Oracle unwraps VM VirtualBox 5.0 with focus on security

Disk-image encryption is now included in the virtualization software

After entering beta roughly three months ago, Oracle's VM VirtualBox 5.0 virtualization software is now generally available, offering faster performance and better security.

Oracle VM VirtualBox runs on standard x86 desktop and laptop computers and allows users to set up multiplatform virtual-machine environments for software development and testing. Using it, developers can create cloud and local applications without the overhead of a full server environment.

Now, with support for operating systems including Mac OS X Yosemite, Windows 10, Oracle Linux, Oracle Solaris and other Linux distributions, the new release of the cross-platform software improves performance by exposing a broader set of CPU instructions to the guest OS, Oracle said.

That, in turn, allows applications to make use of the latest hardware instruction sets.

Another feature that can significantly improve performance in the new version of the free and open-source software is paravirtualization support for Windows and Linux guests. Paravirtualization allows for a virtual-machine software interface that's not identical to that of the underlying hardware; in this case, it permits users to leverage the built-in virtualization support on operating systems such as Oracle Linux 7 and Microsoft Windows 7 and newer.

"You don't need to install extra device drivers anymore for performance," said Wim Coekaerts, Oracle's senior vice president for Linux and virtualization engineering.

Disk-image encryption, meanwhile, allows data to be encrypted on virtual hard-disk images transparently during runtime using the AES algorithm with up to 256-bit data-encryption keys.

That's particularly useful in companies where employees take their work laptops home or on trips, Coekaerts noted.

"Now, an employee's virtual machine for work could be encrypted," Coekaerts explained. "If someone stole the laptop, they couldn't really do anything without the key."

Oracle VM VirtualBox 5.0 also offers support for USB 3.0 devices, so "you can plug in a video camera, for example, and expose that device directly into your virtual machine," Coekaerts said.

Finally, support for bidirectional drag and drop has been expanded in version 5.0 to include more guest and host operating systems.

"If you run Windows or Linux inside a virtual machine and run it on top of a Mac or Windows desktop, you can drag and drop files between the host and the guest," Coekaerts said. "We now support basically every combination."

Version 5.0 of the software can now be downloaded from the VirtualBox website.

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