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Several common virtual machine software

2018-09-02 ONE NET WIKI

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A virtual machine (VM) is an operating system (OS) or application environment that is installed on software, which imitates dedicated hardware. The end user has the same experience on a virtual machine as they would have on dedicated hardware.

Virtual machines allow you to emulate additional operating systems within their own individual window, right from your existing computer.

The beauty of VM software is that you can run a Windows instance on macOS or vice versa, as well as a number of other different OS combinations that include Chrome OS, Linux, Solaris and more.

When utilizing application-based VM software, also known as a hypervisor, your computer's operating system is commonly referred to as the host. The secondary operating system that is run within the VM interface is often called the guest.

Several common virtual machine software are as follows for your reference.


1. VMware Workstation

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With almost twenty years on the market, VMware Workstation is often looked upon as the industry standard when it comes to virtual machine applications - with its robust set of functions covering a wide breadth of virtualization needs.

VMware Workstation permits advanced 3D solutions by supporting DirectX 10 and OpenGL 3.3, eliminating image and video degradation within your VMs even when running graphics-intensive applications. The software allows for virtual machine open standards, providing the ability to both create and run VMs from competing vendors within the VMware product.

VMware's snapshots let you set various rollback points for testing, and its cloning system makes deploying multiple instances of a similar VM a breeze - allowing you to choose between fully isolated duplicates or linked clones which rely partially on the original in an effort to save a notable amount of hard drive space.

The package also integrates seamlessly with vSphere, VMware's cloud-based platform, resulting in easy administration of all VMs in your company's data center remotely from your local machine.

There are two versions of the application:

Workstation Player: 

Workstation Player is free of charge for personal use but restricted from commercial use.

Workstation Player allows you to create new VMs and supports over 200 guest operating systems. It also allows for file sharing between host and guest and features all of the graphical advantages mentioned above, as well as support for 4K displays.

Workstation Pro

You'll need to purchase VMware Workstation Pro Workstation Pro when you run more than one VM at a time, access many of the aforementioned abilities like cloning, snapshots, and complex networking, or create and manage encrypted virtual machines.

Compatible with the following host platforms:

  • Most 64-bit Linux distributions

  • Windows 7 and above (64-bit only)

  • Windows Server 2008 R2 and above


2. VMware Fusion

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As VMware Workstation is created for Linux and Windows, VMware Fusion is created for Mac platform.

Not unlike VMware Workstation, the software's basic version is free and intended for personal use only, while Fusion Pro can be purchased for business purposes or individuals requiring access to the advanced feature sets.

Fusion includes Unity Mode, which hides the Windows desktop interface and lets you launch and run Windows applications right from your Dock as if they were native to macOS.

Both the free and paid versions of Fusion also provide the option of running Windows from your Boot Camp partition as a guest VM instance, eliminating the need for a reboot when you want to switch back and forth.

Compatible with the following host platforms:

  • macOS/OS X 10.9 and above


3. Oracle VM VirtualBox

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First released in 2007, this open source hypervisor is available for both home and enterprise use at no charge under the GPLv2 license.

VirtualBox supports a wide array of guest operating systems, a list that features all versions of Windows ranging from XP to 10 as well as Windows NT and Server 2003.

It allows you to run VMs with Linux 2.4 and above, Solaris and OpenSolaris in addition to OpenBSD.

You can also run macOS in a VM using VirtualBox, although this will only work if your host operating system is also on a Mac. This is mainly due to the fact that Apple does not allow their operating system to function on non-Apple hardware.

VirtualBox supports the ability to run multiple guest windows simultaneously and also provides a level of portability where a VM created on one host can be easily transferred to another that may have a completely different operating system.

Compatible with the following host platforms:

  • Most Linux distributions

  • macOS/OS X 10.9 and above

  • Solaris 10 (U10+) and above

  • Windows Vista SP1+, Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 10


4. Parallels Desktop

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Parallels grants the ability to seamlessly run Windows and Mac applications side-by-side.

Based upon your primary use for Windows, whether it be design, development, gameplay, or something else, Parallels optimizes system and hardware resources for a Windows experience that often feels as if you're on an actual PC.

Parallels offers most features that you'd expect in a paid VM product, as well as many specific to the Mac such as being able to open websites in IE or Edge directly from your Safari browser and Windows alerts displaying in the Mac Notification Center. Files can be quickly dragged between the two operating systems, as well as all clipboard content. Also included with Parallels is dedicated cloud storage space that can be shared across both macOS and Windows.

A common misconception about Parallels is that it can only be used for Windows in a guest VM, while it actually permits you to run Chrome OS, Linux and even a second instance of macOS.

There are three different versions of Parallels:

The Basic Edition

Targets those who are switching from PC to Mac for the first time, as well as the everyday user that has a need to utilize Windows applications on a regular basis. It contains the basic toolset along with 8GB of VRAM and 4 vCPUs for each guest VM and costs a one-time fee of $79.99.

The Pro Edition

Aimed at software developers, testers, and other power users, integrates with Microsoft Visual Studio in addition to other well-known dev and QA tools such as Jenkins. Round-the-clock email and phone support is provided, along with advanced networking tools and the ability to utilize business cloud services. With a formidable 64GB vRAM and 16 vCPUs for every VM, Parallels Desktop Pro Edition is available for $99.99 per year.

The Business Edition

Includes all of the above along with centralized administration and management tools and a volume license key that allows you to roll out and control Parallels instances across entire departments and organizations. The overall cost of Parallels Desktop Business Edition is dependent on the number of seat licenses you require.

Compatible with the following host platforms:

  • macOS/OS X 10.10 and above


5. QEMU

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QEMU is frequently the hypervisor of choice for Linux users, based on its zero-dollar price tag and easy-to-master full-system emulation tools. The open source emulator simulates an impressive range of hardware peripherals, using dynamic translation for ideal performance.

Running KVM virtual machines when using QEMU as a virtualizer can result in what is essentially native-level performance on the right hardware, making you almost forget that you're using a VM.

Administrative privileges are only required in certain scenarios with QEMU, such as when you need to access your USB devices from within a guest VM. This is somewhat of a rarity with this type of software, adding some pliability to the ways in which you can use it.

Custom builds of QEMU have also been created for macOS and Windows, although the majority of its user base tends to have Linux boxes as their host.

Compatible with the following host platforms:

  • Most Linux distributions

  • macOS (OS X 10.7 or above) via Homebrew package manager

  • 32-bit Windows and 64-bit Windows


6. Cloud-Based Virtual Machines

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Many well-known companies such as Amazon, Google and Microsoft have taken the concept of VMs and container instances to the cloud, allowing you to remotely access virtual machines that are hosted on the provider's own servers.

Some actually bill by the minute, letting you pay only for the time that you need, while others allow for full-scale networks to be designed, created and hosted on cloud-based servers.

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