VMware Workstation 3.2
Develop and test on multiple platforms - with a single machine.
By Brian Noyes
One of the more challenging aspects of distributed application development is system configuration control. You often need to have multiple platforms with different configurations available for both development and testing, and you probably don't have the resources or time to build new machines repeatedly.
For these and many other situations, VMware Workstation 3.2 is nothing short of a godsend for developers who want explicit, flexible, and total control over multiple system configurations that can all run on a single machine. VMware Workstation allows you to create one or more virtual machines that run within a secure virtual boundary on your machine. You can run VMware on Windows NT4, 2000, and XP, as well as Linux. The virtual machine (guest) OS can be any non-mobile variant of Windows, DOS, Linux, and even one Unix variant. You can load as many guest operating systems as you have disk space for, and you even can run them side by side if you have enough memory on the machine (see Figure 1).
Figure 1. You can run one or more virtual machines on a single machine. Here you can see an instance of Linux 7.3 and Windows 2000 Server running in virtual machines on a Windows XP Pro host machine.
Be a Configuration Control Freak
One of the biggest benefits of VMware Workstation is it gives you total control over the configuration of a given virtual machine instance and lets you restore that configuration quickly from a simple file-based backup. You also can run the virtual machine from another physical machine simply by moving the files to that machine, assuming it has a licensed copy of VMware Workstation on it as well.
In addition to manual control of software configurations, VMware gives you some neat automatic controls. The normal mode of operation for a VMware virtual machine is "Persistent," which means files on the virtual disk are modified as they would be if running on a normal machine. But VMware also provides "Undoable" and "Nonpersistent" modes. With these modes, you can prevent changes made during a run of the virtual machine from being saved to the virtual disk. This is extremely useful for any number of testing, experimenting, and debugging scenarios.
VMware also gives you good control of the hardware configuration. You can control what hardware on the host machine is accessible on the virtual machine and can change those settings any time the virtual machine is not running. You can add or remove access to ports and drives, change the amount of memory allocated, and change network configuration settings to adapt the machine to your needs. You can choose from several networking options to allow you to treat the virtual machine as just another workstation on your LAN.
The performance is better than you might expect. You can tweak VMware to get the best performance while working in the virtual machine, but for most tasks you will notice little difference from working on the host machine. Just be sure you have sufficient memory for both the host and the virtual machine OSs to avoid "disk thrash."
When you consider all the flexibility that VMware Workstation gives you for the price tag, it is really hard to pass up. The scenarios where VMware can be a significant cost and time saver are numerous. You can download a 30-day trial version from the Web site.
3145 Porter Drive
Palo Alto, CA 94304
Phone: (877) 4VMWARE; (650) 475-5000
E-mail: mailto:[email protected]
Web Site: http://www.vmware.com
Price: Starts at US$299
Brian Noyes is an independent software consultant and president of Software Insight (http://www.softinsight.com). He's a Microsoft Certified Solution Developer with more than 11 years of programming, design, and engineering experience. Brian specializes in architecture, design, and coding of cutting-edge software systems, and he is a contributing editor for asp.netPRO and other publications. E-mail him at mailto:[email protected].
Tell us what you think! Please send any comments about this article to [email protected]. Please include the article title and author.