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Is there currently a proper Type 1 "desktop" hypervisor? Either free or not? This is just for tinkering around at home on some beefy Phenom machines.

Basically i want to be able to run say 2 OSs on the same PC but without loading windows or a heavy flavour of linux and then use a hotkey to switch between them. I should get full performance out of them.

  1. So do i need something better than vmware workstation and/or virtualbox. I think these are "Type 2"? I already run VMWare w/s and VBox but is there a more performant solution?

  2. I saw a YouTube video from Citrix where a laptop was running XP and Vista. With the touch of a hot key they could switch between them. There was no visible underlying OS (there might be a hypervisor)? I have access to Citrix XenDesktop 3 enterprise edition evaluation. I realise this isn't for desktops but can i achieve my goal (geekiness) ?

  3. If i use the free XenServer 5.5.0 how do my client PCs access windows/linux/whatever from the xenserver? Is it via a thin client RDP type application? If so if there one for both windows and linux? Also if i do use XenServer can i use USB in either direction?

  4. What is Citrix receiver can i use that for (3) ? If so, is there some hotkey i can configure?

  5. whatever client is used to access the server software (whether it be on a different server or local) can i get full opengl/directx acceleration?

  6. what about Xen? i tried the Xen LiveCD but no clue as how to configure it.

As you can see much confusion. Any help/pointers welcome.

Cheers.

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2 Answers 2

up vote 5 down vote accepted

The nearest thing in concept to a dedicated Type 1 "Desktop" Hypervisor at the moment is probably Parallels Workstation Extreme although it is still a hosted Hypervisor. It relies heavily on relatively new hardware virtualization capabilities (Intel VT-d and Xeon 5500 series CPU's for starters) to allow the guests to selectively gain direct access to the graphics hardware as far as I can tell. The problem I have with your question is that almost by definition a Type 1 Hypervisor generally does not support high end user interface components (specifically accelerated console graphics). I don't believe there's any huge technical roadblock but nobody seems to have been bothered to build one yet.

Your point on not wanting to take the burden of a heavy duty host OS is fair enough but if you take the approach that the Host OS is going to be one of the OS's you want to run then the "overhead" of this OS becomes less of an issue and that is the main reason that I believe no one has bothered to develop what you are asking for.

As to your other questions.

  1. The only Hypervisors that have better performance are "proper" Type 1 Hypervisors like ESX\i, Xen etc but these do not provide you with an accelerated GUI supporting console on the Host system so I would say that the current answer to your question is no in most cases. If VM graphics performance is what you are looking for then the aforementioned Parallels Workstation Extreme does perform better than the others but it has very limited hardware support as I noted above. The next version of VMware Workstation is rumoured to support significantly improved graphics performance (e.g. supporting Aero in Windows 7 Guests) but when it will be available I can't say. I'd assume the other hosted Hypervisor vendors are working on similar improvements as demand for this is pretty high.

  2. I run Vista with XP, Windows 7 & Ubuntu under VMWare Workstation as guests. The transition between them is seemless from my perspective (provided I have enough RAM)- I've never looked for a single click hotkey to switch between them but I can't see that it would be hard to implement. On my system the only reason I can immediately tell that I'm running in a VM vs natively is that the Guests currently don't support advanced graphics. For the most part the user experience when switching is "seemless" from my point of view.

  3. XenDesktop (like VMware View) is a desktop virtualization architecture but the VM's in question are intended to run on Host clusters in a company\organizations datacenters. Users access these machines via a Thin Client or a remote desktop application (ie they are either RDP or ICA remote desktop sessions). There are RDP and ICA clients available for Linux & OSX as well as Windows. There is also nothing stopping you running an in-band remote desktop app (like VNC) but the Hypervisor's remote console will be more useful and probably give better performance. I've used a number of Thin Clients that have quite slick hotkey switching between consoles so perhaps this is what you saw, it's not what I'd call a killer feature but it is neat enough.

  4. See above - you can download the clients from Citrix and various other repositories, Google is your friend and all that. I've no idea about Hot Key settings, I'd suggest you read the documentation for whichever client you pick as they are likely to vary.

  5. For the most part the answer to this is that advanced graphics support is not great at the moment but it should improve quite a lot fairly soon. There are some full 3D graphics remote console technologies out there that are becoming more mainstream such as Teradici\PC-over-IP. While you can get that today for use with dedicated (ie non virtualized) workstation hardware like the Dell Precision R5400 rack mount workstation it is not yet available for VM's. Both VMware and Teradici have said that support for it will be integrated with VMware View V4 when that comes out. Citrix for their part have announced the HDX 3D ICA enhancements that will provide similar accelerated graphics capability for their guest OS's. You can find a pretty good blog post on HDX 3D here which covers this in some detail.

  6. Not sure what you are asking with this one.

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Thanks i think that clarifies a lot. For 6 - i wondered if this particular version of Xen (the livecd one) would be the closest thing to what im looking for. Host OSs and guest OSs can crash and i'd like some independence from that. Basically if you can imagine 2 PCs sitting next to each other and then somehow combine into 1. Of course there will be some performance hit, but with dual/quad core CPUs these days it will become less of a problem. –  user20662 Sep 20 '09 at 21:44
    
Makes sense. To be honest when Intel started exploring what we now see as their VT-x hardware virtualization techniques the primary market they believed it would serve was just that - an embedded hypervisor for desktop\notebooks and not just servers that allowed multiple independent Guest OS's . The market has taken a slightly different direction though. As far as Xen is concerned, one of the various flavours may be useful but I wouldn't consider running a hypervisor from a LiveCD distro other than to try it out. –  Helvick Sep 20 '09 at 22:17

The YT video you are referring to is in regards to XenClient. Take a look. http://www.citrix.com/English/ps2/products/feature.asp?contentID=1685500

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