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VMware opens up Workstation 7.1 beta

More cores, fatter disks, and Fedora 12

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Server and desktop virtualization giant VMware has opened up beta testing on its latest desktop hypervisor, Workstation 7.1.

Workstation 7 was announced last October in the wake of Microsoft's Windows 7 blitz. Workstation 7 was based on a variant of the VMware hypervisor, and it can carve up a desktop PC, laptop, or workstation into virtual machines that span four virtual processors and up to 32GB per guest.

Workstation, like the old GSX Server and the Fusion hypervisor for Intel-based Apple desktops and laptops, is what is known as a type 2 or hosted hypervisor, where the hypervisor runs atop Windows or Linux and then allows multiple and different operating systems to be run side-by-side on the hypervisor. This is distinct from the ESX Server hypervisor, which runs on bare-metal and offers more isolation and security; the host operating system in a type 2 setup is a single point of failure, but then again, so is the hypervisor itself.

With Workstation 7.1, VMware is cranking the size of virtual machine guests up so they can span eight virtual processors; memory stays the same at 32GB per guest OS, however. The updated code also allows for virtual disks to be scaled up to 2TB for each VM.

While Workstation 7 supports over 200 different operating systems already, with 7.1 the hypervisor will be able to wrap lovingly around one more: the Fedora 12 Linux development release sponsored by Red Hat, which is popular with the techie crowd.

The updated hypervisor will include a number of other nips and tucks, such as hardware-accelerated OpenGL 2.1 support in the WDDM driver for Windows 7 and Windows Vista guest operating systems. VMware has run benchmarks that show some graphics applications delivering 80 per cent better performance with the new drivers and OpenGL 2.1 support. (Of course, that may be as much of an indicator of how awful virtual graphics were before as it is of how close virtualized graphics are getting to native performance.)

Workstation 7.1 also includes a tool to import and export guest virtual machines that adhere to the OVF 1.0 format, notably those created to run atop ESX Server 4.0. The update also allows for applications running inside a VM to be launched directly from the start menu or task bar of the host operating system, and Workstation 7.1 now has the ability to go online and get patches from VMware over the Internet and install them, much as operating systems have online updates.

You can take a look at the beta of Workstation 7.1 here. No word on where it will come to market. The current Workstation 7 costs $189 per PC, with upgrades from prior versions running $99. ®

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