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VMWare Refreshes Virtual Machine Environment

VMWare Inc. Monday unveiled an updated version of its virtual machine environment, VMWare Workstation 3.0, which incorporates support for Microsoft Corp.'s new Windows XP operating system among other improvements.

VMWare lets an IT organization deploy a virtual machine “guest” operating system (OS) on a “host” operating system such as Windows NT 4.0, Windows 2000 or any of several distributions of Linux.

Because VMWare functions as a virtual machine host for a guest operating system, it has traditionally been constrained by the performance issues that attend hardware emulation and the virtualization of system resources.

While he wouldn’t go so far as to claim that Workstation 3.0 altogether eliminates these problems, VMWare Workstation product marketing director Eric Horschman says that it corrects many of the issues –- such as poor mouse performance and quirky video problems – that plagued earlier versions of the software.

“What we ended up doing was making it a lot more Windows-friendly, so that it looks like a Windows application and it’s a lot easier to use. It’s a much more pleasurable experience on the Windows side, especially, but also on the Linux side,” Horschman says.

In addition to support for Windows XP -– which was actually supported in version 2.0.4 of VMWare Workstation, as well -– Workstation 3.0 includes a number of other enhancements, as well. Its predecessor, VMWare 2.0, lacked support for USB and couldn’t manage virtual disk “partitions” larger than 2 GB in size. With base installs of Windows 2000 clocking in at around 1 GB in size, and with Windows XP pushing the envelope still further, the restriction severely limited Workstation 2.0’s usefulness in some environments, Horschman allows.

Workstation 3.0 supports USB devices, IDE hard disk partitions as large as 128 GB in size and SCSI disk partitions of up to 256 GB. Workstation 3.0 also features what Horschman describes as a “one-click” VMWare Tools install facility. In previous versions of Workstation, he explains, installing VMWare Tools – which provide enhanced networking and display adapter support, among other features – was an onerous affair that typically required the creation of a floppy disk.

“We spent a lot of time worrying about usability and what we ended up with was a much more useable product,” says John Krystynak, director of marketing for VMWare. “We’ve added a bunch of features, things like USB support, NAT networking support, DVD[-ROM] support, and we’ve made everything a lot faster and better to use.”

VMWare is positioning Workstation 3.0 as a tool that customers can use to safely test Windows XP in their environments before deploying it. The company says that although about 70 percent of its customers have traditionally used VMWare as a sandbox solution for enterprise development projects, an increasing number of IT organizations are deploying it to support training programs or to assist sales teams.

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.

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