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VMware Version Anaylsis

In the past, VMware was just a single product. Now, you will find that there are a wide variety of VMware products to choose from. Because of this, it can be confusing which one to choose. This article aims at helping you sort it all out by providing a quick review of all VMware products. With that, I will now list out the major VMWare products and provide my take on how these products differ from one another.

ESX Server

VMware’s ESX server is at the highest end of features and price of all the VMware server applications. The ESX actually loads right on to “bare-metal” servers. Thus, there is no need to first load an underlying operating system prior to loading VMware ESX. What is unique about ESX is that it comes with its own modified Linux Kernel called VMKernel (based on Red Hat Enterprise Linux). One of the strongest features of VMware ESX server is its performance. When running on similar hardware, you can run twice as many virtual servers on ESX as you can VMware Server. ESX is now sold in a suite of products called VMware Infrastructure.

Overview: Enterprise Class High Availability Better Manageability Used for enterprise applications like Oracle, SQL Server, clustered servers, and other critical infrastructure servers Supports 4-10+ virtual machines per servers, depending on hardware Supports up to 32 physical CPU (and 128 virtual) and up to 64GB of RAM Loads directly on hardware with no need to load underlying operating system (because it uses the VMKernel)

VMWare Server

VMware’s Server is a FREE VMware virtualization product built for use in production servers. Unlike ESX, VMware Server still uses the underlying host operating system. With VMware Server, you loose the some of the functionality and performance of the ESX server but don’t have as great of price tag (its free!) For an organization starting with a single VMware server and not anticipating drastic growth, VMware Server is for you. VMware Server’s primary competition is Microsoft’s Virtual Server.

Overview: Used for medium/small business workgroup servers Excellent for software development uses Used for Intranet, utility, and workgroup application servers Supports 2-4+ virtual machines per servers, depending on hardware Supports 2-16 CPU and up to 64GB of RAM (but limited by host OS) Runs on top of Linux or Windows Server

Workstation

VMware’s Workstation is for use on a client workstation. For example, say that I want to run both Windows 2003 server and Linux Fedora Core 5 on my desktop workstation, which is running Windows XP. VMware Workstation would be the program I would use to do this. This would allow me the flexibility to run these guest operating systems to test various applications and features. I could also create snapshots of them to capture their configuration at a certain point in time and easily duplicate them to create other virtual machines (such as moving them to a VMware Server).

Keep in mind that I would have to have a “beefy” workstation with lots of RAM and CPU to keep up with the applications I am also running on my host operating system (Windows XP). Some people ask whether you could run Workstation on a “server” and just not have to use VMware Server. The answer is that, while you can do this, you don’t want to because the server’s applications won’t perform well under load and neither will the multiple operating systems. You might ask why you would buy VMware workstation for $189 when VMware Server is free. Many people would assume that Server is better and costs less. The answer is that these VMware Workstation and VMware Server serve different purposes. VMware Server should be used to run test or production servers.

On the other hand, VMware Workstation would be used by testers and developers because of its powerful snapshot manager. This development and testing also applies to IT professionals who want the ability to take multiple snapshots of their virtual systems and be able to jump forward and back in these snapshots. However, you do not want to run production servers in VMware Workstation. In other words, both VMware Workstation and VMware Server have different purposes and should not be looked at as competing products.

Overview: Runs on your desktop operating system Costs $189 Great for testing applications and developing software Can create new virtual machines, where VMware Player cannot Support bridged, host only, or NAT network configurations Ability to share folders between host OS and virtual machines Access to host devices like CD/DVD drives and USB devices Snapshot manager allows multiple snapshots and ability to move forward and backwards between them

VMware ESX server, VMware Server , and VMware Workstation are VMware’s core product line. However, it doesn’t stop there. Let’s look at

VirtualCenter

Virtual Center provides a centralized management console for all VMware servers. If you plan to grow your farm of virtualized servers into the ten’s and hundreds, over time, you should have Virtual Center in your plans.

Vmotion

Like magic, VMotion can move a running virtual server to another physical server, without interrupting that server’s requests. This can be done for maintenance of hardware or to better balance workload. VMotion requires a SAN be used for these virtual machines. Both Virtual Center and VMotion are part of the VMWare vManage offering.

VMware Converter

The VMware Converter is used to move physical machine operating systems to virtual machines. This tool automates the migration to virtual machines. Besides migrating, the Converter can be used to create images of physical systems for disaster recovery purposes. Currently in Beta, the VMware Converter will replace the P2V Assistant.

Summary

While VMware offers a number of application lines there are three platforms of VMware that you would typically be running:

  • VMware ESX server – the highest end, with its own operating system, offering the greatest flexibility and features but also with the highest price tag
  • VMware Server – the recommended platform for a standard virtual server.
  • Workstation – the desktop version of VMware

For a single user desktop system, you will choose the Workstation version of VMware. For a medium size business, you will probably choose VMware Server for all virtualized server applications. For larger businesses, they would be interested in the ESX server and the management tools available in the VMware Infrastructure Suite of products. For more information on VMware Products, see the VMware Product Index on their website.

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