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Friday, May 15, 2009

Move from VMWare to VirtualBox

If you use Virtual Machine software, in particular VMWare, this will be of interest to you. If you use Ubuntu, I suggestion you consider using VirtualBox for your VM needs and here is why. Please note, this is only talking about non-VMWare Fusion products.

I have been using VMWare for about 2 and 1/2 years now, but just recently I have decided to move to using VirtualBox.

The Reasons I Left VMWare
  1. Apt-get Availability: VMWare is not available in the Ubuntu apt repositories and I have never found any other Ubuntu/Debian repos to use. It was once available via 3rd party repos from Ubuntu, but not for well over a year and a 1/2.
  2. Compiling: Because there are no easily available apt-repositories packages, I have been compiling VMWare myself for a while. I don't mind compiling (in fact, I think it is a great and powerful feature of Linux) but because VMWare has close ties with the kernel, occasionally I would have to recompile VMWare after a kernel or kernel module update from Ubuntu. In general, the compiling was not a major annoyance but it was not convenient.
  3. Compiling Problems: In Ubuntu Jaunty 9.04, I have not been able to compile VMWare 1.x no matter what I try. I attempted to use verrsion 2.x, but that didn't work out well.
  4. Future VMWare Versions: I successfully compiled and ran VMWare 2.x but it radically fails to meet my needs for a Virtual Machine program. Furthermore, it fails (perhaps even spectacularly) to meet some of my most basic preferences for a program in general. I personally found its interface ridiculously slow, featureless, and extremely unusable.
Reasons I Moved to VirtualBox
  1. Competitors: VirtualBox is the major competitor to VMWare.
  2. Features: VirtualBox actually has a few features that VMWare does not have, such as dynamic virtual harddrive expansion and shrinking and not require full diskspace pre-allocation. VirtualBox also supports limited 3D Acceleration (both OpenGL and Direct3D), with more in development. (This feature VMWare completely lacks). I have yet to find any features missing in VirtualBox from VMWare.
  3. Integration: Though my recent usage experience has not been excessive, the integration of VirtualBox into my host Linux system has been better and smoother than VMWare. In particular:
    • Using VMWare I had network issues when running KDE4 in a VM. VirtualBox has no such issues.
    • After installing the Guest Additions, my mouse can travel smoothly between my VirtualBox guest VM display and my desktop without being stuck/limited to the display area. (Vbox specifically informs you of this capability actually post-installation).
    • Guided steps with the GUI for sharing files between the host machine and guest VM. VMWare required mounting via commandline which worked but was somewhat buggy.
  4. Availability: VirtualBox is available right through the Ubuntu apt-repositories. If I want a more up-to-date version, I can easily find apt-repo at PPA launchpad. (This sort of community is yet another reason why Ubuntu is so great).
  5. Portability: Just like VMWare, Virtualbox runs on every major OS out there.
  6. Cost: VirtualBox is free as you get. While VMWare never cost me anything to run, there may have come a day when I was faced with paying for their products. I won't have to worry about that with VirtualBox.
  7. Performance: Though I have not thoroughly tested the performance, from my own experience and the reviews I have read online, VBox does not perform (process tasks as quickly) as VMWare but it certainly is not casually noticable. I know VBox is continuing to push for improvements in this area.
I have been using VirtualBox for about 2 weeks now and it is exceeding my needs. VBox meets my needs in a more convenient way than VMWare did before, especially after installing the Guest Additions. Though VBox has a different interface from VMWare, I think I actually prefer the organization concept and designs of the VirtualBox system over VMWare's organization, particularly with shared resources. Overall, I think it is a better piece of software.

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