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Virtualization Education Operating Systems Windows IT Linux

Ask Slashdot: Which Virtual Machine Software For a Beginner? 361

An anonymous reader writes "I am getting ready to start learning the use of virtual machines. What VM software would you recommend? This is for personal use. It would be good to run both Windows VMs and Linux VMs. Early use would be maintaining multiple Windows installs using only one desktop computer with plenty of cores and memory. I would be starting with a Windows host, but probably later switching to a Linux host after I learn more about it. Free is good, but reliability and ease of use are better. What is your preferred choice for a VM beginner? VMware? Xen? VirtualBox? Something else?" It may also be helpful if you can recommend particular VM software for particular uses, or provide some insight on different hosting options.
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Ask Slashdot: Which Virtual Machine Software For a Beginner?

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  • VMware is very easy (Score:5, Informative)

    by blandcramration ( 2636571 ) on Friday November 09, 2012 @07:29PM (#41937253)
    I honestly just used VMware for the first time today but it was very easy to use and booted up in seconds. You can add virtual drives with a click and if you are anywhere familiar with the operating system you are attempting to emulate, I'd say it's a safe bet. Maybe the community can offer a few free options for you to try out as well.
  • VirtualBox (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 09, 2012 @07:33PM (#41937305)

    VirtualBox is the best for a beginner. User-friendly GUI, sane defaults, it Just Works.

  • VirtualBox Certainly (Score:5, Informative)

    by mqhiller ( 688190 ) on Friday November 09, 2012 @07:33PM (#41937307)
    Easy to set up (I walked my brother through it over the phone) easy to use (ditto) and fairly full featured.
  • Virtualbox (Score:5, Informative)

    by BuypolarBear ( 2713397 ) on Friday November 09, 2012 @07:33PM (#41937315)

    Virtualbox is pretty reliable and includes acceleration on 64 bit systems along with an extremely simple to use GUI and easy to install guest additions that allow your display to easily scale. It's the one thing from Oracle that I actually use and recommend to others. For your requirements, it's licensed under the GPL v2 and works on Windows, Linux, and Mac.

  • Beginner? (Score:4, Informative)

    by jythie ( 914043 ) on Friday November 09, 2012 @07:34PM (#41937319)
    VMWare is probably the best beginner VM package due to its documentation, support, and polish. But as others have said, they are all pretty good.
  • Virtualbox (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 09, 2012 @07:36PM (#41937345)

    To start, virtualbox.
    Its free, supports linux and windows and freebsd. (And Solaris!! Oh boy!!!) It's also easy to use and works well. For desktop use I'd choose it over whatever desktop product vmware is selling, even if I got it for free.

    Microsoft has a free desktop visualization product too but it's documentation is sparse, and it has wierd limitations. It also pretty much only runs windows.

    Vmware ESX is a damn nice piece of software, but it required dedicated hardware (hypervisor only! Local console is config and diagnostics only. Can't see your VM's on the local monitor) They have a free version and I use it for everything from my router software to windows instances to a minecraft server.. All on one phisical machine.

    There's a free version of hyper-v (The microsoft coutnerpart to esx) but it's setup is downright difficult if you're not in a domain environment.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 09, 2012 @07:37PM (#41937357)
    I second vmware if it is anything windows/linux related. Oracle's stuff is too unstable and MS just integrates well with windows. For everything else, kvm is more than enough and the best value.
  • Re:What the fuck (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 09, 2012 @07:37PM (#41937361)


      Really? A discussion is not required for this

  • by PraiseBob ( 1923958 ) on Friday November 09, 2012 @07:41PM (#41937397)
    VirtualBox is the easiest free option to get started.
    It can run inside a host OS, so you don't need a bare metal install, and don't need a web interface to use it.
    It has easy to install and operate clients in Windows and Linux (can't speak for Mac).
    It can build VM's easily. (VMWare free options cannot create VM's)

    If you are willing to spend a little money, the VMWare Workstation is more powerful and offers similar features to those above, but better resource management in general.
  • Hyper-v in Windows 8 (Score:5, Informative)

    by sofakingon ( 610999 ) * on Friday November 09, 2012 @07:43PM (#41937427)
    I've been working with VMware since ESX 3.5. It's still my virtualization platform of choice, but on my desktop, I now run Hyper-v. It's included as a role in Windows 8, and is painless to install and configure.
  • by SilentChasm ( 998689 ) on Friday November 09, 2012 @07:58PM (#41937567)

    Your knowledge of VMware is a bit out of date.

    VMware player can create virtual machines (and has for some time) and it is still free. It works well on Windows and Linux hosts.

  • Re:What the fuck (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 09, 2012 @08:03PM (#41937611)

    Reminds me of all the Indians on software dev forums asking for questions that could be determined with 5 minutes of work, or worse, Googling. This thread will feature no consensus and probably will do more harm to an opinion than good.

  • by DaveAtFraud ( 460127 ) on Friday November 09, 2012 @08:23PM (#41937863) Homepage Journal

    VMware tends to be fussy about the hardware. I had a non-descript Athlon dual core that ran VMware just fine but lacked horsepower and wa maxed out on RAM at 4GB. I decided to buy a 6 core Athlon, new motherboard and 16 GB of RAM. VMware installed just fine but the clock drifted all over the place (several seconds per minute). Finally gave up on VMware and went Xen. Xen worked just fine but lacked all of the nice management tools and virtual networking stuff that VMware had. SIGH.

    Also, it will only install if you have a supported network card in your target box. Check the hardware requirements.

    If you want to try VMware, there is a free version: http://www.vmware.com/products/vsphere-hypervisor/overview.html [vmware.com]

    Oh yeah, one other downside of VMware is the management console only runs on Windoze (at least when I was using it about a year or so ago). You will still need a separate, standalone Windows box


  • It used to be hard (Score:4, Informative)

    by dbIII ( 701233 ) on Friday November 09, 2012 @08:28PM (#41937923)
    Now it isn't.
    All of the above work well and stuff like virtualbox is a free download away.
    In some cases I've migrated live systems to virtual with nothing more than clonezilla and virtualbox on what must have been close to the default settings.
  • Re:VMware player (Score:5, Informative)

    by Golden_Rider ( 137548 ) * on Friday November 09, 2012 @08:42PM (#41938083)

    The free hypervisor is here: http://www.vmware.com/products/vsphere-hypervisor/overview.html [vmware.com]

    You'll need a license key, which you can also get (for free of course) on that website.

  • by Gerzel ( 240421 ) <brollyferret.gmail@com> on Friday November 09, 2012 @08:58PM (#41938261) Journal

    VMware is great. Though I've mostly used Virtualbox. For most personal uses VBox does things fairly well and is free. There are several other offerings out there. Try the free ones find one you like is what I'd recommend.

  • by danomac ( 1032160 ) on Friday November 09, 2012 @09:53PM (#41938733)

    vSphere/ESXi is not the type of hypervisor he is seeking. It takes complete control over the hardware and it is picky on hardware, for an example it will not work with Realtek network cards. There is a HCL that you can refer to to get best results. I have built a whitebox ESXi hypervisor by replacing the network card on a desktop machine, and using a standard sata controller.

    For what he's looking for, vmware-server or vmware-workstation is recommended as both run on top of an existing OS. I remember vmware-server being free, I'm not sure about vmware-workstation.

  • Re:Virtualbox (Score:4, Informative)

    by Fred Ferrigno ( 122319 ) on Friday November 09, 2012 @09:58PM (#41938777)

    I ran a command line tool to increase the size of the disk image, but this didn't show up as extra disk space inside the OS.

    Likely this only increased the size of the virtual disk, but not the partition that the OS lives on. Partition resizing is file-system-dependent as it requires understanding the FS layout. gparted can do the job if you boot from a live CD, but it'd be simpler to just start over since the OS is screwed up anyway.

    BTW, VirtualBox defaults to dynamically sized disks that only take up as much physical space as is actually used by the guest OS. The allocation size is more of a maximum size, so you can safely set it higher than you think you'll need and not waste space.

  • Re:VirtualBox (Score:3, Informative)

    by martiniturbide ( 1203660 ) on Friday November 09, 2012 @10:09PM (#41938857) Homepage Journal
    VirtualBox runs OS/2 as guest!!! that's a must for VM engine :)
  • Re:VirtualBox (Score:3, Informative)

    by DrHappyAngry ( 1373205 ) on Friday November 09, 2012 @10:58PM (#41939251)
    Virtualbox is a great starting point since he's looking for something to run on windows. I have found it's performance to be lacking, but it's a good way to cut your teeth. Once you cut your teeth on the concepts of virtualization and get a bit of Linux experience, move on to something that can run on a headless machine and save resources. Virtualbox can do that, but it's actually a bigger headache to setup in headless mode than kvm or xen. KVM is super easy to set up on most distros, and there's some great guides on howtoforge.net. The trickiest part about setting up most of the hypervisors on Linux is creating a bridged network interface, which is only necessary to get the machines out of nat mode and give them IPs on the public network. It's still not that hard to set up the bridged interface, it's just that the rest of the set up is so ridiculously easy, just apt-get/yum intsall the packages with virt-manager to manage it all and you're set. At least in my situation KVM guests required less resources to get the same performance as a virtualbox guest. It wasn't too hard to convert a virtual box VM to a qcow image KVM could use, either, so you're not locked into one hypervisor.
  • by LordLimecat ( 1103839 ) on Saturday November 10, 2012 @02:31AM (#41940261)

    Virtualbox is a nice entry hypervisor, and certainly if youre brand new start there.... but I wouldnt do anything production on it. I have had upgrades render VMs unusable, though with a downgrade and substantial effort I was able to restore them. Virtualbox has the basics, but it has its bugs. Using it for a few years before moving to Workstation will help you to appreciate when a hypervisor works correctly :)

    Its also worth mentioning that if you go to Windows 8, you have Hyper-V, which I understand has started to suck a lot less in version 3.

  • by Clsid ( 564627 ) on Saturday November 10, 2012 @03:15AM (#41940427)

    I disagree. VirtualBox is not unstable. In fact, I think it is perfect for a beginner. It is free and if you grab Gentoo Linux, you would be learning a lot of just about everything. After you are done with VirtualBox you should really get into kernel hypervisors. That's about it. No vmware needed, or paying for software in the learning process.

  • by mitzampt ( 2002856 ) on Saturday November 10, 2012 @05:28AM (#41940873)
    And I disagree with you. I've been using VirtualBox a lot in the last 3 years and it's come a long way but it has a lot of rough edges. I agree it's really useful for a beginner, especially when you're unsure about an investment, and a good path to specialized solutions, but you can't ignore the fact that it crashes more than VMware. Take my word for it.
  • by Mark of the North ( 19760 ) on Saturday November 10, 2012 @10:52AM (#41942159)

    VMWare works right out of the box with no user manual even needed. That's already more than can be said for any of the competition.

    Not so sure about that last sentence there.

    I trained a new hire to use VirtualBox on an Ubuntu 12.04 box this week. He had just about zero experience with virtualization. Basically my instructions were to have installation ISOs for whatever OS he wants to run virtualized and to apt-get install virtualbox. He then set everything up on his own and only asked for help when it came to setting up a virtual network. I told him he should first figure out cloning. A few minutes later we were back on the virtual network. My own experience a couple of years ago was similar. In both cases, we had the manual handy, but never used it.

    My proficiency with KVM/libvirt took more effort. But virt-manager makes it pretty straight-forward. Our KVM/libvirt virtualization system has several host nodes running a few dozen guests with storage on a SAN/NAS (it does both). This wasn't painful to do at all. An automatic backups/snapshot system has been more challenging, but that's mostly just because we want to minimize interruption of the guest (just suspend the guest, grab an LVM snapshot, wake the guest, copy the snapshot, free the snapshot) and due to our larger guests being about 200GB in size. Storing versions of files that large, and moving them around, requires delta compression. (Hint: Use xdelta3 before copying the data off-site.)

    We also played with Proxmox a few months ago. A summer student had all of the above (except for backups) working in two days. Confusion over whether the licensing was really free, the fact that it is its own distribution (a double-edged sword for sure), and the fact that configuration of aggregate network links (LACP) was really goofy, all kept us from adopting it. Too bad, being able to switch a guest from one host to another in real-time while viewing the guest's display with only a tiny pause, was a really neat trick.

    If I can do the above mixed in with all of my other responsibilities (as a school authority director of tech), anyone can.

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