows tag on the main site it’s almost always for a dev machine or a home usage ? – yagmoth555 May 24 at 23:05
  • @kasperd the fact that Ubuntu doesn't do some things wrong is no proof that it does all, or even all important, things right. Also, CentOS does exactly what you describe, unless I've misunderstood you (except that you get seven years life, not five). – MadHatter May 25 at 5:31
  • @MadHatter I was using Ubuntu as an example because it's a distribution I know. I would expect the same to be true if I had used Centos as an example. What virtualization software in the Centos standard repositories do you consider to render VirtualBox unnecessary? – kasperd May 26 at 9:03
  • @kasperd I now think that the debate on linux is the reason the tag usage is not tagged offtopic directly. Interesting debate it’s for a linux newbie like me. your argument about OS support is interesting too, as I could tell the exact same argument against the OP for windows usage. hyperv got mainstream support vs vbox. – yagmoth555 May 26 at 12:30
  • @yagmoth555 That's quite possible. Since about 2000 I have more or less exclusively been using Unix systems. I had to use Windows for 5 months back in 2006 until I was offered a better job. So I can't really say what support for virtualization on Windows is like these days. – kasperd May 26 at 17:41
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    @kasperd qemu/KVM? – MadHatter May 27 at 6:42
  • I disagree with this answer: a company could use a ton of vboxes as stable devlopment environments. Of course a complex configuration is not matter of any 'superuser's, not could be well received in stack exchange because configuring boxes is not a dev matter. – realtebo Aug 22 at 21:18
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    @realtebo you jump late in the debate.. SF is about question on production system. I agree in dev it have a use, but you fall out of scoop of SF – yagmoth555 Aug 22 at 21:41
  • Development environments are production environment for the developers. When a sysadmn assists a team of tens people to their development, this IS a production environment, because here the service is the development environment. Do you think Visual Studio Code is not a production software because is about dev? Why do you think that 100 vboxes and all related networking problems are not a production environment? There are only my personal meditations, I hope to be constructive while asking you to revaluate your position – realtebo Aug 22 at 21:50

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