Itís Here, itís
There, itís VM Ware! - Virtual Machine Software Advances
May 8th 2006
Over the last few years there have been a lot of improvements in Virtual
Machine (VM) software. Many users of Macs have known about VM software
for years, but on the Windows side of the house most users, except for
system integrators and developers, donít have a clue as to what VM is,
let alone why it would be at all useful to them.
What is VM? In a nutshell, VM, or Virtual Machines, are software
representations of computer hardware. An application, such as VM Wareís
VM Workstation, is installed on your computer under Linux or Windows.
Within the VM Ware Application, you can create multiple Virtual
Machines, each one running a different instance of whichever operating
systems you decide to install.
If you have the hard drive space, memory, and processor speed, you can
run many of these at the same time. The way it works is that inside the
VM Workstation, you click on File\New\Virtual Machine, and then fill out
the wizard according to what operating system you plan to install in the
new virtual machine.
Would you like to test on SUSE Linux but donít have a space computer to
test on? Install it within a virtual machine and play with it there.
Heard good things about Solaris and want to give it a try? Set up
another virtual machine and try it out. Are you thinking about building
a Windows 2003 server and want to see how difficult it will be prior to
buying the hardware and operating system? Download an evaluation
version from Microsoft and install it in a VM to check it out.
In fact, go ahead and add on Exchange, SQL 2005, Oracle, or any other
server software that is available for evaluation and see if youíve got a
use for it BEFORE committing a portion of your budget to it. Are you
interested in installing the latest Internet Explorer 7 beta but donít
want to hose your computer? Create an XP VM and install it there; then,
if it doesnít work out, your computer is spared. Would you like to play
with Vista, but donít want to kill your computer? Hereís how you can do
it without blowing up your PC.
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For software developers and integrators, this is especially useful and a
cost effective way to test without the need for another box or three. I
used it at a former job to create two Windows 2003 Servers VMs, each
with an installation of IBM Domino Server 7, and a separate VM for an XP
Professional Workstation installation with the Lotus Notes 7 Client to
test out clustering. For this I also set up a Team within VM
Workstation so that I could start and stop all three at the same time as
well as allow them to communicate with each other without opening them
up to the rest of the network.
Another great feature of these VMís is that you can Suspend the Virtual
Machine within a few seconds. It can be resumed just as quickly. As
developer, this is great as it allows me to have these VM servers
operating as I need them, not all the time.
Another nice feature of the VM Workstation is that all of these Virtual
Machines, while they think they have their own hard drives, are actually
using space within a file on the host operating systemís drive.
For a lot of OSís, the size of the hard drive that you assign it
(remember, the VM Worksation emulates hardware so when you go and
specify 30 gigs for a Windows Server install, thatís the size of the
harddrive that the VM thinks it has) isnít the amount of disk space it
takes up initially. I like to assign Windows Server 2003 30 gigs of
space, but the size of the VM file is closer to 3 gigs upon completion
of the installation. This gives me room to play with it in case I
decide to add additional server software into the virtual machine.
Another nice feature of the VMís is that depending on how you have the
VM configured, the guest operating system install can be isolated from
the network or be connected to the network and appear, for all practical
purposes, as just another computer or server on the network. Using this
type of technology, you could set up a Linux server and a Windows Server
on the same piece of hardware, yet to the outside world it will appear
as if two separate servers are there.
The best feature of all, however, is that once you are done with the VM,
or if you trash it beyond its usefulness, you can just delete it from
your computer, and itís as if it never existed. Unless youíre a
masochist or have a graphics intensive (read video game) that you
absolutely positively need to test under a native Vista install, thereís
no need to create that dual boot nightmare anymore.
WMware Workstation is available for a free download and evaluation at
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