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VMware links Workstation 8 hypervisor to ESXi

Fusion 4 for Macs Lionized

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VMware has spruced up its two virtualization hypervisors for client computers: Workstation 8 for x64 PCs and Fusion 4 for x64 machines with an Apple brand on them.

Both Workstation and Fusion are what are called type 2 or hosted hypervisors, which means they run atop an operating system running on a PC, allowing for the OS to carve the machine up into multiple virtual machines that can in turn run other operating systems and their applications.

With VMware Workstation 8, which starts shipping today, is able to handle up to 8 virtual CPU cores (or threads if you have HyperThreading turned on) and 64GB of virtual memory on a guest VM. That is the same number of virtual CPUs that the prior Workstation 7.1 hypervisor, launched in May 2010, but twice as much virtual memory.

While the underlying hypervisor in Workstation 8 shares some technology with the bare-metal ESXi hypervisor at the heart of the vSphere server virtualization stack, Pat Lee, director of end user computing clients at VMware, tells El Reg, says that VMware does not see the need to push the scalability limits that far with Workstation.

The new ESXi 5.0 hypervisor, which came out in July, has VMs that can span up to 32 virtual CPUs and up to 1TB of virtual memory. The Workstation hypervisor can span all the physical cores and threads and main memory that an underlying Windows or Linux PC can address.

The other big changes for Workstation 8 all have to do with making it easier for developers to share VMs in their local networks and uploading tested virtual software stacks to the production ESXi hypervisor inside of vSphere. Starting with Workstation 8, there is an option that allows developers to share VMs so they can log into your machine over the network and pull a VM for testing. You can, for instance, designate a fat PC as a VM jukebox in the development cubicles without having to go all the way to putting vSphere in the development network. Everyone has to have a Workstation 8 license to have this sharing capability.

Workstation 8 will also allow developers to drag a VM in their Workstation library over the network and drop it onto an ESXi hypervisor running in the data center production environment once dev and testing is over. This movement is not a live migration, by the way, and it is only a one way movement. You can't take a VM running in production and pull it back into development. (Yes, this seems odd.) Workstation 8 also has a feature that will allow a developer that has created a VM to remotely log into once it is in production by linking into the vCenter Server management console. In fact, the local library of VMs that each developer has can now include both local VMs running on their PCs and the VMs they created that are running in production.

Workstation 8 has 50 new features, including a new graphical user interface that has simpler menus and thumbnails that make it more amenable to the current Windows 7 and the future Windows 8; it also has support for USB 3 and Bluetooth peripheral devices attaching to the PC and linking up to the guest OSes on VMs.

Workstation 8 is available now and it costs ten bucks more than its predecessor at $199 per machine. Customers with Workstation 6.X and 7.X can upgrade to Workstation 8 for $99.

And now for the virty Apple

For the Mac OS crowd, VMware is rolling out its Fusion 4 hosted hypervisor, which runs atop Mac OS and allows Intel-based Macs to host Windows, Linux, and other x64-compatible operating systems. The big news with Fusion 4 is that it runs on top of Mac OS X Lion, and allows the Lion release to run inside of virtual machines as well. Fusion 4 will also support OS X Lion Server, Mac OS X Snow Leopard Server and Mac OS X Leopard Server inside of guest partitions.

Lee says that Fusion 4 is a 64-bit Cocoa Objective C application now and has been optimized specifically to run better on Mac machines with multicore Intel processors. One of the big performance improvements that Mac users will see is a factor of 2.5 improvement in 3D graphics speed compared to prior Fusion 3.X releases.

The Fusion 4 interface also allows for Windows-based applications to be started up from Launchpad and allows for bouncing between Windows applications using Mac gestures. So, when you are sitting around with your fanbois, they might not even notice you are running Windows. Among the 90 new features added to Fusion 4.0 is encryption for VMs running on Macs.

Fusion 4.0 is being offered at a special price of $50 between now and the end of the year; the price will go back up to its normal $80 charge in 2012. It is available for download now, and anyone who bought Fusion 3.0 after July 20 (when Mac OS X Lion came out) can get a free upgrade to Fusion 4.0.

Finally, in a separate announcement, VMware says that it is starting to ship its View 5 virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) stack today. View 5 was announced at the end of August at the VMworld event in Las Vegas. ®

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