VMware sends in the clones to ease testing
Myriad enhancements to VMware Workstation make Version 5 a must-haveFollow @infoworld
IT professionals are constantly pressed to do more with less and to do it faster. The latest version of VMware Workstation proves a valuable tool in achieving that evasive goal. With it, administrators have the ability to test multiple images for desktop and laptop deployment simultaneously, or to test every code change to an application sequentially to see which has problems, or to test myriad Microsoft security updates before deploying them on mission-critical servers faster and more easily than ever before.
I’ve been successfully using VMware Workstation for years to augment my product testing by leveraging one physical machine into many virtual ones with different OSes. Version 5 adds a variety of new functions that enhance its indispensability, including multiple snapshots, templates, clones, teams, movie captures, virtual networking tweaks, and increased overall performance.
VMware’s primary competition comes, of course, from Microsoft Virtual PC, and from competitors such as XenSource’s Xen. While the market maintains strong competitive offerings, VMware Workstation continues to hold its own with this updated version.
All for one, one for all
I installed and tested Workstation 5 on my Intel-based Stratus ftServer W Series 2300 without a problem. Installation was quick and straightforward. My next step was to install the OSes that I wanted to use for testing, which included Microsoft Server 2003, Microsoft Windows XP Professional, Red Hat Linux, and Knoppix STD (Security Tools Distribution). Alas, that last OS is not officially supported, whereas the newer 64-bit Windows and Linux distributions are, as are other Windows flavors and good ol’ DOS, NetWare, Solaris, and FreeBSD — to name a few others. Again, OS installation and management went smoothly.
With previous versions of VMware, I would at this point have had to go through the onerous and time-consuming task of reinstalling each new copy of the operating system for testing as a separate virtual machine. Although this eases testing enormously, installing multiple OSes can take hours. Thankfully, VMware now has two ways to speed up this time-consuming process, via clones and templates.
A VMware clone is just what the name implies: an exact copy of the original virtual machine in its current state. VMware has two types of clones: a full clone, which is a completely independent virtual machine, and a linked clone, which is a reference to the original clone but takes up less disk space. Before creating a linked clone, you must create a template, a read-only parent virtual machine. This template, and subsequent linked clones, reduces the disk space VMs require, as they share the parent VM’s resources. Although creating either type of clone does take some time, there are no pesky OS questions to impede the process. Thus, it’s just as fast as the process of, for example, creating a Symantec Ghost OS image.