Demystifying VMware’s desktop options

VmdesktopWhen it comes to running Virtual Machines (or creating, editing and managing them) on your desktop, there are several tools you can use. Some are free, others are paid-for software packages, and since a lot of folks use VMware for their server environments, they’re looking at VMware for their desktop virtualization as well.

VMware, for their part, has done quite a lot to create tools that allow you to do everything from just running a pre-configured VM on your desktop to full create/edit/manage tools. In some cases, you can just install ESX to your desktop hardware, but it is cumbersome due to hardware requirements, and is overkill for most desktop VM projects.

So, you decided you want a desktop VM suite that can give you all the tools you need, navigate to VMware’s website, and find they have more than one to choose from. Which is the right one for you?

VMware Player is designed for running VM’s created by others in a very limited capacity. Generally, it is used for demonstrating or trying out other technologies within a VM, and not for VM projects you’re managing yourself. I say this due to a few restrictions in the VM Player F.A.Q.:

– Non-commercial use only. This means that without proper authorization from VMware, you can’t use Player for any commercial use, so no using it to run business applications at work.

– No multi-snap, clone and other critical tools. Most of us want the ability to snap-back VM’s to a previous state or to quickly clone a VM for testing something new.

– No Teams or End-Point Security. Again, only critical if you’re planning on using the tool in a commercial environment, which you’re not going to be doing anyway due to the licensing restrictions.

So now that the free option is out of the way, which tools *should* you use for your desktop? That mostly depends on what OS you are running as your host machine:

Windows and Linux can use VMware Workstation.

OS X uses VMware Fusion.

Both of these products have support for running multiple VM’s in groups, snapshoting, cloning and import/export functions. VMware Fusion also has direct tie-ins to OS X that allow Windows apps to appear as if they’re part of the Mac desktop, which is handy for those of us on Apple’s platforms.

All three tools support a wide variety of guest OS’s, including Windows, various distributions of Linux, Chromium, and (in limited circumstances) OS X.

And that’s actually it! VMware has more desktop products (Like View and ACE), but these are designed for Virtual Desktop Infrastructure, not creating and running VM’s on a fully-fledged workstation or laptop with its own OS installed.

So, to sum up:

Non-Commercial light VM use: VM Player

Windows and Linux full-featured VM platform: VMware Workstation

Mac OS X (host) specific VM Platform: VMware Fusion

Have fun virtualizing on your desktops!

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