Review: VMware Workstation 9 vs. VirtualBox 4.2

VMware Workstation is richer in features and polish than ever, but VirtualBox is still both capable and free

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Snapshotting in VirtualBox is at least as good as what's available in VMware Workstation. As in Workstation, you can take multiple branching snapshots of a given VM. Even handier is the ability to clone VMs, which can be done either by making a full, discrete copy of the VM or by using a snapshot as the basis for the clone. Using a snapshot saves both time and disk space.

VirtualBox also shines with support for a variety of virtual-disk formats: VMDK, VHD, HDD (from Parallels), and QED/QCOW (from QEMU). This makes VirtualBox handy for trying out a slightly broader range of virtual machine types than VMware Workstation.

Finally, anyone looking for a free virtualization solution might ask how VirtualBox shapes up against VMware's also-free VMware Player. The main difference is in product licensing, as VirtualBox is a little more liberally licensed than VMware Player.

One feature VirtualBox has but VMware Workstation doesn't is the ability to cap a virtual machine's processor usage. It also lets you cap network bandwidth for a VM.

The open source edition of VirtualBox is GPLv2-licensed, while the full binary versions of VirtualBox are under a "Personal Use and Evaluation License," which precludes deployment in a business scenario. VMware Player, on the other hand, is closed source through and through. Although it's free for personal noncommercial use, it must be formally licensed in a commercial setting. (Player is also not supported by VMware, except when purchasing a license for VMware Fusion Professional.)

VirtualBox also has full implementations of a few features that VMware Player has in more limited incarnations, including snapshotting, virtual-network management, and cloning of workstations. There are some VMware-only functions, such as upload/download to vSphere, implemented in VMware Workstation only, but not in either VirtualBox or VMware Player.

For those willing to put their money down, VMware Workstation is the easy winner. It isn't just the performance, but the polish and the cross-integration with other VMware products that make Workstation worth the money. That said, VirtualBox is no slouch, and it has a few useful items that aren't available in either Workstation or VMware Player.

If you have the cash to spend, VMware is the easy choice. If you're on a tight budget or need a product with liberal licensing, go with VirtualBox.

This story, "Review: VMware Workstation 9 vs. VirtualBox 4.2," was originally published at Keep up on the latest developments in virtualization at For the latest business technology news, follow on Twitter.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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