I am looking for an operating system that was designed to run virtual machines.

My requirements:

  • Preferably some distro of Linux (ideally Debian-based, but doesn't matter)
  • Not be GPU intensive (I don't know if that is applicable, but I do know I don't have a GPU that would be useful for processing)
  • Be able to run with 16 GB RAM and a 3rd gen Intel i5 processor (about 3.2 GHz)

I am currently using Ubuntu Desktop 14.04 LTS, but I feel like there would be other solutions for running 4+ VMs without Unity.

EDIT: I want to solely host VMs, and don't necessarily need a full OS.

  • 3
    If it shouldn't do anything else but hosting the VMs, wouldn't a bare-bone Debian ("server install", w/o any graphical environment) do? VirtualBox as well as VMware can run "headless" (VirtualBox, VMWare), and there are "remote GUIs" available (for management etc: VirtualBox). That way, most of the precious RAM is available to the VMs themselves.
    – Izzy
    Commented Dec 30, 2015 at 22:11
  • 2
    What VM technology would you be using? This sounds like you're looking for VMWare ESX or Xen rather than a Linux distribution. If you really want a Linux distribution (because the host isn't there solely to host VMs) then you haven't really given us any criteria to choose from: GPU usage and processor support don't restrict the OS in any meaningful way. Commented Dec 30, 2015 at 22:35
  • @Gilles I am looking for something to solely host VMs Commented Dec 30, 2015 at 22:45
  • 1
    @zwork from your description, the answer is almost "any Linux distri will do". Hence people start voting "too broad".
    – Izzy
    Commented Dec 31, 2015 at 0:54
  • VMware esxi for a complete solution. There is also KVM and 1 other choice I can't remember for running native in linux.
    – cybernard
    Commented Dec 31, 2015 at 2:35

2 Answers 2


After doing some research, I am going to do a minimal Debian install, and then use headless VirtualBox + RemoteBox, as suggested by Izzy.

I decided to do this instead of VMWare ESX because I don't really have the hardware to run something like that, and I am comfortable using Debian and don't really want to learn something that complex right now. However, I may turn to that in the future.

Thank you for your suggestions!



You may want to consider containers, as made famous by Docker, as an alternative to full virtual machines. Containers are a thinner lighter way to have multiple runtime environments for various software/app stacks.

Besides Linux, in BSD the same kind of technology is known as jails.

CoreOS is a minimal OS based on Linux kernel designed to be as stripped down as possible for the sole purpose of hosting containers.

Containers are still relatively new technology. Rapidly evolving now. But there are limitations and issues such as security concerns. Containers are rapidly growing in popularity for development but not as much for deployment until the issues get ironed out.

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