Most SQL Server administrators are familiar with the trial editions of SQL Server. These are fully-functional editions
of SQL Server that are time-limited — they'll run for a certain amount of time (usually 120 days) before expiring. You can then, in turn, upgrade to the full version of SQL Server with a proper license key or by remounting the databases in a full edition of SQL Server.
The introduction of virtualization in Windows, through products like Virtual PC and Virtual Server, has made it possible to create trial versions of products. These trial versions don't require actual installation on a given computer in order to try them out. Instead, they are standalone virtual machines — a whole operating system installation with the trial product installed on them. They're distributed in Microsoft's Virtual Hard Drive or .VHD format; the user downloads a self-extracting file that unpacks the .VHD. Then a user can run it in Virtual PC or Virtual Server. When the trial period expires, or the user no longer needs the program, the .VHD file can simply be deleted; nothing needs to be uninstalled.
The SQL Server 2005 Enterprise Edition VHD is a trial edition of SQL Server in a VHD format. It contains a
full operating system and a fully-functional copy of SQL Server 2005 Enterprise Edition. You can attach it to a network and it will run exactly like SQL Server itself and can host real-world databases as well. The only limitation placed on the virtual machine is a time constraint; the product expires after 30 days. However, any databases created or modified with the virtual machine can be re-hosted in a full copy of SQL Server.
In order to run the VHD, you'll need Virtual Server 2005 R2 (which is itself free) running on Windows Server 2003. The virtual machine will need at least 10 GB of disk space and 512 MB of memory to run well. Also note that since this is a trial edition of a product, there is no technical support offered by Microsoft.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Serdar Yegulalp is editor of the Windows Power Users Newsletter. Check it out for the latest advice and musings on the world of Windows network administrators -- and please share your thoughts as well!
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