Virtualization showdown: VMware Workstation vs. Sun xVM VirtualBox
VMware's desktop champion takes the flag, but Sun's free and open source alternative is coming on strongFollow @infoworld
Of course, the biggest changes involve Workstation's support for VMware's ACE technology. Whereas in the past you had to run a separate version of Workstation -- the ACE Edition -- to edit and apply ACE policies, version 6.5 incorporates these features seamlessly into the base Workstation UI. You can now enable/disable ACE functionality for a VM with a single click, and given the depth and breadth of options available, one click may be all you need to securely lock down and manage a wayward VM. In fact, it seems clear that VMware intends for Workstation 6.5 to be your primary entry point into its ACE management environment, with similar one-click tools for creating ACE packages, including the popular Pocket ACE for USB sticks. Together, the Easy Install wizard and ACE integration features truly take the drudgery out of VM creation, configuration, and management.
I tested VMware Workstation 6.5 under Windows Vista (64-bit) on a 4GB Dell XPS M1710. Installation was a breeze, as with previous editions, and the new Easy Install option made provisioning and configuring new VMs nearly effortless. During preliminary benchmark testing using a Release Candidate build (and with the pre-release debugging features disabled), I achieved OfficeBench throughput levels slightly better (11 percent) than version 6.0 but nowhere near native machine performance. It's worth noting that Workstation 6.5 now allows you to manually override the underlying virtualization model, making it possible to force it to use one of three different modes (Binary Translation, Intel VT-x/AMD-V, Intel VT-x with EPT/AMD-V with RVI) or an Automatic option that selects the best mode based on your underlying hardware and OS configuration. I used the Automatic option during benchmarking.
Overall, VMware Workstation 6.5 is a worthwhile upgrade, especially for customers seeking to leverage VMware's ACE management features. But even without ACE, Workstation 6.5 is compelling. Most users will be sold on Easy Install alone; it's a feature that will make support professionals and developers instantly more productive. And although it's hard to put all of version 6.5's improvements into words, suffice to say that the old thoroughbred has never looked better.
The dark horse
Proud. Scrappy. Spoiling for a fight. These are some of the descriptors that come to mind as I look back over the history of VirtualBox. When I first reviewed version 1.3 nearly two years ago, I found a promising product from a small-time player (Innotek) that was still a bit rough around the edges. Four major releases later, and VirtualBox has undergone some major architectural changes. These include support for 64-bit hosts (including Mac OS X) and 64-bit guests, as well as a more modular/programmable architecture. VirtualBox has also picked up some new tricks, including USB device support. And it has of course found a new home via Innotek's acquisition by Sun Microsystems.
In short, VirtualBox has generally matured into a stable, viable alternative to VMware Workstation, at least for casual usage scenarios. And, of course, it's free -- both to download and to reuse as open source software. In fact, Sun has gone out of its way to promote VirtualBox as the ultimate generic virtualization solution, an everyman's VM tool for bridging the gaps among Unix, Linux, and Windows.