VMware launches Workstation 6.0 public beta

The most famous virtualization product on the planet is reaching its sixth generation. After a sneak preview at the VMworld 2006 conference, VMware finally makes Workstation 6.0 beta (and included VMware Player 2.0) available for general public.

The company aims to transform its desktop product in the preferred tools for software engineers, introducing notable features for ease development and debugging.

In fact this first beta (build 36983) sports the much acclaimed integration with Microsoft Visual Studio and Eclipse: when a new program must be tested developers can invoke run and debug directly inside a virtual machine, always assuring a brand new, secure and polished environment.

Other new features are nonetheless interesting:

  • Automation via expanded VIX 2.0 API
    Virtual machines control, including start/stop/resume/snapshot/import can be completely scripted with C, Perl, COM or the vmrun command line tool (note that these APIs are compatible with VMware Server 1.x)
  • Headless mode
    Virtual machines can now run in background, without the VMware interface running
  • VNC Remote Control
    Virtual machine can now be controlled through VNC instead of using guest OS remote management tools (no need to install VNC server inside the guest OS)
  • Cross-Platform Drag-and-Drop
    Files can be copied between host and guest level independently from the installed OSes
  • Increased RAM support
    Allocable RAM for VM has been increased from 3.6GB to 8GB. No more limits for maximum RAM allocable for all VMs.
  • New physical hardware support
    Support for USB 2.0 devices, 64bits sound cards and multiple monitors
  • New OSes support
    Experimental support for 32 and 64bits version of:

    • Microsoft Windows Vista (both host and guest roles)
    • Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4.5 and 5.0 beta (both host and guest roles)
    • SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 9 SP4 beta (both host and guest roles)
    • Sun Solaris 10 Update 3 (guest role only)

    Full support for 32 and 64bits version of:

    • Ubuntu Linux 6.10 as host and guest operating systems (both host and guest roles)
    • Mandriva Linux 2007 (both host and guest roles)
    • Novell Netware 6.5 SP5 (guest role / 32bit only)
    • paravirtualized Linux distros, based on the VMware VMI approach

Enroll for the beta here.

In further beta another killer feature called Replay is expected to appear: Workstation will be able to record every moment of the virtual machine life and reproduce it on demand, like in a VCR.
The revolutionary thing is Replay will not simply record what happens on the screen, generating a traditional video, but will record computations made on VM, allowing developers to exactly verify what happens during a fault inside virtual hardware for debugging purposes.

Effort VMware is putting in producing a must-have toolkit for software engineers is evident (this article describes how the whole company offering can simplify development, testing and delivery of new applications), but the most interesting thing anyway is introduced support for VMI-paravirtualized Linux: despite company fail in achieving VMI integration inside kernel, VMware seems to continue on its own way, probably hoping that showing a completed and working solution will increase chances to reconsider the approach.
So after introducing such support in an experimental version of Player, the company is distribuiting it mainstream through Workstation.

VMware is also slightly testing customers interest in upcoming blending of Workstation and ACE products, where the latter can be considered a superset of security features:

The virtualization.info Virtualization Industry Roadmap has been updated accordingly.

Release: VMware Lab Manager 2.4

After summer 2006 acquisition of Akimbi, VMware finally release its first rebranded version of Slingshot: Lab Manager.

Lab Manager is the first product which introduces some serious datacenter automation, even if limited to development/QA scenarios.

The new 2.4 version sports a wide range of features. Among others:

  • Multi-Machine Configurations
    Act on machines in a configuration as a unit: suspend, multi-snapshot, revert to, shutdown, turn on, turn off, suspend, reset, deploy, undeploy, clone, capture to library, and modify properties
  • Configuration Library
    Enjoy simultaneous use of library configurations by multiple users without changing MAC and IP addresses or SID, using VMware’s network fencing
  • Media Library
    Store all development and test media in a central repository
  • Machine Templates
    Instantly create new machines from templates with distinct personalization- automated assignment of MAC and IP addresses, and SID (for Windows systems)
  • Web Services and Command Line Interface (Automation API)
    Full programmatic control of capture-and-restore operations and out-of-the-box automation with leading test automation tools
  • Administration and Security
    User, permission and quota management

but unfortunately also introduces a severe limitation: VMware GSX Server and Microsoft Virtual Server are no more supported.

It’s unclear if VMware will continue to limit integration with ESX Server or will reintroduce support for hosted products.

Download an evaluation here.

The virtualization.info Virtualization Industry Roadmap has been updated accordingly.

Release: Xen 3.0.4

Xen has been updated to 3.0.4 minor release, considered an interim before 3.0.5 planned for early 2007.

This new version improves support for SMP and ACPI in Linux and Windows OSes, as well as other features:

  • support for kexec/kdump of Xen and domain 0
  • graphical framebuffer support for paravirtualised guests
  • preview support for the new XenAPI management interfaces
  • enhanced support for IA64 (IPF) and Power systems

Download it here (still not available at the moment of writing).

VMware launches Workstation for Mac OS public beta

At the same time of Workstation 6 beta public launch, VMware opens up beta program enrollment for its first virtualization product on the Apple Mac OS: codename Fusion.

Srinivas Krishnamurti, Director of Product Management and Market Development at VMware, announced public beta on the corporate blog, The Console, underlining features in current build (36932):

  • Native Cocoa UI
  • Virtual Battery (physical notebook battery indicator inside VMs)
  • Other VMware products interoperability (independently on host OS)

Enroll for the beta here.

VMware surely is the most popular virtualization company worldwide but currently exposed features seem not enough to downsize huge success retrieved so far by the young competitor Parallels, which has been endorsed by Apple itself and which is pretty fast in releasing new builds with new notable capabilities (like Coherence).

Exactly like happened to Microsoft, VMware delay in readying a product for Apple customers as soon as Mac OS has been released for x86 architectures, could cost company serious difficulties in gaining back trust of Mac community.

More problems may raise at RTM launch time, depending on marketing strategy: if nothing free will be provided customers may start wondering why VMware offers free Player (and Server) on Windows and Linux while they have to pay on Mac OS.

VMware VMmark hits beta

The new benchmarking system VMware is developing to measure and compare different virtualization platforms, VMmark, is now in beta.

To declare so is the company performance team from its new dedicated blog: VROOM!

Unfortunately at the moment there is nothing in particular to download, except the introductory whitepaper: VMmark: A Reliable Benchmarking System to Measure Virtual Machines Performances.

Developing a wide accepted performances measurement system is not easy, requiring recognition from partners and competitors.

So while a comment from players like Microsoft, SWsoft, Sun and others is waited, VMware is working to develop VMmark as a SPEC endorsed standard.

Meanwhile Intel and IBM, who are SPEC members as well, announced theirs plan to develop an independent benchmarking system.

Citrix acquires Ardence

Quoting from the Citrix official announcement:

Citrix Systems, Inc. the global leader in application delivery infrastructure, today announced a definitive agreement to acquire privately held Ardence, Inc. of Waltham, Mass. This strategic technology acquisition extends Citrix’s end-to-end application delivery infrastructure leadership by enabling the real-time, on demand provisioning of desktops, server images and service oriented architecture objects.

Several examples of how Ardence technologies will improve an enterprise’s application delivery infrastructure include:

  • Provisioning Desktops for Delivery Over a Network
    Using Ardence’s innovative OS-provisioning and remote network boot technology, any x86-based computer can be provisioned with an entire physical or virtual desktop environment from bare metal to production in minutes. This capability could be used, for example, to deliver new versions of operating systems, service packs and hot fixes to a diverse range of end users in minutes, then quickly rolled back to previous versions if problems are detected.
  • Enhanced Management of Citrix Presentation Server Components
    The provisioning capabilities of Ardence will allow IT administrators to more quickly add new servers to a Citrix Presentation Server farm and allow for the dynamic configuration of servers in a data center.
  • Provisioning Web Server Images as Load Changes
    Ardence also complements the Citrix NetScaler line of web application delivery solutions, allowing IT administrators to dynamically change the amount of storage or CPU capacity available to web applications during peak load times. For high-volume e-commerce applications, the Ardence technology can even re-provision web servers from one application to another on the fly as demand fluctuates. As customers adopt services oriented architectures (SOA) for their web application environments, the Ardence technology could also be used to provide on-demand provisioning of these application components

The financial terms of the agreement are not being disclosed. The acquisition is subject to various standard closing conditions, including applicable regulatory approvals, and is expected to close in the first quarter of 2007.

Upon close of the transaction, the Ardence team and products will remain based in Waltham, Mass. and report into the Management Systems Group (MSG), also based in the Boston area, under Lou Shipley.

Brian Madden published some interesting thoughts about this acquisition you may want to read.

The virtualization.info Virtualization Industry Radar has been updated accordingly.

Server virtualization vs OS partitioning

As long as virtualization hits more companies, these start wondering differences between different approaches. Is not trying to compare apples with oranges, is more trying to recognize most effective solution for a specific task. It’s normal customers look for point of comparison, some focusing on perfomances while others on features set.

Who tried so far to compare most popular representatives of both approaches, typically VMware products on a side and SWsoft Virtuozzo on the other, failed greatly, because at the end of the day you are still matching apples with oranges.
Anyway the need to understand is more important than the risk to fail, so new comparisons are popping up.

Tim Freeman, starting from the announce of KVM inclusion in Linux kernel, does a notable research on the topic and highlights a very interesting paper from Princeton University, titled Container-based Operating System Virtualization: A Scalable, High-performance Alternative to Hypervisors, where Linux VServer is compared with Xen:

Hypervisors, popularized by Xen and VMware, are quickly becoming commodity. They are appropriate for many usage scenarios, but there are scenarios that require system virtualization with high degrees of both efficiency and isolation. Examples include HPC clusters, the Grid, hosting centers, and PlanetLab.

We present an alternative to hypervisors that is better suited for such scenarios. This approach is a synthesis of prior work on resource containers and security containers applied to general-purpose, time-shared operating systems. Examples of such container-based systems include Solaris 10, Virtuozzo for Linux, and Linux VServers.

This paper describes the design and implementation of Linux Vservers.as a representative instance of container-based systems.and contrasts it with Xen, both architecturally and in terms of effiency and support for isolation.

Read the whole paper here.

Parallels Desktop reaches beta 2

Parallels continues its ride towards new release of Desktop for Mac OS.
In less than 1 month since last beta 1 build, the beta 2 (build 3094) is already available and offers some new features:

  • USB 2.0 support
  • CD/DVD burning capabilities support
  • Parallels Transporter beta 2 bundle

Enroll for the beta here.

Meanwhile VMware finally enters competition, releasing first public beta of codename Fusion.

Virtual Iron partners with Fabric7

Quoting from the Virtual Iron official announcement:

Virtual Iron Software and Fabric7 Systems today announced a new business agreement and partnership that will help joint customers maximize the capabilities of Fabric7’s new family of enterprise servers with Virtual Iron’s virtualization and management software solutions.
Under the agreement, Fabric7 will bundle Virtual Iron’s virtual infrastructure management software with its high-performance, AMD Opteron™ processor-based servers, to provide customers with maximum flexibility and reliability when deploying and managing enterprise-class applications in a virtual environment.

The companies have also agreed to develop joint product offerings for users and to collaborate on marketing and sales…

JumpBox joins XenSource Technology Partner Program

After adhering VMware Technology Alliance Partner Program last month, JumpBox also makes a deal with competitor XenSource:

JumpBox, a new virtual appliance development service, announced today that it has joined the XenSource Technology Partner Program.

This program offers JumpBox access to XenSource’s betas and pre-release products, giving JumpBox an advantage on ensuring compatibility of its appliances with XenSource’s product family…