Recently, VMware Workstation version 6 was released and it contains a ton of new features. In this article, I will show you have these new features can help you. But first, what is VMware Workstation?
Introduction to VMware Workstation
For those of you who are new to virtualization, VMware Workstation is virtualization software that can run multiple virtual guest operating systems on a single physical host computer. With VMware Workstation, you can you can add a lot of virtual hardware, including hard disks, CD-ROM drives (physical and virtual) and multiprocessor CPUs, irrespective of the hardware on your host machine. If you are a software developer, Workstation can virtualize several machines for developing and debugging your project.
Why use VMware Workstation when VMware Server is free?
When I recommend VMware Workstation, a common question I get asked is “why should I use VMware Workstation when VMware Server is free??”. This is a logical question and a great question. While VMware Workstation costs $189 to VMware Servers, FREE price tag, there is justification to purchase VMware Workstation under the right circumstances. Here’s my list:
- VMware Workstation is for testing and development done by IT Pro’s and Application developers (it could even be useful for salesmen doing product demos). It is not for production servers, like VMware Server is.
- By the same token, VMware server is for production servers and doesn’t make the best testing and development virtualization product available.
- The reason for this is that VMware workstation has some features that VMware server does not. For example: Snapshot Manager, ACE authoring, VM activity record and playback, Teaming, and multiple monitor display.
The single most worthwhile feature of VMware Workstation can use to justify its cost is its Snapshot Manager. This is something that VMware Server, Virtual Server, and Virtual PC all do not offer. Here is a screenshot:
What are the new features available in VMware Workstation version?
VMware Workstation has a lot of new features to offer. Here is my short list:
- USB 2.0 support & support for iPods – that means you can install iTunes in your virtual machine! You can even transfer files at higher speed from external hard drives and other USB2.0 devices.
- Virtual Guest activity record and playback – this essentially gives you the ability to take a snapshot, keep taking continuous tiny snapshots, stop recording, playback those tiny snapshots like a movie, stop the playback at any time, and return control to you. If you think of a moment, I am sure you can come up with a number of benefits to this feature in your own environment.
- Support for Windows Vista as a Guest VM
- ACE Authoring – this allows you to create virtual machines that you can deploy virtual machines to users and have then run on VMware Player. The benefits to ACE are the security features for those VMs. The creator can tweak the VMs they are distributing with all sorts of networking and security options.
- Pocket ACE – the ability to deploy a virtual machine to a portable media device
- Laptop battery aware – Workstation Guest OS systems are aware they are running on a laptop and recognize the battery status.
- Automatic Upgrade of VMware Tools – with version 6, you can configure Workstation to automatically upgrade the VMware Tools on each virtual Guest OS
- VNC Management of Guest OS – includes a VNC server management option for every VM Guest OS that can be configured with a new GUI, here is a graphic:
How can the features of VMware Workstation help me?
Here are 5 ways that VMware Workstation can help you in your day to day life as an IT Pro (in no particular order):
- Patch testing – whether it is application or OS patch testing, by having the snapshot manager, you can apply your patches, test the results, then “snap-back” to the state of your Guest OS before the patch was applied
- Private network Anti-Virus testing – have you ever wondered if your AV software is working? Well, you don’t want to introduce a virus onto a real machine on your network but with VMware Workstation, you could easily isolate a machine on a private network. You could then take a snapshot of that machine and introducing a virus to test your AV software. After testing, you could “snap back” to the state of the Guest OS before it was ruined by the virus.
- Private network Production Server testing with Teaming – you could create Ghost images of a few of your production servers, move them to private network virtual machines, use VMware Teaming, and be able to start & stop them all at the same time, as a group
- Upgrade Process Activity Recording – have you ever had a huge upgrade to perform that involved lots of steps? what if you could record the entire process, then jump back to any point in that process and start from that point forward? That would be pretty powerful! That is something you could do with the new VM Guest activity recording & playback.
- Create videos of activities on a virtual Guest – say that you want to train someone on how to do anything inside an operating system – upgrades, configuration, application installation, etc. With VMware Workstation, you could create an AVI video file of anything you do in your virtual machines and share it with others.
In summary, VMware Workstation is, in my opinion, the most powerful desktop virtualization package available. The new features in version 6 just “up the ante”. While it isn’t free, like VMware Server is, Workstation has enough features to justify the cost. The more I use virtualization software, the more I find uses for it. It has gotten to the point where I don’t know what I did without it. Try out VMware Workstation and I think you will come to the same conclusion.