VMware Workstation 6.5 is an outstanding tool for creating and running a wide variety of virtual machines on a stand-alone PC or laptop with best-in-class setup and administration tools.
The latest version of VMware Workstation is an excellent tool for developers, multiplatform power users and anyone who needs to emulate a network of computers on a single machine. eWEEK Labs thought highly of many previous editions of VMware Workstation and Version 6.5 is no exception, once again earning an Analysts Choice award for product excellence.
Unlike previous years, however, VMware Workstation 6.5 at $189 per license now has serious competition. Sun Microsystems’ VirtualBox is a surprisingly full-featured, no-cost alternative that runs on Windows and Linux systems and Parallels Desktop for Mac and that costs just shy of $80. Microsoft’s Virtual PC remains a second-tier player in this power user arena.
Workstation 6.5, which became available Sept. 29, adds an improved “Unity” desktop experience, an “Easy Install” function to aid guest operating system installation by getting license key and other information up front, encrypted ACE (Assured Computing Environment)-managed VM creation and Pocket ACE authoring tools, along with better graphics handling and new debugging tools that reveal step-by-step VM operations.
I ran Workstation 6.5 on a Dell XPS M1210 with 4GB of RAM and an Intel T2300 1.66GHz processor running Windows Vista Ultimate with Service Pack 1. I ran Microsoft Office and a variety of productivity tools as well as applications that moved data between systems in a self-contained network without error. Workstation once again proved to be a top-notch hypervisor for running guest operating systems.
VMware Workstation 6.5 is a Type 2 hypervisor, which means it is software that installs on top of the operating system installed on the physical host system. Type 2 hypervisors usually have slightly lesser performance than Type 1 hypervisors, which interface directly with the physical hardware, such as Microsoft’s Hyper-V or VMware’s ESX Server. Type 2 hypervisors are ideally suited for test, development and demonstration environments because they can easily create self-contained environments on a single system. Workstation 6.5 is particularly well suited because it ships with a built-in DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol) server and support for up to 10 virtual switches.
A 30-day trial version of VMware Workstation 6.5 can be downloaded here.
Testing VMware Workstation 6.5
After installing Workstation 6.5, I was up and running in a matter of minutes. Workstation 6.5 can be installed on a wide range of Windows and Linux OSes, both 32- and 64-bit versions. Anyone with even a passing familiarity with VM creation will be up and running in a matter of minutes.
The Easy Install feature was surprisingly, well, easy to use. After starting the VM creation process, I was asked to either specify an ISO or insert the installation disk in the system. Workstation 6.5 then identified the operating system and asked me to supply license information and user name to facilitate a more automated installation. The Easy Install process also automatically runs the VMware Tools installation after the initial guest OS installation. Both of these features worked like a champ in helping me get my Windows guest systems set up. Easy Install also assisted me during a SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10 installation.
Unity is a helpful feature that allows applications running in a VM to be used in a more interactive way on the host desktop. After the guest and applications were installed, I enabled the Unity mode. This allowed me, for example, to run Microsoft Word in one VM and PowerPoint in another, and drag and drop information from one to the other without cumbersome switching between VMs. Sun’s VirtualBox has a similar feature, and this is a big advance in general for this class of virtualization tools.
eWEEK Labs Technical Director Cameron Sturdevant can be reached at [email protected]