What is your experience with Virtualization Software?

Discussion in 'sandboxing & virtualization' started by aigle, Apr 20, 2006.

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  1. aigle

    aigle Registered Member

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    One of the relatively new and interesting softwares are virtualization softwares. From security point of view there are virtualization products that let you surf everywhere on the net without fear of getting something nasty on your system.

    On the other hand virtualization software has made possible to install one OS( guest OS) in another( host) OS without actually writing it to your HD. That makes it interesting. If you don't want to install a programme actually to your HD or for some reason you can't use your HD to install it, no problem, just install a virtualization software and install any other OS inside this without touching your HD. Recent success of Windows to run on Mac OS by this technique has caused a new stir in the world or virtualization software.

    Personally I have never tried any of these but I am highly interested to try it due to the fact that I want to try Linux on my PC and I can't use my HD for this purpose. There are live CDs but they are slow and moreover ordinarily it is not easy to make permanent changes in your linux OS using while using these live CDs. So personally at the moment I am looking for a virtualization software that I can use to run linux.

    In future, if ever, Apple gives permission to run Mac Os on non-Macs, again it will be a new stirr and many people will be interested to do so it on virtual machines( I read on some forum somebody doing it even now but I think at the moment it is not legal).

    I am sure many of the users here must have used one or more virtual machines and I want to know what was their experience. So the purpose of this thread is to get benefit from their experience, as all virtualization software are not same. One main thing is the speed of guest OS, if it is just near to native then it's fine but if it is slow, of course you are not going to enjoy the experience and different virtualization software have different ability in this regard.

    Another issue is how simple the software to use and still another is the stability and reliability of virtualization software. There must be many more points to consider but as I never used one so I am not sure what other things must be considered before making a choice in this regard.
    So I invite the members to write about there experience with different virtualization softwares they used. What was your experience? What is your favorite based on your experience and why? What is good for the beginner and what is good for the advanced user.
    I am discussing only windows related softwares.

    BTW I am putting a link to a comparison table from Wikipedia as well.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_virtual_machines
     
    Last edited: Apr 20, 2006
  2. Peter2150

    Peter2150 Global Moderator

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    Hi Aigle

    First question you need to ask yourself is do you really need this. One big issue is licensing. To be legal if you have an XP machine, and install XP on a VM on that machine, you need a 2nd XP license. Developers use some kind of developers license that legally allows that, but home users.....

    For me it just isn't worth the bother.

    Pete
     
  3. Alec

    Alec Registered Member

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    I've used both VMWare (in the past) and Microsoft Virtual PC (currently). They both work quite well and, honestly, I don't remember enough about VMware to make any kind of exhaustive comparison. Besides, I'm sure the product has evolved significantly since the time time I tried it. When running an OS as a guest inside a VM, you really only need to worry about two things: 1) device emulation, and 2) memory constraints.

    The virtual machine software will present a core set of emulated devices to the guest OS. Typically, the VM software developers try to pick widely supported, "baseline" devices as their emulated standard, but there's no absolute guarantees that the devices will be recognized properly. For some reason, sound tends to be a problem. Virtual PC emulates a Soundblaster 16, but occassionally some Linux implementations won't recognize the emulated SB16 properly for some reason. Usually this can be resolved through some post-install device configuration and manual tweaking, but not always. Moreover, because of this emulated device concept, the other downside is that you have advanced underlying hardware you don't typically get to take advantage of it. The emulated SB16 doesn't have all the bells and whistles of your latest and greatest sound card, for example. Same for your graphics card... or if you have some other advanced hardware.

    As for memory, make sure you have LOTS of it. Usually, I think most VM software packages will state 512MB as a minimum, but realistically you probably should have 1GB of RAM. Each OS (the host and the guest) are going to want RAM, so if you think of it in those terms you have to realize that Windows just doesn't really perform all that well in 256MB... and add in that the VM is virtualizing the harddrive so don't count on great paging performance in the guest OS either.

    As far as licensing, there are definitely some tricky issues there. I know that Microsoft is changing up some of the licensing requirements to take into account virtualization technologies, but Peter is right I think. Legally, I believe you have to have a valid license for each running instance of an operating system. So, with virtualization that would count as two. However, I often don't run XP on XP, but rather usually something like Win2000 on XP or Win98 on XP. In these instances, I have a valid license for the old OS and have often purchased the follow-on OS as an upgrade (or received it as an entirely separate license with new hardware). Honestly, I don't know the absolute legality of using an old OS when you have subsequently purchased an upgrade license (although I think it's ok, but it might be considered still part of the original license). Although, I kind of doubt that Microsoft is sweating the issue that some home user is using an old copy of DOS or Win95 as a guest in WinXP on Virtual PC... rather I think they're more concerned about how corporate users license the latest Windows OS's on large servers running Virtual Server. Of course, with Linux as guest you typically don't have that issue (unless you're talking about a distro with proprietary additions or something).
     
  4. aigle

    aigle Registered Member

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    Hi, Peter, I think u are missing something.

     
  5. aigle

    aigle Registered Member

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    Thanks Alec for lot of information. It,s really useful for me. Abvout memory issue u are right, it may be a problem as I have only 512 at the moment but I can upgrade. About the licensing issue I don,t care as I will only use free linux distros.
    Thanks.
     
  6. Rasheed187

    Rasheed187 Registered Member

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    Well, I think virtualization is the future, Intel and AMD are already coming up with special support in their processors, this will hopefully speed things up. I also hope that Windows will get native support. And IMO, especially "full OS virtualization", like VMWare Workstation, must be improved, it should be able to act just like your real machine and take full advantage of your hardware.

    And of course I´m also very excited about these new "virtual sandboxes", that work on top of your OS, like Sandboxie, BufferZone etc., this will help to improve security quite a lot, without having to start up a new OS. :)
     
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