I wanted to kind offer a more of newbie-to-newbie oriented response. Have to start small.
Originally Posted by dPaquin
I have the know-how to build a computer, but I'm still a bit naïve on the server side of home computing.
In a couple years I would like to build a home server with many purposes as you could imagine, but the one I am most stumped on is virtualization. I read the sticky in this forum and it only touched a little on virtualization.
I don't know if you're referring to the thread over on the operating systems sub-forum
but that one I think has some pretty good information.
How can you use a computers resources through the internet? Is this how it works?
A virtual machine is the same as a physical machine - same requirements/limitations/precautions required as a physical machine with an OS. There's some tricks that can be done since it's software based - virtual nics, virtual switches and so forth - but really it's about the same. You can use VM resources through internet like as a web server/ftp server or as a rented resource like that found via a VPS. There are various "cloud" resources available. I think you can even rent processor power from amazon.
What components are most important for this type of specific application? Is there a software that makes this easier?
If you mean managed virtual machines remotely there are some consoles for that sort of thing. Just need a VPN or open or what-have-you for the security side. You might have to specify a little more what you need with that one.
I would like to run the server on ubuntu with windows virtual machines (ideally), but this is still just a concept in my head. I think all homes are going to have servers in the future....but that's another topic.
This last part is really what made me want to reply: I just went through this myself (see my article in my sig for my comic-misadventures with virtualbox/ubuntu server).
What I personally would recommend is starting with virtualbox and installing windows and other operating systems, just get used to how it works. I think by default virtual machines with virtualbox will have a "NAT" ip address, e.g. by default the internet will work but stuff like remote desktop and SSH won't (well there's a trick to get these to work but it won't work immediately/out of the box). You can also set a VM to have a real IP which it will get from your router -- an IP equally valid as that of your desktop/laptop/tablet/xbox/phone -- this makes it easier to manage directly.
Once you feel confident with it you could go the way I went: install virtualbox on a CLI-only linux server (doesn't matter which, I went with ubunutu server) and...in my case I actually re-created the virtual machine part in linux and transferred the virtual hard drives but there are other ways to do it. I like virtualbox because it's easy, it's familiar, it does windows VMs and if necessary I can use a different host OS. Also, there is a third-party web-front end that makes it even easier
For more power you would want to move up to a real hyper-visor of course. Hyper-V, Xen, KVM, VMWare, something like that.For just one or two VMs, especially windows ones, I for one vote virtualbox