Linux in Government: VMware Workstation 5
In last week's article, we discussed virtualization and its role in reducing server sprawl. We included VMware server as one of the products used to virtualize a data center. VMware also sells a workstation with a well-established reputation. This week we take a look at VMware Workstation 5.0.
In the past, many analysts have given kudos to VMware workstation for aiding people who want to run different operating systems for development and testing. Some even have claimed that the product accelerates application deployment. Similar suggestions abound about VMware workstation allowing Windows users to play around with Linux without having to format their hard drives.
Journalists who rely on VMware to evaluate and write about Linux on their Windows laptops, however, will never understand the power and sophistication of Linux. VMware Workstation has many uses, but it is not a substitute for a native Linux installation on bare hardware. Reviewers who practice using VMware to evaluate Linux do themselves and the community a great disservice.
Still, VMware workstation has a value proposition and in certain instances, it can give Linux users some help. For example, in previous articles, I have used the example of a major telecommunications company that migrated to Microsoft Exchange while forgetting that 30% of their users had UNIX and Linux desktops. The CIO's solution included buying 30,000 laptops for $4,000 a piece, simply to run Microsoft Outlook.
Ultimately, the company reprovisioned those laptops and added Citrix servers and VMware to the engineers UNIX and Linux workstations, respectively. Although still an expensive proposition, the company realized a considerable cost savings by trading the laptops for VMware and Windows.
VMware Workstation is a $200 software application that creates virtual machines and allows someone to use some Linux or Microsoft Windows desktops to host other operating systems. For Linux users, it provides a way to run Windows on their workstations provided they have an acceptable distribution. According to VMware, Workstation version 5 runs on:
SUSE LINUX Pro 9.2, SUSE LINUX Enterprise Server 9.0, Mandrake Linux 10, Windows Server 2003 SP1 beta (experimental support), and Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4.0.
On 64-bit systems, host operating system support for 64-bit versions of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4.0, Red Hat Enterprise Linux 3.0, SUSE LINUX Enterprise Server 9, SUSE LINUX Enterprise Server 9 SP1, and SUSE LINUX Enterprise Server 8. Experimental host operating system support for 64-bit versions of Windows Server 2003 SP1 and Windows XP.
To view all the supported Linux operating systems, you should visit this link. VMware supports older Linux hosts in addition to those mentioned above.
Keep in mind you might feel confused by the differences in the release notes and the specifications on the VMware Web site. If you believe the Linux hosts available are limited to the ones listed as newly supported in the release notes, you may miss out on the ability to run older Linux distributions as hosts. Figure 1 shows a screenshot of VMware Workstation 5 installed on a Novell Linux Desktop (NDL9).
I had some difficulty finding a suitable host for VMware workstation. Although the release notes claim that the software runs on SUSE Pro 9.2, it didn't. In fact, I kept getting this error message:
None of the pre-built vmmon modules for VMware Workstation is suitable for your running kernel. Do you want this program to try to build the vmmon module for your system (you need to have a C compiler installed on your system)? CC [M] /tmp/vmware-config1/vmmon-only/linux/driver.o /bin/sh: scripts/basic/fixdep: No such file or directory make: *** [/tmp/vmware-config1/vmmon-only/linux/driver.o] Error 1 make: *** [_module_/tmp/vmware-config1/vmmon-only] Error 2 make: Leaving directory `/usr/src/linux-184.108.40.206-21.7' make: *** [vmmon.ko] Error 2 make: Leaving directory `/tmp/vmware-config1/vmmon-only' Unable to build the vmmon module.
I decided to try SLES 9 in the form of Novell Linux Desktop and installed it without any updates. VMware did install on the original version. Afterward, I updated NDL 9 and tested VMware Workstation 5 and it continued to work.
You also may find some confusion on the VMware site regarding which Linux distributions can operate as "guest" systems and which operate as hosts. Just remember the host provides space for the guest.
Guest operating systems include:
Mandrake Linux 8.2, 9.0, 9.2, 10
Red Hat Linux 7.0, 7.1, 7.2, 7.3, 8.0, 9.0
Red Hat Enterprise Linux AS/ES/WS 4.0 (32-bit)
Red Hat Enterprise Linux AS/ES/WS 2.1, 3.0
Red Hat Enterprise Linux Advanced Server 2.1
SUSE Linux 7.3, 8.0, 8.1, 8.2, 9.0, 9.1, 9.2
SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 7, 7 patch 2, 8, 9, 9 SP1
Turbolinux 7.0, Enterprise Server 8, Workstation 8
Novell Linux Desktop 9
Sun Java Desktop System (JDS) 2
Because I run Linux as my host, I'm not exactly thrilled by the options provided by VMware 5--users have two Mandrake options as well as older SUSE and Red Hat and RHEL options from which to chose. You can find no Debian Linux options, and Fedora isn't supported. The Linux guests lack some excitement too. A glimpse of the list shows that VMware hasn't provided the journalists any state-of-the-art Linux distributions about which they can write.
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