By Anne Chen  |  Posted 2005-06-06 Print this article Print

VMware Inc.s upgraded VMware Workstation is packed with new features and performance enhancements that earn it eWEEK Labs Analysts Choice honors.

In eWEEK Labs tests, VMware Workstation 5 provided a solid platform on which to run multiple operating systems, especially with its marked improvements in memory management. We appreciated the new features, such as the ability to take multiple snapshots, and improvements, such as easier duplication of existing virtual machines.

In tests, VMware Workstation 5 showed it would be a good fit for organizations looking to run multiple operating systems on a single machine. By doing so, IT managers can increase productivity while lowering costs for tasks such as software development and testing, technical support, and training.

Click here to find out how IT managers at Enbridge Energy Company used VMware Workstation 5 to save time testing applications. IT departments, however, will need to continue to consider the performance overhead and memory required to run multiple VMs on the host system. And organizations hoping to run applications that take advantage of SMP (symmetric multiprocessing) support on VMs are still out of luck.

Released in April, VMware Workstation 5 works on Windows and Linux systems. It can be downloaded from VMwares Web site for $189. A boxed version is available for $199. Upgrades are $99.

VMware Workstation 5 has improved support for 64-bit host operating systems and can run on Microsoft Corp.s Windows XP and Windows Server 2003; Red Hat Inc.s Red Hat Enterprise Linux 3.0 and 4.0; and Novell Inc.s SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 7, 8 and 9.

Broad operating system support gives VMware an advantage over Microsofts Virtual PC 2004, which runs only on Windows XP or Windows 2000. Although Virtual PC 2004 can host most x86 operating systems in a VM, it officially supports only client-side versions of Windows, Microsoft OS/2 and MS-DOS 6.22.

Microsoft wont disclose feature enhancements to Virtual PC, but a spokesperson told eWEEK Labs that Virtual PC will continue to be a core component of the companys virtualization road map for the desktop.

Click here to read Labs review of Virtual PC for Mac 7. We tested VMware Workstation 5 on a Hewlett-Packard Co. xw9300 workstation with dual Advanced Micro Devices Inc. Opteron processors running Windows XP Professional x64 Edition with 2GB of RAM. Installation was straightforward and took less than 5 minutes. We were able to add several guest operating systems, including Sun Microsystems Inc.s Solaris 10 x86, Windows XP and Windows Server 2003, with no problems.

We saw significant improvement in memory management compared with previous versions of the software. VMware Workstation 4.5, for example, was unable to handle more than two VMs without noticeable performance degradation.

With VMware Workstation 5, we could run three VMs while utilizing 600MB for pagefile usage on a host system with 2GB of RAM. By comparison, it took 1.3GB in pagefile usage to run the same VMs in VMware Workstation 4.5 on that host system. For the best performance, we recommend that IT managers run the software on hardware with at least 1GB of RAM.

VMware Workstation 5s new cloning capabilities let us easily duplicate VMs, a task that was tedious in previous versions. Cloning enabled us to set up a shared store of predefined VM templates to share with other users.

Version 5s snapshot capabilities are also greatly improved. We took a number of snapshots of a VM and then quickly reverted to a specific one. If we decided not to use an older snapshot, the original VM was still available. A snapshot manager keeps the snapshots and their relationships clear to the user.

A new distributed computing feature called Teams allowed us to easily link two or more VMs to simulate a real-world network. This feature makes it possible to configure an entire multitier application system using one machine. IT managers should be aware that Teams requires a powerful host.

Next page: Evaluation Shortlist: Related Products.

As a senior writer for eWEEK Labs, Anne writes articles pertaining to IT professionals and the best practices for technology implementation. Anne covers the deployment issues and the business drivers related to technologies including databases, wireless, security and network operating systems. Anne joined eWeek in 1999 as a writer for eWeek's eBiz Strategies section before moving over to Labs in 2001. Prior to eWeek, she covered business and technology at the San Jose Mercury News and at the Contra Costa Times.

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