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this is my first post so [waits for sympathy] hopefully it won't be too bad,

I know this is primarily a quick question-and-answer site, but I wanted to get some opinions and I think for what I'm looking for it might be just a simple answer.

I'm looking to utilize Virtualization at home, having little experience with both Virtual PC and VMware, about 5 computers that are freqently used for development work, downloading, one server, laptop, gaming, etc. I understand that Virtual PC and VMWare are still the main players (with VirtualBox?) and while I'd like to stay free and/or open-source, VMware "pro" wouldn't be out of the question if it's abilities are THAT much better. Basically I'd like VMs on all my machines for additional OSs, diff. development configs, and backup.

One thing I've never used, but have seen at work, is a dashboard-like interface that gives the user access to configure all the VMs. That is one piece of functionality that I'd love to have and I don't know if MS does anything like that.

So before I write a book on what I'd like, what do you guys think? It's the developer asking the other IT guys...don't flame me too hard =)

Thanks in advance!

Justin

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5 Answers 5

VirtualBox provides everything I need. It runs on Windows, OSX, linux, and Solaris. The virtual disk images (.vdi) are portable and compress well. The NAT network interface is excellent and is easily configurable. Oh yeah, and its free.

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VirtualBox works very well. Also there's an open-source version, though it has less features. There're some downsides however. Serial port emulation is rather bad. No snapshot branching yet. –  Gleb Sep 24 '09 at 14:05
    
Another vote for VirtualBox. Having played with various editions and versions of VMWare, VirtualPC and VirtualBox - I can definitely recommend VirtualBox as the best of breed for what you are looking at doing. I had high hopes for VirtualPC in Win7 but it looks like they will have gimped it in favor of "XP Mode". –  Goyuix Sep 25 '09 at 17:33

Citrix Xenserver is enterprise class, open-source, and free.

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The answer is, of course, it depends.

If you are looking to do workstation-class stuff -- ie running instances of XP or Fedora and you will regularly need to interact with the desktops of those computers -- I recommend spending the bucks on VMware Workstation. It has a nice interface, the integration with the host desktop is really nice (speaking for hosting on XP, Vista, and Win7 computers). If you don't have the bucks, I hear VirtualBox is nice, but I've never tried it.

If you are going to do server-class stuff -- ie running linux computers where you will not need to interact with an X gui regularly, like database stuff or web development -- I recommend VMware Server. It is somewhat lighter than VMware Workstation, and you can more easily configure it to start up and shut down VMs with the host. Using this I treat my VMs as if they were remote computers, and I SSH into them from the host or anywhere else on the network. I even run an XP instance or two like this and just remote desktop into it when I need it, but I wouldn't do anything graphically intense this way.

If you are wanting to do production-class stuff, then you will probably want to start with VMware Server (or I believe there is now a VirtualBox Server offering too). From there you will want to investigate VMware ESXi as a bare-metal hypervisor, and I'd stick the Xenserver stuff in this level too, but I will admit I've never had more than a passing involvement with Xen at any level.

One of the advantages of sticking with the VMware family of products is that the VMs are easily passed up the chain as you grow. Note that this portability isn't impossible if you jump between families, but it isn't as straight forward as it is with VMware.

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VMware Server is not open-source, but will allow later migration to ESX if you wanted.

It's a hosted solution, it runs inside another OS (Windows or Linux), and then virtualizes from there.

VirtualBox is also a decent solution.

I've not used Citrix XenServer, only played with Xen pre-Citrix, so I can't speak from personal experience on that count :)

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Xen post-Citrix is the same as ever. Xenserver is just a commercial bundling of Xen and some management tools. –  Daniel Lawson Oct 10 '09 at 7:50
    
@Daniel - good to know it's not been morphed (yet?) .. my experience has still been heavily VMware-related, howeever –  warren Oct 10 '09 at 8:29

You could also use the free VMWare Player combined with the EasyVMX site http://www.easyvmx.com/ to allow you to create shell VM's that you can install software into in a completely free manner.

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