VMware Fusion Beta 4 for OS X shows off desktop virtualization chops
VMware’s playing catch-up for once when it comes to the Mac market … or is it?Follow @pvenezia
It could be argued that VMware has played second fiddle to no one since its inception. In the decade after the first VMware products hit the market, all other comers have found competing with the virtualization giant to be tough going.
On the Mac, however, this isn’t the case. Parallels Desktop for the Mac is generally thought of as the premier workstation virtualization package for OS X, due in no small part to being the first to market and the seeming ease with which Parallels integrates into the Mac OS. VMware’s play on this market is VMware Fusion, which is currently in beta 4 with a full release expected in August.
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VMware Fusion doesn’t quite reach the same level of host OS integration as Parallels, but it has a similar layout, with VMs running in a window, full screen, or side by side with OS X application windows in a view dubbed Unity. This is roughly the same as Parallels’ Coherence mode, though lacking the Windows Start menu. However, a Windows XP guest will have the Start menu layout present in the Fusion menu bar, so accessing applications from the VM in Unity mode is simple.
Installing the Windows VMs is straightforward, and you can do so from a local CD or DVD, as well as an ISO image. PXE booting is apparently supported, but the VM creation wizard requires that a CD, DVD, or ISO image be present to create the VM. Also, this beta includes VM snapshots, though only one is available at a time.
On my 17-inch MacBook Pro with a Core 2 Duo 2.33GHz CPU, 2GB of RAM, and a 160GB 5,400rpm drive, I built a Windows XP and Fedora Core 6 VM in VMware Fusion with little fanfare and very respectable speed. The VMware tools installation following the VM builds is the same as ever for VMware products.
I did note that my MacBook Pro got very worked up at odd times, with the CPU cooling fans running at 100 percent while a VM was quiescent or even when it was hung during boot-up due to a missing ISO image. It seemed that these issues were caused by an unhandled race condition, but I didn’t have time to fully investigate their origin. Otherwise, VMware Fusion drives more or less like VMware Workstation under Windows or Linux.
This highlights a significant advantage for VMware: VMs built on VMware Server, VMware Workstation, and possibly even VMware ESX Server can run under VMware Fusion for OS X. This allows VMware to leverage the large number of existing VMware images that have begun to pop up on vendor download sites everywhere.