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VirtualBox: The best virtualization program you've never heard of

Review -- Quick, name some virtualization programs that run on Linux.

Time's up.

If you're like most people, you probably named VMware or Xen first. Many of you probably know of one or more of the following: Parallels, QEMU, KVM, Virtuozzo and OpenVZ. However, few of you probably know about VirtualBox. And chances are if you know about VirtualBox 1.502, you're already running it because it manages the trifecta of being good, free and, sort of, open source.

Sort of? Here's how it works. InnoTek, a software company in Stuttgart, Germany, has released both a proprietary and a GPLv2 open-source version of the program. The VirtualBox OSE (open-source edition) has a subset of the features of the proprietary version.

VirtualBox OSE is not crippleware. It's as full-powered a virtualization program as you'll find today. What it's missing are additional features, not basic functionality. You can also use the proprietary version, without charge for personal and educational use and to evaluate it for possible business purchase.

The free, but proprietary, edition gives you a built-in RDP (Remote Desktop Protocol) server and USB port support. It also offers, to the best of my knowledge, the unique ability to use RDP to access remote USB devices from a local VM (virtual machine) and use local USB devices on a remote VM. It also supports the use of iSCSI network drives for use as virtual hard drives.

VirtualBox works on any PC with an x86 architecture. It also supports Intel's VT-x and AMD's AMD-V recently introduced hardware virtualization components. It does not, though, support either one by default. You must manually turn it on via the program's control center.

While VirtualBox itself is lean—it will only take up 30MB of room on your hard drive—like any virtualization program, to use it successfully you'll need multiple gigabytes of disk for the virtualized operating system and its files. In addition, you'll need enough RAM for your base operating system and every VM instance. For example, to run Linux as a host with XP as a guest VM, you'd need at least a gigabyte of RAM. For Vista as a guest, you'll need at least 2GB and so on.

The company claims that VirtualBox can run as a host on 32-bit Windows, Linux and Mac OS X Tiger. The developers are currently working, with some success, on supporting 64-bit operating system hosts.

VirtualBox supports all versions of Windows from Windows 98 on up as guest VMs. It also supports OpenBSD, OS/2 and some versions of Solaris. Generally speaking, all 2.4 and 2.6 Linux kernels work, although the company recommends 2.6.13 or above for better performance. There is one exception, though. Linuxes that use Linux kernels 2.6.18 to contain a race condition that can cause VM boot. Not sure what kernel you're using? Open up a terminal window and run the following command:

uname –r

And that will show you which Linux kernel you're running.

Read the rest of the article from DesktopLinux, here.

Published Thursday, November 08, 2007 7:54 PM by David Marshall
hubab » VirtualBox: The best virtualization program you've never heard of - (Author's Link) - November 9, 2007 6:40 AM
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