VMware Workstation 4.5 an App-Making Machine

Develop and test applications using just one Intel platform and without straining your budget.

May 21, 2004

4 Min Read
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Creating a virtual machine is simple. A wizard presents "radio button" options for Windows 3.1+, Longhorn, Linux and Novell guest OSs. VMware even includes an MS-DOS option, but beware: If you choose it, you won't be able to use the handy VMware Tools that offer enhancements, such as graphical support and time synchronization between virtual machine and host.

I installed Linux Red Hat 9, Mandrake Linux 10, FreeBSD, Windows Professional 2000, Windows Advanced Server 2000, Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 as guest OSs in individual VMs. Next, I configured a virtual disk file with 4 GB of disk space for each of the VMs.

If you don't allocate the disk space up front, VMware will resize the file dynamically as the OS grows with new applications. That's not a good thing, as dynamic allocation reduces overall VM performance, so do the allocating yourself. You can always add virtual disks for each of your guests as needed.

VMware gives you three options for connecting guest OSs to a network: bridged, NAT (network address translation) and host-only. Bridged networking provides direct access to an external Ethernet network, but the guest will need an IP address separate from the host's. VMware bridges or maps a virtual network onto an existing physical network adapter.

If you don't have extra IP addresses for guests, you can use NAT to gain access to the external network using the host's IP address. However, if you don't need access to an external network, or if you want to maintain a secure environment, a host-only network will suffice.The Virtual World

One click on the interface starts a VM. I popped a CD-ROM into the drive and installed most of the Windows OSs. I also installed FreeBSD, Mandrake and Red Hat Linux by mapping the CD-ROM to an ISO file. For multiple ISO files, I remapped the CD-ROM on the fly to save myself the trouble of burning a disk. Next, I turned my attention to the PXE support.

I turned off VMware's DHCP server and gave our Windows 2003 server the roles for DHCP and Domain Controller. Then, I installed RIS (Remote Installation Services) to remotely install other servers in a PXE. After creating a virtual machine, I set the network adapter to boot from the network. It connected to our RIS server and installed Windows 2003 Server in no time.



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If you need multiple guest OSs from the same manufacturer, you can clone them. Once I had one Advanced Server 2000 configured, I copied the necessary files to a new directory on the host. The next time VMware started, it recognized the clone as a new guest OS. By assigning the clone its own server name and network ID, I distinguished it from the original Advanced Server.

Upon installing the Windows 2000 Server Resource Kit on the Advanced Servers, I ran the CPU Stress tool with two active threads to tax our dual processors. In addition, I set robocopy.exe to copy, scan and delete a 58-MB file structure in an infinite loop. The host processor averaged 50 percent utilization. When I added threads to each guest, overall host utilization increased to 65 percent. Had I continued to add threads, the host would have run out of physical memory. Although this hardware issue is not unique to VMware, I wish the product would have let me dedicate a virtual machine to a particular processor.

To check out VM's diagnostic capabilities, I created a memory problem on one VM. I preserved the state of the troubled machine for further diagnosis using VMware's snapshot function. After the system rebooted, it returned to the low-memory condition with the same warning displayed on the page.

To test VMware's USB support, I installed a copy on a Sony Vaio laptop (Pentium III, 1,200 MHz, 512 MB of RAM) and set up a VM running Windows XP and Office XP. Once the machine was up and running, I installed Microsoft's ActiveSync to synchronize Outlook on a Hewlett-Packard Jornada Pocket PC over a USB connection. The virtual machine recognized the USB connection to the cradled Jornada and synchronized our Outlook files.Going the other way, the Jornada used the virtual machine as a conduit to access the external network through the USB connection.

If you need to develop, test and deploy applications over multiple platforms but can't afford to run each OS on its own platform, VMware can help. Because developers and administrators can run all the software they need on one Intel platform, the time it takes an app to reach the market or the end (node) of the enterprise is reduced.

Sean Doherty is a technology editor and lawyer based at our Syracuse University Real-World Labs®. Write to him at [email protected].

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