VMware targets Microsoft with Workstation 5.0

Quoting from BetaNews:

Sources familiar with testing have told BetaNews that VMware has released Beta 1 of Workstation 5.0 to a select group of testers.

This latest release of VMware’s virtual desktop software includes a host of new features ranging from improved collaboration and networking, better performance and surer security, to enhanced cloning capabilities and Microsoft Virtual PC compatibility.

New to VMware Workstation, Teams are intended to clear the way for easier configuration of multi-tier applications. The Teams feature lassos together a collection of virtual machines that are connected by private network segments. Once a team is created, the entire cluster of virtual machines is administered as if it were a single unit. In addition, administrators can view active thumbnails of every “Team” member.

VMware’s V2V Assistant rolls back the clock to a time when Microsoft was not a competitor, enabling Microsoft Virtual PC virtual machines to be stripped of their vendor identity and converted into Workstation 5 virtual machines. Workstation 5 can also open a Microsoft virtual machine without conversion.

Workstation 5 also promises to deliver enhanced networking performance, sources said. When a user installs the updated VMware tools, all required drivers are automatically loaded through the software’s custom network driver. VMware claims to have achieved significant improvements in network performances.

Developers have turned their attention toward shoring up the efficiency of memory utilization, and to securing the computing environment against buffer overruns. VMware has elected to target the scenario of concurrent use of multiple virtual machines as the primary candidate to receive performance tweaks. The beta also targets buffer overruns, permitting operating systems that support the NX bit to designate memory space for applications. Any code that attempts to run outside of the space will not be executed.

Two different methods are provided for cloning: linked and full. If a parent virtual machine is accessible in shared storage, it can be linked to rather than copied and stored locally. Any changes that are made to the cloned virtual machine are saved on the resident hardware. Team members can then share the saved configuration. In addition, linked clones can be used as a universal template for additional clones, thus sparing disk space. Full cloning makes complete copies of virtual machine that can be stored on disks and other media.

What’s more, Workstation 5 offers the ability to record all activity within a virtual machine and commits the record to the .AVI format. VMware has provided the feature so that users can reproduce steps that may have led to defects or to record the process of installing and configuring a new application.

If all else fails, users can take an unlimited number of snapshots to capture the state of the environment along a specified range of time. A new item called Snapshot Manager allows administrators to roll back to a previous state along the timeline.

Other miscellaneous features in the Workstation 5 beta include a gtk2-based user interface for Linux to provide a better look and feel, as well as increased stability; souped up drag and drop, shared folders and sound features; and support for USB devices such as Web cams and speaker systems.