Question: What is VMware and what is it used for? ~ Ask The Admin

Monday, July 09, 2007

Question: What is VMware and what is it used for?

Our Question of the moment just hit our in boxes and got me to thinking. I love VMware and use it for lots of stuff on a day to day basis. But every time I mention it people say "Whats That?" "Vmware? Is that for a VD or something? So I decided lets bring it to the mases:

David C from Buffalo asks:

"Yo I heard you guys talkin about VMware and VM Appliances what the hell is
that? I looked it up but could'nt make heads or tales of it. Whatcha know about
VMWare? Can I use it to run linux on windows - windows on linux - windows 95 in
vista?? Put us on! - David C"

Lets see if I can break this down while we are waiting for you faitful readers to write in to help Davey understand VMWare.

VMWare is a program is owned by ENC Corporation. It allows you to create and use virtual operating systems. So if i am a developer - developing on Vista X64 and I need to test something on a Windows 9x machine - what do i do?

Do you want me to fire up that thing you call a door stop that used to be a Windows 98 machine? HELL NO! I launch a file I have created and play it using VMPlayer. It will then open a window and "Boot" up a version of 98 on my Vista machine. Sweet huh?

It gets better. When I am dealing with viruses, spyware or malware I love to fire up a copy of my OS in VMWare and let lose the program in question and see the damage it does. I can then shut it down and start it back up with out it affecting my normal OS. Double Sweet!

And it gets even better than that. I use VMWare to run my browsing sessions. I run firefox within vmware and then nothing on the interwebs can harm my machine!

They are improving on VMWare all the time and there are so many uses for it. See the wikpedia entry here.

Let us know what you use it for. Love it or hate it. Reading or noT? Hit Us Up in the Comments!

Update This information came in From TheSlothMan:

You can play with it using the Player which is free. Player allows you to use
VMWare pre-built appliances and virtual machines. There is also the Server
product, which used to be their GSX server. You can build virtual machines and
use them in production or whatever. This too is free, but they make you register
and get a serial number to use it.From there, there is Workstation. Workstation
allows you to create VMs and use them. It is similar to Server, but does have
more tools. Last I checked it was $200 @ CDW.Then there is their ACE program for
Virtual Desktops Environments.....don't know too terribly much about this
product.Finally, there is their ESX server with Virtual Center. This runs
$1500/per CPU socket. ESX is the production class, server product. It is Red Hat
Enterprise 3 based product and installs straight on to the iron as a native OS
where the VMs run in the Hypervisor. Virtual Center allows you to manage Server
and ESX clients through a console.But back to the main question....

What is VMWare and what does it do?VMWare creates a layer between the hardware and the OS. Not unlike the HAL in NT4 days. But what it really does is it creates an environment of generic hardware to allow you to run an OS on a 'stable' system that is hardware agnostic(sort of....) and you can move it around to just about any system that has the resources available.When using VMWare products you have to look at hardware(RAM, disc, processor clock units) as commodity products
where you only have X number available and you need to work within those

But by separating the OS from the hardware underlying it, you no make
your servers, or desktop OS' independent and flexible, as well as you get to
allocate what resources you need.If you check the CPU cycles on any machine, be
it laptop/desktop/server you will see that utilization hovers around 10%
max....the rest is wasted. Grid computing solves this by utilizing idle cycles,
but with VMWare you can allocate them in advance and guarantee the resources
when needed. ESX with Virtual Center takes this to the Nth degree, but that is
for a different discussion.

What Karl mentioned is how VMWare on the desktop is
mostly a place to test patches, viruses, and development of new apps.
It creates a stable, secure environment where you can feel free to break the OS
as much as you want and there is no harm nor foul because you simply roll back
to the snapshot(available in Virtual Center, Server and Workstation) and you're
back to square one.In essence VMWare allows you to run whatever you want, where you want irrespective of what is lying underneath the WMWare kernel or
Hypervisor.I know I was all over the joint on that one and maybe it helped,
maybe not. If you want more clarification, please post and I will try to get
more to the point!

I suggest you browse the :

VMWare Virtual Appliance Directory.

There are a lot of great toys to play with. It
will give you better ideas on how you can use it.In the 'Joe Schmoe' world,
start with installing a Linux distro in it and play with that. I'm even told
there is an OSX VM out there on some torrent site. My brother claims to have
found it but I have not.Try new OS' like when Vista was in Beta and Alpha you
could put it in a VM and play with it. Test new versions of your applications.
Do dry runs of server installs, or application installs to make sure it installs
right and works. That is how I got into it. Then I moved it into production here
and have about 5 or 6 VMs running right now, from demo/beta stuff to production
environments like my anti spam gateway I updated on Friday.Just think of it this
way...anything you want to do or test you can do it in a VM provided you have
the hardware resources at your disposal.

Great information keep it coming!