Monday, December 1, 2008

Exploring VMWare Workstation

VIRTUALIZATION LAB

By Nancy Hand

A year ago, I downloaded a copy of VMWare Workstation, and five licenses, for free. Two weeks ago, after deciding I really wanted to get into an old database I have on CD, I decided to install VMWare on my home machine.

VMWare Workstation is no longer free. You can download a 30-day trial, buy the current version, or download a Beta copy of the next version. At US $190 to buy the current version for a Linux host, I hesitated.

XEN is free. XEN runs on my Linux box and I could do Linux virtual machines, server and workstation, for free. But I haven't used it before and wasn't sure I wanted to learn a whole new system right now.

Neither was I excited about spending almost $200 just to be able to open a database I forgot to open before putting it on CD. Decisions, decisions. I finally downloaded the Beta for VMWare Workstation 6.5, probably not the wisest decision I've ever made.

Installation went smoothly and VMWare Workstation promptly asked me to create my first virtual machine without asking for configuration, license numbers or money. When it asked, I told VMWare the guest operating system would be Windows XP, entered the license for XP, and reserved disk space for it. So far, so good.

When the VMWare console opened I tried to start my new virtual machine so I could install the operating system. Instead of starting the machine it asked me for a license number. I tried entering the Windows license again, but it would only accept the first 20 characters. Five tries, and many expletives, later I discovered it wanted the VMWare license - if only it had said so earlier!

Finally I had a functioning virtual machine. Since this is a Beta version of VMWare Workstation, some things don't yet work as they should. But that's the excitement of playing with Betas - you never know if it's your ignorance or a bug preventing the system from working.

The download of VMWare Workstation included VMware Player and VMWare Network Configuration. The Player is a separate program, and can be downloaded for free, used to run already build virtual machines. Network Configuration is used to configure a network for your virtual machines. If you don't want to build your own machines VMWare offers a wide selection of pre-configured virtual machines, what they call appliances, for use with either Player or Workstation. To see what's available check http://www.vmware.com/vmtn/appliances/.

When I created my virtual machines, VMWare Workstation suggested reserving 8GB per machine. This seemed excessive when I started. Now, with an installed operating system, the Notes 8 client files, crash files, a snapshot, and logs, the directory for my XP machine holds almost 4GB of data and the SUSE server is over 7GB.