It is possible to install a virtual machine inside another. In other words, you can install a virtual machine inside a virtual machine.
We have this running in test labs for a long time and it works fine!
What you need
VMware Workstation. We tried it using version 8 and 10.
First, you need to create a VM but make sure it doesn’t start automatically.
Then add the following lines to the VMX file (the config file VMware Workstation creates for the VM):
hypervisor.cpuid.v0 = "FALSE" vhv.enable = "TRUE" mce.enable = "TRUE"
To make sure the virtual machine runs well, add plenty of RAM and disk space. Ideally you wouldn’t want to create a VMDK where the files are split; use a single VMDK (monolithic disk) instead.
Boot up the VM and install Windows.
What can be done with this?
You could use your VMware Workstation VM to host Hyper-V Server 2012 or Windows Server 2012 / R2 with Hyper-V role and install VMs into it.
It’s a great way to test out operating systems before you make your decision to install on a physical server.
We haven’t tested if ESXi would install inside a VM; it would be interesting to find out if it works, too.
Using VMware Workstation’s network isolation features you could have several of these VMs on isolated private networks and test out certain features of Windows, way before you invest in expensive hardware. Naturally performance and timing isn’t the same as on physical servers.
However if your workstation / test server is very powerful, the results aren’t too bad at all!
Hint: Backing up VMware Workstation virtual machines is easy using BackupChain. BackupChain offers Granular Backup and Granular Restore for VMDK as well. You can back up individual VM files from the host with just one license and one install on the host.