Review of VMware Server 2.0 Beta

by David Davis - January 8, 2009

It was just announced that VMware Server 2.0 Beta is now available for download. There are a lot of new features in this Beta. In this article, we checkout those features and show you what the new 2.0 version looks like. So, check it out, I think you will like what you see in VMware Server 2.0!

What's new in VMware Server 2.0 Beta?

As you would expect when going from a 1.x version to a 2.x version, there are a lot of new features available in VMware Server 2.0. But are these features really useful to you and I? Let's find out...

In VMware Server 2.0, VMware is boasting the following features:

  • Web-based management interface: A new Web-based user interface provides a simple, flexible, intuitive and productive way for you to manage your virtual machines.
  • Expanded operating system support: VMware Server now supports Windows Vista Business Edition and Ultimate Edition (guest only), Windows Server 2008 (Longhorn Server Beta 3), Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 and Ubuntu 7.1, among others.
  • Greater scalability: Take full advantage of high-end hardware with support for up to 8GB of RAM per virtual machine, up to two virtual SMP (vSMP) processors and up to 64 virtual machines per host.
  • 64-bit guest operating system support: Run high-performance operating systems in virtual machines with support for Intel EM64T VT-enabled processors and AMD64 processors with segmentation support.
  • Support for VIX API 1.2: This feature provides a programming interface for automating virtual machine and guest operations.
  • Support for Virtual Machine Interface (VMI): This feature enables transparent paravirtualization, in which a single binary version of the operating system can run either on native hardware or in paravirtualized mode.

So, let's examine these features and one by one...

VMware Server 2.0 new Web Management Interface

I always thought that VMware Web Access was a little weak. I am glad to see that with VMware Server 2.0, there is a new web management interface. Here's what it looks like:

With the new web interface, you can do just about everything that you could in the VMware Server Management console.

But what is missing? If you go to your Start -> Programs -> VMware menu, you will notice that that VMware Server Management console is missing. There is no more VMware Management Console. With VMware Server 2.0, VMware has gone directly to a web-only interface for using VMware Server.

Having a web-only interface has its good and bad. In my mind, the good is that you no longer have two interfaces and, no matter where you are (local or remote), you get the same VMware Server management interfaces. On the other side of that, the negative is that the web interface can take a little more time to figure out how to use, it is a little slower, and you are dependant on IIS working on your PC (something I had trouble with).

Additionally, you need to install a plug in inside your web browser to access the console of your VMware Guest OS. Here is what it looks like if you don't have the plug-in installed:

While, overall, I think that the new interface is very nice, getting used to it will take some time.

VMware Server 2.0 new expanded operating system support

With VMware Server 2.0, you get expanded operating system support. According to the VMware Server documentation, "VMware Server now supports Windows Vista Business Edition and Ultimate Edition (guest only), Windows Server 2008 (Longhorn Server Beta 3), Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 and Ubuntu 7.1, among others.".

To test this out, I tried to create a new Virtual Machine inside VMware Server 2.0. When prompted for the OS that would be running on that VM, what I immediately noticed was that not only Windows Vista was available but also Windows Server 2008 32 & 64 bit were now available.

With Windows Server 2008 being available as a release candidate at this point, it would be ideal to be able to test it inside VMware Server.

Additionally, there is greater Linux support than there was in the past:

Greater Scalability & 64 bit OS Support

According to VMware, Server 2.0 now offers support for up to 8GB of RAM per Guest VM, up to 2 virtual CPUs per Guest VM, and up to 64 VMs per host. In my mind, this is really starts to give you high end users the ultimate flexibility to run just about as much as you want on as big a system as you can buy. While VMware ESX certainly offers more enterprise features and more performance overall, with VMware Server 2.0, you are getting a lot of performance for zero cost.

Additionally, with VMware Server 2.0, you can run 64 bit Guest operating systems if you have an Intel or AMD 64 bit CPU on the host.

VMware Server 2.0 Datastore

New in VMware Server 2.0 is the concept of a "datastore". To me, this is taken from VMware ESX. In ESX, each ESX host has its own local datastore (and you can create more) and then you can have SAN datastores. With VMware Server 2.0, they have introduced the concept of datastores as well. All of your Server 2.0 Guest VMs are stored in a datastore and you can create more. Here is a screenshot of me adding a new datastore to VMware Server 2.0:

Summary

While some of these features have been released on VMware Workstation before, it seems that VMware Server and Workstation continue to leapfrog each other when it comes to new features. For example, I like the VMware Server 2.0, Workstation has offered USB 2.0 and a number of the other Server 2.0 features. However, Workstation 6.x still doesn't offer a new VM type for a Windows 2008 Server.  In the end, the new VMware Server 2.0 Beta is offers a lot of new functionality. Whether you are current VMware user, or not, I recommend you try out the free VMware Server 2.0. You can download this Beta for Linux or Windows at the VMware Server 2.0 Beta download webpage.

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