VMware administrators say that Sun Microsystems' xVM VirtualBox is a cheap and viable alternative to VMware Workstation for testing and configuring VMware virtual machines and appliances.
This week's release of VirtualBox 2.2 cements that impression, with support for the Distributed Managment Task Force's Open Virtualization Format, or OVF, as one of its supported formats.
"It's a big deal," said Rick Vanover, a systems administrator at Belron US, a vehicle glass repair and replacement company in Columbus, Ohio. Vanover has used VirtualBox to test client-side applications for more than a year. He said that with previous versions of VirtualBox, "the big sticking point was that you could open up a [VMware] VMDK [Virtual Machine Disk Format], but it was one way." In other words, it was possible to open up virtual machines in multiple formats, but you couldn't easily export them.
Other features Vanover likes about VirtualBox include snapshots, thin provisioning, bridged networking and "seamless mode," in which a virtual machine appears in its own window in the host operating system.
Moving VMs into production
Sun claims 11 million downloads for the open source VirtualBox but is setting its sights on a new class of user, said Andy Hall, VirtualBox senior product marketing manager. "So far, there have been a lot of spotty teenagers developing the next Facebook in VirtualBox, but what's next is how to move virtual machines into production environments."
Alex Smith, an infrastructure consultant at a U.K.-based IT services firm, says he'll take things a step further and use VirtualBox as a stepping stone to Sun's bare-metal xVM hypervisor. "I'd like to do a test to see how well I could replace VMware Workstation and ESX with VirtualBox and xVM on a large scale," he said, adding that "being able to migrate over to production from [the stage environment] is useful."
But to be truly useful for test and development professionals, Vanover said VirtualBox is missing a key VMware Workstation feature: Linked Clones. With it, developers could "spawn off N number of differentials off a base VMDK," reducing the amount of disk space required to test multiple virtual environments.
Other new features in VirtualBox 2.2 includes support for Apple's forthcoming 64-bit Mac OS X 10.6 operating system ("Snow Leopard") as the host OS and increased size for guest VMs from 4 GB to 16 GB. VirtualBox is free for personal use, and enterprise subscriptions are available for $30 a year. The software can be downloaded from the VirtualBox website.
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