Sunday, 25 July 2010

Virtual Machines

I recently beefed up my desktop machine at home by upgrading to 4GB RAM, 1TB WD Green Caviar hard disk and nVidia GeForce 7600 series. I also installed Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit on my AMD Athlon 3500+.

One reason I upgraded my 6-year-old machine is that I want to run virtual machines and try various cloud computing and data grid frameworks.

As soon as I delved into virtual machine technologies, I found that my AMD CPU which has Socket 939, does not support hardware virtualisation. The list of AMD Athlon 64 CPUs show that AMD-V only started from Socket AM2. So that basically rules out the possibility of installing 64-bit guest OS on any of the VM software.

The VM s/w I tried are Oracle/Sun VM VirtualBox 3.2.6, VMWare Player 3.1.0 and VMWare Server 2.0. My understanding is that they are all free.

I first installed Ubuntu 10.04 on VirtualBox. The installation was very smooth. All the devices are installed without problem – sound, network, disk drives, USB devices etc.

Before, VMWare Player was only designed to play a guest OS image. But since version 3, you can also create VM using the player. The experience with VMWare Player is not much different from VirtualBox. The result was equally good. I felt that the VM seems a little faster in VMWare. Also, VMWare Player allows you to connect and disconnect devices on the fly, such as network adapter, printer, sound card, disk drives, USB devices. This is something more flexible than VirtualBox.

In fact, before I installed VMWare Player, I also tried VMWare Server (you cannot install both on the same host machine). The idea of VMWare Server is quite good – it runs as a services (Windows services, or Unix daemon) so that user can connect to it using web browser. All the actions are done on the browser – the VM console is installed as a browser plug-in. However, my user experience was not so good with VMWare Server. I installed the same Ubuntu iso image on it successfully, but it could not connect to internet (although there is connectivity between the host machine and the guest VM), and sound card was not detected. I could not add these h/w from outside the guest either as they were all greyed out on VM’s configurations page on WMWare Server.

Now I am happily running Ubuntu 10.04 on VirtualBox and Linux Mint 9 Isadora – both 32-bit of course angel smileys.