Review: VMware Workstation 10 turns to tablets
The best desktop virtualization software for techs adds support for Surface Pro sensors and more polishFollow @syegulalp
The last few versions of VMware Workstation haven't been radically different from one another, and Workstation 10 is no exception. But it's different in ways that will appeal to certain users, such as developers who are focused on Windows 8 tablets and companies looking to exercise more control over virtual machines deployed to contract workers and other users.
One reason to consider a move to Workstation 10 ($249, $119 for owners of Workstation 8/9) is its support for the hardware sensors in Microsoft's Surface Pro tablet. If you're running Workstation 10 on a Surface Pro, input from its accelerometer, gyroscope, compass, and ambient light sensor can be passed to a Windows 8 guest as well. This makes it possible to test Windows 8.1 on a Windows 8 tablet and have these key tablet functions available in the guest. Note, however, that this support is currently limited to Surface Pro hardware.
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Many of the other changes reflect how much further desktop hardware is being pushed. Each VM can now support up to 16 virtual CPUs and 16 cores per virtual CPU, up to 64GB of RAM, and disks of up to 8TB in size. You can now configure up to 20 virtual networks within a single instance of Workstation, and you can directly attach SSDs for pass-through use. Note that the availability of hardware-specific features to guests is constrained by the actual machine you're using. For example, you can't emulate more cores or CPUs than you actually have.
Some of the other improvements amount to bigger changes than they might first seem. VMware Workstation 9 introduced the ability to encrypt a virtual machine as a way to keep it from being used by unauthorized personnel. I still wish Workstation let you create a VM with encryption in place, but you have to create it first, then encrypt it, which can be quite time-consuming depending on the amount of storage allocated to the VM.
While encryption works no differently in Workstation 10, encrypted machines can now be set to expire after a certain date or time. Warning messages can be set to appear a certain number of days before the machine expires, and the VM can be required to check in with a restrictions management server at regular intervals. These features will come in handy when sharing VMs with contract workers and in a number of other scenarios -- if you're testing beta software that's meant to expire, for instance, or if you're distributing VM-hosted software appliances that are meant to be used only by a specific audience during a given time frame.