COVER STORY                       Virtualization Tools

Virtualization Tools               COVER STORY

Figure 2: Parallels supports simultaneous launching and viewing of     ...
COVER STORY                           Virtualization Tools

                                               to launch vm...
Virtualization Tools           COVER STORY

COVER STORY                      Virtualization Tools

name, VMware Server performs very            could use network s...

Figure 5: The award for ...
Upcoming SlideShare
Loading in...5



Published on

Published in: Technology
  • Be the first to comment

  • Be the first to like this

No Downloads
Total Views
On Slideshare
From Embeds
Number of Embeds
Embeds 0
No embeds

No notes for slide


  1. 1. COVER STORY Virtualization Tools James Thew, Fotolia Running server systems in virtual environments is a popular approach, but the technology offers benefits to desktop users. In this article, we investigate some virtual desktop alternatives. BY THOMAS LEICHTENSTERN V irtualization technologies offer a I decided to try out some desktop vir- tion 6.0 has also appeared since we simple approach to testing new tualization alternatives. I tested four typ- tested the beta, and VMware Server has configurations or launching pro- ical desktop virtualization solutions, climbed from 1.0.2 to 1.0.3. grams designed for different operating using the latest systems. Most commercial virtualization versions available products make it easy for newcomers to at the time of the install and use the software. test. In some These virtualization alternatives sup- cases, newer ver- port guest systems running in an isolated sions have ap- environment on the host machine. The peared since the guest can be installed from ISO images test date. For in- or installation CDs or DVDs, which are stance, we tested mounted on the virtual machine. the Innotek Virtu- When it comes to supported guest sys- alBox 1.3.99 beta, tems, the choices range from any flavor and version 1.4 of Windows (from Windows 3.11 to has subsequently Vista), through Linux systems with ker- found its way to nel 2.4 and 2.6, to more exotic creatures, market. The re- such as various BSD derivatives, Sun lease version of Figure 1: Parallels’ approach to organizing controls is unconventional Solaris, or OS/2. VMware Worksta- but not impractical. 26 ISSUE 83 OCTOBER 2007 W W W. L I N U X - M A G A Z I N E . C O M
  2. 2. Virtualization Tools COVER STORY Figure 2: Parallels supports simultaneous launching and viewing of Figure 3: VMware Workstation automatically adjusts the guest virtual machines. display resolution and supports drag and drop. VirtualBox and VMware Server are free, station is in line with the claim. The full to the point that it is almost impossible and Parallels Workstation 2.2 will set you version costs US$ 49.99. For our lab, I to use. The number of guest systems you back US$ 49.99. The final version of VM- downloaded the fully functional, 14-day launch at the same time, each running in ware Workstation costs US$ 189, al- trial version [2]; the vendor offers RPM a separate window (Figure 2), only af- though the beta we used in our test was and DEB packages as well as a tarball. fects the performance of the host system. free. Parallels offers a 14-day trial version. The machine in our lab has a 64-bit CPU Controls File Transfer (AMD 3200) and 1GB of RAM. The host The GUI is attractive and clear. The top Parallels has a convenient tool for shared system is OpenSUSE 10.2. I decided to half of the main window (Figure 1) folder management, but relies on you to install Windows Vista Business Edition shows the settings for the virtual ma- install guest addons and is thus not and OpenSUSE 10.2 as guest systems. chines running on the host. The buttons available on Linux. This also applies to One focus of the test was the exchange below this are used to configure or cre- Vista, but for other reasons. of data between the guest and host sys- ate a new virtual machine. Parallels Parallels does not support mounting of tems, which matters if you want to places the control unit for starting, stop- physical partitions. This restricts the op- transfer the files created on the guest ping, or resetting the virtual machine on tions for exchanging files between guest system. The test looked into how well the right side of the window. The system and host systems to network services, various approaches worked, from shared lacks an overview of all installed ma- such as a Samba server, or mass media folders, via mounting physical partitions, chines in the main window or in tabs. attached to a USB port, which is not to the use of drag and drop to copy files available on the SUSE Linux 10.2 host. between the guest and host. Guests The software autodetects USB devices The test candidates came with their Parallels offers wizard-based guest con- attached to the host on other host oper- own kernel modules, which are com- figuration, which prompts for data such ating systems. piled and integrated during the installa- as the RAM and hard disk size, as well Because Parallels only supports USB tion process. I had to install the GCC as the guest system to use. Guest addons 1.0, it takes quite a while to transfer data compiler, along with the required kernel provide drivers to boost the performance from the virtual machine to a USB de- sources and headers, before installing of the virtual machine and extend its vice. Although I installed the guest ad- the virtualization software or Guest Ad- functionality. Parallels only has addon dons, Parallels took about eight minutes dons for Linux. OpenSUSE version 10.2 support for Windows guest systems. The to transfer a 100MB file to an attached or later disables USBFS support in the program does not have a drag and drop USB memory stick on Windows Vista. kernel for security reasons. Because all function for exchanging files between of the virtualization test candidates, the VM and the host. Parallels has a Conclusions apart from VMware 6.0 beta, base USB copy and paste function, but it was awk- Parallels is average. The other virtualiza- support on USBFS, USB did not work. If ward. A snapshot function for saving the tion solutions in this test provide at least you use a distro that includes USBFS system status is missing. the same functionality and were free of support, this will not be an issue. The “acceleration level” is a function charge in the case of VMware Server and for guest system performance optimiza- VirtualBox. Parallels has simple installa- Parallels Workstation 2.2 tion. Parallels lets you disable the func- tion and controls, but lacks a snapshot Parallels claims to provide virtualization tion, but this makes little sense: Dis- function. Parallels offers comprehensive made easy [1], and the Parallels Work- abling the turbo slows the guest system documentation as a PDF download [3]. W W W. L I N U X - M A G A Z I N E . C O M ISSUE 83 OCTOBER 2007 27
  3. 3. COVER STORY Virtualization Tools to launch at the com- fine a couple of key parameters, it is a Parallels: Plus and Minus mand line to configure the software. good idea to click Edit virtual machine + Simple installation and controls Users must answer some tricky ques- settings to fine-tune each guest. I had no + Very good documentation tions, such as the kind of network sup- trouble installing Vista, but a display – Lacks a snapshot function port they will be using. Read the manual error on OpenSUSE 10.2 prevented me – No guest addons for Linux [5] before you start the install. from completing the configuration. Call- The GUI is fairly clear, and users ing the X configurator, sax2, at the com- VMware Workstation 6.0 should have no trouble finding critical mand line soon had this issue resolved. VMware [4] offers the current version 6 functions. Although VMware has a VMware provides guest addons for of VM Workstation, which costs around plethora of settings, they are so well or- Vista and Linux. Enabling addons pro- US$ 189. We tested the beta version, ganized that users should have no trou- vides advanced functions on the guest which was available for free download. ble finding their way around. system, such as automatic mouse pointer switchover between the guest Guests and host system, and automatic custom- Controls Just like Parallels, VMware launches a ization of the display resolution on the VMware offers a tarball with installer wizard to help you set up guest systems. guest system to reflect the VM window and an RPM package. The next step is Because the wizard only helps you de- size (Figure 3). VMware is the only can- Table 1: Virtualization Solutions Compared Vendor Parallels Innotek VMware VMware Product Desktop for Linux 2.2 VirtualBox 1.3.99 beta Workstation 6.0 beta Server 1.0.2 Price US$ 49.99 Free US$ 189 (final version) Free License Commercial Commercial/GPL Commercial Commercial Hardware Support SCSI support – – ✔ ✔ Sound card ✔ ✔ ✔ ✔ USB USB 1.0 USB 1.0 USB 2.0 USB 1.0 Disk Management ISO images ✔ ✔ ✔ ✔ CD/DVD burner support – – – – Hard Disk space consolidation – ✔ ✔ ✔ Snapshots – Several Several ✔ Snapshots of running system – ✔ ✔ ✔ Restore on running system – – ✔ ✔ Miscellaneous Autofit guest/window ✔1 ✔1 ✔ ✔3 Automatic mouse detection ✔1 ✔ ✔ ✔ Guest addons ✔1 ✔ ✔ ✔ Multiple VMs simultaneously ✔ ✔ ✔ ✔ VMs in different windows ✔ ✔ – – Remote control – ✔ ✔ ✔ Boot Time (seconds) OpenSUSE 10.2 90 77 65 110 Windows Vista 110 65 70 60 Performance* ø + ++ ++ Controls Installation ++ ø + + User Help ++ ++ + + Data Exchange Shared folders ✔2 ✔3 ✔ – Physical disk space on guest – – ✔4 ✔4 Copy and paste ✔1 ✔3 ✔ ✔ Drag and drop – – ✔ – Ranking Price/performance ratio – + + + Installation and controls ++ + + + Feature scope – ø ++ ø Position: 4 2 1 3 28 ISSUE 83 OCTOBER 2007 W W W. L I N U X - M A G A Z I N E . C O M
  4. 4. Virtualization Tools COVER STORY Advertisement Figure 4: The VMware Server version looks exactly like the Worksta- tion version, although its technical capabilities are not in the same league. didate to support this func- supports multihead opera- tionality on Linux. tions over multiple screens. Boot times of 70 seconds for Vista and 75 seconds for Conclusions OpenSUSE 10.2 made the Both VMware Workstation’s software the fastest per- performance and interopera- former. My subjective impres- bility between the host and sion was that neither the guest are very impressive guest nor the host suffered throughout. The only niggle I from performance hits. had was the price of US$ 189 for the final release. Data Exchange VMware Workstation offers a VMware Workstation: copy and paste function and Plus and Minus drag and drop for files be- + USB 2.0 support tween the host and guest. No + Snapshot Manager matter what guest operating + Very powerful system you use, you can drag + Drag and drop the required file out of a – Expensive guest directory and drop it onto the host desktop, or vice versa. VMware Workstation VMware Server was also the only test candi- 1.0.2 date to support the USB 2.0 VMware [4] provides the protocol. It took about 10 sec- server version free of charge onds to transfer a 100MB test [6]. Despite the suggestion of file. The current version also a server emphasis in the Symbols and Notes in Table 1 Subjective impression (VMware license prohibits benchmarks): ++ = very good, + = good, ø = average, – = satisfactory 1 Only Windows guests including Vista 2 Only Windows guests excluding Vista 3 Did not work in test 4 Restricted use in test W W W. L I N U X - M A G A Z I N E . C O M ISSUE 83 OCTOBER 2007 29
  5. 5. COVER STORY Virtualization Tools name, VMware Server performs very could use network services such as ftp, date has such clear configuration win- well on home PCs. The license restric- http, or SMB to exchange data. dows, the best example of this being the tions, such as grid computing and leas- Virtual Disk Image Manager (Figure 5), ing or selling services that run on the Conclusions which you can use to manage virtual server, are unlikely to worry a private The free VMware Server is definitely an disks, ISO images, and floppy images for user. Just like the Workstation version, option for desktop use. Although the fea- all guest systems. VMware Server is available both as a ture set isn’t nearly as extensive as that The snapshot management function, tarball and installer package and as an of the Workstation version, VMware which supports any number of backup RPM. You need to register to use the Server is very much on a par with other images, also gives users a clear overview software; in exchange for your registra- products in our lab. of the critical information. tion, VMware sends you a serial number. The VirtualBox software provides VMware Server: command-line tools and a separate front- Controls Plus and Minus end, both of which allows users to con- When you launch VMware Server, the + Free trol the software independently of the first thing you see is the Connection + Clear-cut controls current operating system. The GUI pro- Manager, which you can use to start and – No shared folders vides a slide control for setting the vir- manage the software locally or remotely. – Only one snapshot supported tual graphics memory (a maximum of The manager also allows you to mount 128MB). CD/DVD drives on the host and remote client on the virtual machine. My first VirtualBox Guests impression was that the Server and As a newcomer to the virtualization mar- I had no trouble installing the guest sys- Workstation GUIs and configuration ket, Innotek [7] introduced its Virtual- tems; however, network interface drivers windows are identical (Figure 4). Box [8] virtualization solution as a free for Windows Vista were missing, and in- A couple of visual differences, such as download in January of this year. Both stalling the guest addons did nothing to the Host menu entry, which opens the private and commercial use of the soft- change this. I had to consult the manual Connection Manager, betrays the Server ware, which is released under a closed to find out the download location [9] version. The underlying technology is a source license, are free. I tested version and how to integrate the drivers. To completely different matter: The Server 1.3.99; Version 1.4 is now available. allow users access to guest systems over feels very much like a narrow-track ver- In addition to the version I tested, In- the network, VirtualBox supports RDP- sion of the Workstation. For example, notek also offers a GPL’d variant of Vir- based access, which opens up access to the Server version lacks USB 2.0 and tualBox; however, this other version remote controllers such as Krd; USB- shared folder support. The snapshot does not have the full feature set of the over-RDP adds the option of giving the function is restricted to a single restore version I tested and thus lacks support guest system access to USB devices on point. On the other hand, the software for USB, shared folders, and RDP-based remote computers. has additional functions, such as com- remote access. Besides its own formats, VirtualBox mand-line controls, although desktop also supports virtual disks in VMware users will probably not miss them. Controls format. I was unable to launch a system RPM and DEB packages, as well as a bi- Guests nary installer, are available for Virtual- INFO Installation of OpenSUSE 10.2 and Vista box. After setting up the software, the [1] Parallels: were trouble free. The software has next step is to add user accounts to the [2] Parallels download: guest addons for both operating systems. vboxusers group. On Vista, you have no alternative but to Users who do not belong to the vbox- download/workstation/ install the addons because the network users group see an error message when [3] Documentation for Parallels: http:// connection will not work otherwise. they launch a virtual machine – just one indication of how quirky Virtualbox documentation/ Data Transfer turned out to be in our lab. Luckily, the [4] VMware: VMWare Server gives users very little in software comes with an information- [5] VMware Workstation 6 beta: http:// the line of options for transferring files packed manual located in /opt/Virtual- between the host and the guest. Al- Box-1.3.99. [6] VMware Server: though both the VMware Server and The developers put a lot of effort into Workstation versions let you mount host designing the GUI. No other test candi- server/ disks and partitions on the guest system, [7] Innotek: the exchange of data is unreliable. The VirtualBox: Plus and Minus [8] VirtualBox: lack of USB support in our lab environ- + Free [9] Network interface drivers for Vista: ment prevented me from testing the USB + Snapshot management workaround. The Server version lacks ConnectivitySolutions/ + Excellent disk management ProductInformation/0,,50_2330_6629_ the drag and drop function offered by – Quirky configuration 2452%5E2454%5E2486,00.htm the workstation. As workarounds, you 30 ISSUE 83 OCTOBER 2007 W W W. L I N U X - M A G A Z I N E . C O M
  6. 6. �������� ��������������� Figure 5: The award for the best-designed solution for virtual disk management goes to VirtualBox with its Virtual Disk Image Manager. created on VMware, which tive in many respects, and restricts the virtual disk func- competitors often have trou- tion to shared data partitions. ble keeping up with the pace. One example of this is the Data Exchange perfect copy and paste and Although VirtualBox offers drag and drop functions, shared folder support, I was along with USB 2.0 support �������������������� �������� ����� � not able to integrate the for a faster exchange of data � � �������������������������� shared folders feature for via USB sticks. VMware asks ��������������������������������� Vista in a way that allowed you to pay for this quality: me to view the folders in the The final version will cost � � �������������������������������� File Explorer. I was able to around US$ 190. �������� access the folders at the com- Joint second place in the mand line. Also, the copy and test goes to VMware Server ������������������������������ paste function between the and VirtualBox in a tight fin- ���������������������������������� � guest and the host, which the ish. Although VMware Server software theoretically sup- scores with its subjectively � � ���� ������������������������� � � ports, failed to deliver. Be- better performance, Virtual- ��������������������������������� cause the software could not Box counters the attack with ������������������������������ mount host partitions and intelligent disk management USB support did not work in and a Snapshot Manager. ��������������� my test environment, my Parallels brings up the tail data exchange options were of the field: For US$ 50, the �������������������������������� generic network services – software has less to offer than �������������������������������� just like VMware Server. its free competitors by VM- ware and Innotek. What dis- ������������������������� Conclusions appointed me was the dismal ������������������ VirtualBox is on the right data exchange performance � � �������� track, but it is still a long way of the candidates, with the from challenging VMware exception of VMware 6.0. Workstation. This said, Virtu- Some candidates failed to alBox is on a par with VM- support shared folders, USB, ware Server and even slightly and mounting of physical ahead in some areas, such as partitions in a satisfactory snapshot management. way; in some cases, the fea- tures failed to work entirely. And the Winner Is All of the candidates offer ���������������� The clear winner in this test well-designed and intuitive is VMware Workstation 6.0 GUIs, along with comprehen- ������������������� beta. The software is defini- sive documentation. ■ �������������������� ���� ������ � � � � �