Ruminations on the Digital Realm

Jan Stedehouder

Another chapter for virtualization

Xen, VMware, Virtual PC, Parallel, Qemu. There is enough going on in the virtualization market. It made me a very happy guy when VMware decided to make VMware Server available for free. The VMware Player is nice, but lacks the ability to create new virtual machines. The server edition is great material and I use it almost constantly.

Recently I ran into another free player on the market, VirtualBox. VirtualBox might be more to the liking of the true open source evangelists than VMware. VMware is not open source, “just”free. VirtualBox is available in binary format under a Personal Use and Evaluation License and an open source edition. Besides these two there is also a full edition with extra features like USB suport, RDP, USB over RDP and shared folders. This puts VirtualBox a bit behind VMware Server that is shipped with USB support and shared folders. For most of the work I do I need the shared folders. For test driving Feisty Fawn that is not really an issue and that is what I used it for on my laptop. VirtualBox leans heavily on Qemu.

Anyway, with the available features VirtualBox holds it’s position between the bare VMware Player and the more feature rich VMware Server. Installing it was very easy. There are some distro-specific binaries available

VirtualBox 1.3.6 for Windows Hosts

You will need to install some additional libraries on your Linux system in order to run VirtualBox – in particular, you will need libxalan-c, libxerces-c and version 5 of libstdc++. How to install these will depend on the Linux distribution you are using.

I used the Edgy Eft version and it was a matter of double-clicking the .deb file. After that you need to reboot the system, because it doesn’t accept the new users in the vboxuser group on the fly. Maybe I missed something, but the reboot took care of the issue.  There is no need for a license key or registration (like with VMware Server).

Installing Feisty Fawn took about 50% more time than under a regular install. There were no issues with the virtual hardware, which was a big plus. VirtualBox supports 2.4 and 2.6 kernel based distributions as well as Windows up to Vista. Once it was installed I was online as well through NAT and downloaded a whole batch of updates (the improvements keep on coming, because this was Herd 4 already). Compared to the same processes on the regular Edgy Eft there was little loss of performance. Actually hardiron Edgy Eft was only slightly ahead of virtual Feisty.

I would say this is great, because VMware Server really shows a performance hit, both on the host machine and the guest machine. On the laptop both have to share my 512 Mb RAM, which is a bit on the low side for this kind of thing, but I could continue working with both of them without serious problems.

As far as first impressions go this one was a very good one. It gave me a laptop with two Ubuntu releases to work on at the same time. If you are looking for some free virtualization, VirtualBox is one to keep an eye on and at least give it a try.


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2 thoughts on “Another chapter for virtualization

  1. aussiebear on said:

    Didn’t you miss one?

    Kernel-based Virtual Machine for Linux

    This one is built into the Linux Kernel as of 2.6.20

    You need an Intel VT or AMD SVM capable CPU.

    This is a list of what OS is known to work with it in Guest.

  2. Yes and no. I read about the inclusion of KVM in the kernel recently, so it is still on my to do list. On the other hand -but that is as far as I can tell from what I saw- it is still very much a commandline thing. The list of supported OS’s is relatively short, especially since most of them are tested on 64-bit host machines (and I am still fooling around with an older 32 bit AMD box). But it does look promising and with the inclusion in the kernel it is in a great position to play a major role in the virtualization to come.

    Which doesn’t mean I like the idea of the choice to include it in the kernel. I can understand being hesitant towards Xen considering the closer ties with Microsoft, or shying away from VMware since it is not open source. Personally I would think it would have made more sense not to include any virtualization in the kernel yet and let the code mature independently first. For now it looks like a political statement is being made instead of technological feasability.

    That being said, I like the suggestion and will definitely give it a go. Thank you.

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