Testing Microsoft Outlook Mobile Manager (MOMM) in my environment was a challenge because I didn’t have an extra server on which to install Microsoft Exchange Server. To work around this challenge, I used VMware to set up a virtual server on my desktop PC, as Figure A shows. This virtual-server technique might interest IT folks who need to set up a temporary server for testing purposes.

Start with a powerful desktop PC—in particular, a PC that has enough memory to host both a Windows 2000 desktop and Windows NT 4.0 Server. A fast processor helps, too. My desktop system, which has 256MB of RAM and a 1GHz AMD Athlon CPU, satisfied the memory and processor requirements. To enable a virtual server, I installed VMware Workstation 2.0.4, then installed NT Server 4.0 with Service Pack 6 (SP6) as the guest OS. I manually configured VMware to provide 128MB of RAM to the virtual server. (For more information about VMware, see my Windows 2000 Pro column, "Better Than a Dual-Boot," January 2001.)

VMware offers many network options for the virtual machine and guest OS. I chose the simplest option, called host-only networking. This option sets up a virtual network connection between the host and guest computers. (You can find detailed information about how this setup works at http://www.vmware.com/support/reference/win/networking_win.html.)

The host and guest machines now have a simulated Ethernet connection, with which they can see each other but nothing else—a scenario that’s sufficient for simple testing purposes. If you want a more sophisticated connection, you can use packet-forwarding on the host machine to establish a bridge between a physical network and the guest OS’s virtual network. Also, VMware can provide you with a bridged connection to an Ethernet adapter on the host PC.

For my tests, I needed only a connection between the virtual server and one desktop. Later, I augmented the connection for end-to-end testing by enabling a serial port and installing a modem driver on the virtual server. This extension permitted me to validate the SMTP-forwarding that MOMM depends on by forwarding email messages to my ISP (and thus, to my Palm VIIx).

After I’d set up the virtual server and guest OS, I could install server-side applications and use them just as I would on a physical server. I installed Microsoft Exchange 5.0 Server, then upgraded to Exchange 5.5. I installed client-side applications on both the virtual server and the host machine—the Exchange client 5.0 on the server, and both Microsoft Outlook 2000 and Microsoft Mobile Explorer (MME) Emulator on the host (i.e., my Win2K desktop). This configuration let me verify operation by sending messages from the host to the server and vice-versa.

While the virtual server is operating, you’ll notice some performance degradation on your desktop. However, I’ve found the degradation to be minimal—I’ve been able to run both CPU-intensive and memory-intensive software (e.g., Microsoft Flight Simulator 2000) on the desktop with the virtual server operating as a background task. I couldn’t even tell that the virtual server was running (although, to be fair, it was probably idle most of the time).

I also experimented with an Exchange 2000 back end, again hosted on a virtual server, but this time running Win2K Server. Again, the test was successful—but this time I noticed major performance degradation on both the virtual server and desktop. Evidently, 128MB of physical RAM isn’t enough to provide a reasonable platform for such a demanding back end. In all other respects, however, the experiment worked.

You can download a free 30-day trial version of VMware from http://www.vmware.com/download. To use VMware beyond the 30-day trial period, you’ll need to pay $299 for a license (or $329 for a packaged version that includes printed documentation). That pricing is reasonable for a server platform.