• Suppose I have installed a guest operating system on a host OS. For example, on Linux I have configured Windows XP as guest operating system. How do I run the applications on Windows XP?
• How do I access this guest operating system from other computers on my LAN?
• How do I connect USB drives (pen drive or external hard drives) to these guest operating systems?
I am sorry if these questions are irrelevant to the concept or working of virtualization as I am very new to the concept and am trying to understand what the difference is between the virtual OS and the real OS.
Welcome to the world of virtualization! The questions you're asking ones that I often get, so I'll try to clear up any confusion here. First, in relation to running applications and services in your guest OS, the rule of thumb is that just about everything should work as it does on a physical machine. You can use ISO media, file shares, or direct downloads into the VM to get the installers you need.
That leads to your second question: There are several networking options. If you want your VMs to be accessible to the LAN, you can use a bridged networking configuration where the VMs will be connected directly to a physical network connection on the host. As long as the VMs have valid network addresses, other users and computers on the network should be able to access them as if they were virtual machines. Another virtual networking option is to place connect the VMs on an isolated virtual network (which improves manageability and security).
To access USB devices from within a guest OS, you need to map the virtual USB port to the physical one of the host (see the VMware Workstation documentation for the exact steps). For certain devices, you'll need to install the USB device drivers within the Guest OS in order for it to work properly.
The goal you're describing is definitely attainable. Once your VMs are accessible via the network (as I described above), you can either build your own utility, or look for virtualization management solutions from third parties. I hope this helps clear up some of your questions. Good luck!
This was first published in August 2006