VMware refreshes Workstation 10 for Windows 8.1 and more

Desktop virtualization update soups up performance with added support for virtual machines and a new Virtual SATA disk, as well as faster startup times

During VMworld 2013, VMware kept the spotlight on its next generation enterprise solutions.  Across the first two days of the show, the company's keynote addresses showcased the software-defined datacenter, vCloud Hybrid Service, network virtualization with NSX, and its software-defined storage platform, Virtual SAN.  And not to be out done, VMware also announced the latest release of vSphere, version 5.5.

While these technologies are great, what seemed to be missing from the announcements at VMworld was anything new about the desktop.  But on the heels of the world's largest virtualization event, VMware quietly announced an update to the desktop virtualization product that originally brought the company to the virtualization dance in the first place: VMware Workstation. 

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VMware Workstation was first released in 1999, and it was the company's first official product on the market to prove that x86 virtualization was possible.  Desktop virtualization allowed users to run various versions of Microsoft Windows or different distributions of Linux operating systems in a virtual machine on a PC device.  And it became a spring board for the server virtualization technology that has completely transformed the modern datacenter.

With Workstation 10, VMware is introducing several major enhancements and additions, including Windows 8.1 guest OS support.  This latest release could end up playing a key role within corporations as they continue to migrate from Windows XP to Windows 7 and now Windows 8.1.  And Workstation could also prove important to those companies currently in evaluation mode and still trying to learn the ins and outs of Windows 8.1.

Under the hood, VMware has souped up Workstation in a big way.  Workstation 10 now supports the new virtual hardware version introduced in vSphere 5.5.  This latest virtual hardware increases virtual machine support for up to 16 vCPUs, 8 TB SATA disks, 64GB of memory and up to 20 virtual networks.  Personally, I'd love to own the beefy desktop machine that can support this new maximum sized virtual machine.  And I wonder just how many people will actually be able to take full advantage of these new VM limits.

Also in the performance category, VMware has added support for a new Virtual SATA disk controller, SSD pass through and USB3 support allowing faster file copying.  The company also claims to have improved application and Windows VM startup times.  And speaking for those people who dislike watching Windows and its applications boot up, I look forward to seeing any progress made in that arena.

What could end up being a nice feature add-on is the ability to convert a physical computer running Windows 8.1 into a virtual machine via an easy-to-use P2V wizard.  This may not be an often used feature, but if you receive a new machine, it should prove extremely helpful with the migration of the new computer over to a VM.

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