Mac OS X Virtualization! Is It Trick or Treat?

When we talk about virtualization on the Apple Mac platform, we are usually talking about virtualizing Microsoft Windows or Linux operating systems as guest operating systems on either VMware Fusion or Parallels' Desktop for Mac products. But in this case, we are actually talking about virtualizing the Mac OS itself. Is this a Halloween trick? Or treat? I suppose it depends on the way you look at it. The good ne

When we talk about virtualization on the Apple Mac platform, we are usually talking about virtualizing Microsoft Windows or Linux operating systems as guest operating systems on either VMware Fusion or Parallels' Desktop for Mac products. But in this case, we are actually talking about virtualizing the Mac OS itself.

Is this a Halloween trick? Or treat? I suppose it depends on the way you look at it. The good news, however, is that there is definitely change in the air.

If you remember the long, drawn out discussions in the past, the idea of virtualizing Mac OS X was clear. Apple stated that the license only allowed you to install and use one copy of the Mac OS X Server software on a single Apple-labeled computer at a time. So it was a one license, one machine EULA. Which pretty much ruled it out as a guest operating system even though both VMware and Parallels said it was "possible" to virtualize the OS.

Now, it looks as though a subtle change has been made to Apple's End User License Agreement (EULA) in the new Leopard Server operating system. It reads:

2. Permitted License Uses and Restrictions.

A. Mac OS X Server Software.

This License allows you to install and use one copy of the Mac OS X Server software (the "Mac OS X Server Software") on a single Apple-labeled computer. You may also Install and use other copies of Mac OS X Server Software on the same Apple-labeled computer, provided that you acquire an individual and valid license from Apple for each of these other copies of Mac OS X Server Software.

So there it is, the trick and the treat. The treat - it seems evident that Apple is loosening up its licensing to allow their OS to get virtual. The trick - the licensing change only applies to Leopard Server and not to the desktop edition that many of us are using today. The change also requires you to have a license for each virtualized instance and it still has to be running on Apple hardware. So PC users, you're still going to have to shell out extra money for that Intel-based Mac if you want to run OS X Server.

This could be great news as well when SWsoft/Parallels launches its server based virtualization product for the Mac. SWsoft's Ben Rudolph said that for many Mac users, it is the "holy grail" of XServes to run multiple, isolated, near-native instances of OS X Server on the same box, at the same time. And with Parallels Server for Mac, XServes should be able to have the power to run OS X, Windows and Linux server operating systems all on one piece of hardware.

Happy Halloween!

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