Some years back, I fancied about this idea simply because I can’t afford to run several virtual machines (VMs) on my laptop’s lean hard drive (HDD) while my external HDD is pretty much empty. Search result on the internet back then suggests that it’s probably a not good idea since HDD are often slower when used outside of a computer’s chassis. That was the time when USB 2.0 were plenty and eSATA enclosures were rare.
Due to my current working and living condition, it came to me to finally give some technology a run for its money and test if they can make an idea happen – run VMs from an external hard drive. It’ll be golden if I could store all my VMs in an external drive so I can get the same lab regardless of the computer (office or home desktop, my or colleagues’ laptop) I’m using wherever I may be.
Here are some logistics:
- Laptop with USB 3.0 ports
- Operating System with USB Attached SCSI Protocol (UASP) support such as Windows 8 and above
- Affordable, tiny, and slick external hard drive enclosure with UASP and USB 3.0 SuperSpeed support
- SSD with TRIM support
- VMware Workstation 12.5
In other words, just get a decent laptop, an SSD, and a hard drive enclosure dated 2015 onwards and you should be good to go. For example, here I used a Surface Book, an Orico 2.5″ transparent hard drive enclosure, and Toshiba 900GB SSD (doesn’t have to be this big but this is what I use for my VMs in my desktop).
Next order of things, how’d it go? I’ll put it this way:
- Booting 4 VMs (2x Windows & 2x Linux variant VMs) as simultaneously as I can took almost 20 seconds.
- Suspending all of them in one go (by simply closing VMware Workstation) took slightly over 30 seconds.
- Configuring VMs and setting up things (i.e. VMware cluster configuration, setting up NetApp ONTAP simulators, setting up enterprise Backup Systems) was smooth like you’re running the VMs on the internal SSD.
Theoretically, this can be better if we’d use Thunderbolt 3. Too bad I don’t have that on any of my devices. But then again, less than a minute of boot and shutdown time don’t really hurt; at least for now.
Hope this helps.