OK – just fresh off solving the reason I couldn’t get vmplayer to start on my 1Ghz AMD 64 1GB of memory machine…. I started looking at vmserver. (RC1). Now, vmplayer is a free download (so is vmware server). I’m really liking what I see from vmware server and am pretty sure I’m going to stick with it over the player. There are quite a few interesting features and I’ll try to give a skim over them. For starters, there is a management console that gives you the ability to connect to a vmware server on a different host (with credentials as a user on that system), or the localhost. On the localmachine it shows what virtual machines you have configured and gives you the chance to create another one, open an existing one not in the list, or tweak host settings.
There is a well done use of tabs here in the management console and you can have multiple vm’s open in several tabs. Closing the tab doesn’t cut off the vm (nice – with one exception – my vista install shut off when I closed the tab.) In fact, with vm server you can schedule vm’s to start at system boot (that makes sense.) And most importantly you don’t HAVE to have your vm console window sitting open all the time with the displays of each of them piped to the screen. They can load quietly in the background and you can “connect to a console” at any point. In fact… if you have the management console installed on another machine (it is available as a seperate download), then you can connect to an already running session and use the “console”. In this terminology console refers to “what would normally display on the screen” so it means either the gui or command line, depending on the guest operating system.)
Anyway, there’s also a web interface which has some really nice features. It gives some of the same controls of the management console plus some little graphics of memory usage (all vm’s compared to system), summary of vm cpu/memory usage individually. The chance to connect to any of the vm’s (management consoles can be downloaded from the interface for windows or linux.) Also, if vmware tools are installed in the guest it can show a “heartbeat” status which is designed to show if the guest OS is stressed (under heavy load) or not (light load).
Currently I’ve thrown quite a few OS’s at it and with the minor annoyance of Vista taking up 400MB of memory and shutting down every time I try to background it, I’ve not had too much trouble. On one Ubuntu machine, I did an install of vmware server and ran into a few challanges before getting everything up and running, but I’ll detail that in another post.
Networking was amazingly easy to setup (bridged to have an IP in the same subnet as your host pc if you’re on a lan (or if your host pc has an external IP and you’ve got a second external to use I suppose – but that wasn’t tested.)) (NAT is my preferred for most of the VM’s I’ve tested.)
Vmware server really should run on most any modern linux. The vmware tools seem to have linux, solaris, netware, windows and freebsd support. (on my system, they’re iso images in /usr/lib/vmware/isoimages.) For Windows hosts it looks as though you’ll need Windows 2000/2003 server. (So if you’re in home/pro of xp or 2000 pro/workstation I guess vmplayer is your only route to free vmware virtualization…)
The windows version of the vmware tools helped with some graphics “card” issues (limited to 16 colors and 640×480 in a windows 98 se install). It also made the mousing in the virtual machine more fluid with the host OS.
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