REVIEW: Sun Microsystems' no-cost xVM VirtualBox, which enables guest virtual machines to run on a desktop computer, now offers support for Open Virtualization Format, host-only networking that broadens how virtual machines communicate, folder sharing, and OpenGL and 3D graphics support. With these new features, xVM VirtualBox 2.2 is an even more compelling alternative to the $189 VMware Workstation.
Sun Microsystems' xVM VirtualBox, the no-cost virtualization tool that
enables guest virtual machines to run on a desktop computer, continues to
improve its position as a potential challenger to VMware Workstation.
With Version 2.2, xVM VirtualBox now offers support for the emerging virtual
appliance standard Open Virtualization Format, host-only networking that
broadens how virtual machines communicate, folder sharing, and OpenGL and 3D
graphics support. With these new features, the free xVM VirtualBox is an even
more compelling alternative to the $189 VMware Workstation.
The Open Virtualization Format, or OVF, is emerging as a
platform-independent packaging and distribution format for these special
virtual machines. OVF enables distribution of ready-made virtual appliances
that include operating system, an application and a virtual disk.
see Sun's xVM VirtualBox 2.2 in action, click here.
VirtualBox 2.2-which could soon be part of Oracle's
-now has the ability to import virtual machines that follow
OVF guidelines. Although OVF Version 1.0-administered through the DMTF
(Distributed Management Task Force)-was just released on March 23,
OVF-compliant virtual machines have been in production for some time.
During tests, I was able to create OVF-compliant virtual machines in
VirtualBox 2.2 and export them for use in other systems. I was also able to
import virtual machines from various virtual appliance vendors, including a
V-KBOX 1200 system management tool from KACE, relatively easily using the
intuitive graphical user interface.
However, the VirtualBox 2.2 implementation of OVF has some first-timer
shortcomings, such as the inability to create or import snapshots of a previous
state of a virtual appliance. That said, the overall execution of the standard
is full-featured and supports typical virtual disk image formats, including the
widely used VMDK (VMware), VDI (VirtualBox) and VHD (Microsoft.)
Host-only networking is a new method of connecting virtual machines and is
something like a cross between bridged and internal.
In bridged networking, the virtual machines and the host appear to be
connected through a physical Ethernet switch. Internal networking is used when the
virtual machines need to communicate only with each other and never with the
In my tests, I used VirtualBox 2.2 to create and fine-tune a new software
interface that enabled all of my virtual machines to communicate but that also
enabled additional bridged network connections so that some systems could
connect to the outside world. This feature is intended to facilitate setting up
preconfigured virtual appliances that are shipped together, such as a Web
server and a database server.
It was easy for me to access the host-only network controls to enable DHCP
service and IP address assignments-including IPv4 and IPv6 addresses. It was
simple to add virtual machines to the host-only network by making a change in
the networking panel on the system. This is the kind of feature that would
benefit in the near future from more management tools to ensure that changes to
the host-only network are quickly propagated to the participating virtual
Sun Solaris and OpenSolaris guests can now share folders on the host system,
along with Windows and Linux guests. Shared folders reside on the physical host
and are shared with guests as either permanent or transient assignments. Samba
is used to enable file sharing, and, as with most VirtualBox goodness, guest
additions must be installed on any guest that will be accessing the shared