Preview: VMware Workstation 6.5 beta surges ahead
Seamless windowing, easy Windows VM creation, accelerated 3-D video, and integrated ACE support headline a must-have upgrade
They say market leadership has its privileges. When you're way out in front and the competition is just a distant blip in your rearview horizon, you get to take a breather. Coast a bit. Maybe focus on the big picture for a while. Yes, it's good to be the leader. All of which begs the question: What the hell is wrong with VMware?
These guys are so far out in front that the competition has to dial 011 just to get them on the phone. This is especially true in the traditional desktop virtualization space. VMware has almost zero competition on the dominant platform, meaning Windows. Yet it continues to innovate – and at an alarming pace, no less.
Case in point: VMware Workstation 6.5. Though only just entering beta, Workstation 6.5 is already causing a stir among the virtualization faithful. That's because the feature set reads like a veritable wish list to Virtual Santa from all the good girls and boys down in the in-house development and help desk departments.
[ Read Randall Kennedy’s comparative review of VMware Workstation, Parallels Workstation, Microsoft Virtual PC 2007, and innotek VirtualBox. Read his review of innotek VirtualBox 1.5.2. Read his review of the Kidaro and Sentillion desktop VM management systems, along with his sidebar on VMware ACE. ]
For example, there's the new hardware-accelerated graphics support. You can now run Direct3D applications (including some games) from within a VM, eliminating a major hurdle to achieving near-local system fidelity. Workstation 6.5 also provides a mechanism for integrating applications running within the host OS. Dubbed "Unity," it allows you to, for example, run a copy of Internet Explorer 6 inside a VM and have its client window displayed seamlessly on the host OS desktop.
From Fusion with love
Unity is a carryover from the VMware Fusion product on Mac OS X. Another carryover is the new Easy Install feature. Designed to simplify the VM creation process, Easy Install parses the disk structure of an installation CD or ISO image, then applies a preconfigured installation script if it recognizes the guest OS media.
In the case of Windows XP, Easy Install prompts you for the product key, computer name, and administrator password, then proceeds to complete the entire OS installation automatically, no user interaction required. For support professionals or developers who frequently build and tear down lots of test VMs, Easy Install could be a real time-saver. The only downside is that it's a Windows-only feature – no Easy Install for Linux, Unix, and other non-Microsoft platforms.