Oracle VM VirtualBox 4.2 narrows gap with VMware, Parallels

New features focus on management, network improvements, and support for wider list of host and guest operating systems

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To keep this new capability in check, Oracle has introduced the ability to throttle back network I/O bandwidth on one VM or across groups of VMs sharing a physical network card. This can prevent a rogue VM from stealing the entire pipe and starving other virtual machines in the process.

Going one step further, VirtualBox 4.2 has enhanced the E1000 NIC so that it finally supports 802.1q VLAN tagging, allowing VMs to participate in VLAN environments.

As the host platform becomes more powerful, VirtualBox users are also attempting to run more and more VMs on top of it. Some of these users have large libraries of VMs made up of various operating system types and versions. Other users may have groups of VMs that operate together in a multitiered software solution -- for example, a database tier, middleware tier, Web application tier, and so on.

To address the needs of those users, Oracle has updated VirtualBox 4.2 with a more powerful VirtualBox Manager. Three main areas have been updated:

  • VM Groups allow the user to organize a VM library, such as by platform type, by project, by version, or some other method, making it more efficient and easier to manage larger numbers of similar virtual machines. But groups are more than just passive folders; you can also perform operations on any number of VMs all at once, through a graphical user interface, a set of APIs or via command-line tools.
  • Auto Start provides a more flexible VM startup operation. If a virtual machine doesn't need any user interaction -- that is, it's running a dedicated service within the VM such as a wiki -- it can be treated like any other host service, and the VM can be automatically booted and started when the host machine is powered on.
  • Headless VM Launching is now available from the GUI by simply holding down the Shift key when launching the VM from the Manager. You no longer have to launch these types of workload VMs from a command-line interface.

A number of other bug fixes and features have been added to this version, such as support for parallel port pass-through on Windows hosts, burning audio CDs from a guest, bi-directional clipboard control, drag-and-drop of files from the host into Linux guests, and more. You can check out the entire list within the release's changelog report.

VirtualBox 4.2 appears to be another solid release for Oracle, putting the company one step closer to joining the conversation with VMware and Parallels products. Find out how it competes firsthand by downloading it for free at the VirtualBox community site.

Do you use VirtualBox? Do you prefer it to the VMware or Parallels for pay platforms? If so, why or why not?

This article, "Oracle VM VirtualBox 4.2 narrows gap with VMware, Parallels," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the latest developments in virtualization at InfoWorld.com.

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