Friday, April 29, 2011

Which free Virtual Machines to use?

VMware Player
• free
• easy to use (don't need to read documentation)
• support both windows & linux as OS hosts
• Even though the name is "player", you can also create new virtual machines with some basic settings (memory size, virtual storage size), to use port forwarding for NAT-virtual networking you need to use a configuration utility which is "hidden" in one the the cab files.

VMware Server
• free
• it seems that VMware stopped maintaining this software so it has compatibility problems with the new OS (e.g. Windows 7, Fedora 14), you can resolve the problems but it costs time.

VMware vSphere ESX
• a newer version of VMware Infrastructure
• hypervisor architecture: faster & you don't have to pay an extra license for the host OS
• bad points: need a dedicated machine
• bad points: expensive license

VMware Infrastructure
• not free (evaluation period for 2 months, so backup your virtual machine images just in case that someday you can't access them anymore due to an expired license)
• old

Oracle Virtual Box:
• good points: free, open source
• documentation: oracle website

Microsoft Virtual PC
• good points: free, easy to use (don't need to read documentation)
• negative points: Windows host only

• good points: free
• negative points: linux host only

• good points: free
• negative points: linux host only

Finally I chose VMware Player due to reasons:
• free
• support both windows & linux as OS hosts
• support windows & linux as OS guests (even with tricks you can run MacOS too, handy for example for iPhone application development)
• in my work we use VMware products, so I need to work with VMware compatible virtual machine images
• APIs (e.g. Perl, COM) are available to control virtual machines in your development/test environments via scripting / (web)applications.
• I have feeling that VMware products are the best (due to their pioneering & dominance in the virtual machine market for years). After installing add-in tools, you can easily copy-paste / click-drag to copy text, files, etc.
• currency/maintained

PS. Although in my work we have a licence for VMware, for example we use also VMware Lab Manager (a configuration manager for VMware ESX virtual machines), I was looking for a free virtual machines for personal use.

Please leave any comments if you know any other good virtual machines or you have different opinions about the virtual machines discussed here.

An outdated book but still worth to read for ideas/best practices. It discusses real world scenarios about managing virtual machines in your development/test environments, and the examples of COM/Perl API usages.

Another good book about VMware vSphere admin:

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