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

By Serdar Yegulalp, InfoWorld |  Virtualization, virtualbox, VMware

The same sorts of things apply elsewhere. USB support in VirtualBox is limited to USB 2.0, whereas VMware Workstation can emulate USB 3.0. Also, while VirtualBox can connect to USB devices (such as cameras or scanners) on the host, it's far easier to get this feature working in VMware Workstation, and VirtualBox doesn't connect to and release hardware as reliably as VMware Workstation does.

In another vein: VirtualBox has a way to allow remote connections to VMs, but it uses a peculiar variation on Microsoft's Remote Desktop Protocol. It's rather odd that open source VirtualBox uses a twist on RDP, while the commercially licensed VMware Workstation uses VLC. (To be fair, the remote desktop support is one of VirtualBox's proprietary extensions.)

If VirtualBox has limitations like these, where does it shine? In lots of little ways, which do make up for many of its limitations. A given virtual machine can support up to 32 virtual CPU cores per machine, with the maximum depending on your host hardware's capabilities. On my test system (8 cores, 4 physical and 4 logical), VirtualBox exposed up to 16 for use with VMs. I also like the "execution cap" function, which lets you specify a hard limit for host CPU utilization -- a feature not explicitly provided by VMware Workstation.

VirtualBox's snapshotting and system cloning features include the ability to clone a VM from a shadow copy instead of a full duplicate.

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.


Originally published on InfoWorld |  Click here to read the original story.
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