Virtualization Smackdown 2: Oracle VM VirtualBox 3.2 vs. VMWare Workstation 7.1 Welcome, True Believers.
Two years ago, we visited the subject of free desktop virtualization hypervisors. At the time, the two preferred free solutions were Sun’s xVM VirtualBox and and VMWare Server 2.0.
Things have changed quite a bit in the last two years. For starters, Sun no longer exists as an independent company — it’s now owned by Oracle.
VMWare, a division of EMC Corporation, decided to make some strategic changes along the lines of its free virtualization solutions by offering its enterprise-level hypervisor, ESX Server, in a free version, ESXi. This complicates things somewhat for the desktop virtualization user seeking a free solution, as ESX 3i requires a dedicated system.
While the company continues to maintain VMWare Server 2.0, its free hosted virtualization product, it has concentrated its desktop virtualization development efforts on VMWare Workstation, a $189.00 desktop virtualization software package.
A Release Candidate of Version 7.1 of VMWare Workstation was released very recently, on May 4. The Gold Code is expected to be released at the end of this month.
[Note: The build number of VMWare Workstation we downloaded is VMware-Workstation-Full-7.1.0-254807.x86_64.bundle, which would normally indicate that it is release code as it is lacking the "e.x.p." for "Experimental" in the version string from traditional VMWare beta releases. However, several people have pinged me and noted that this is a Release Candidate, not the released version]
VMWare Workstation is also complemented by VMWare Player, a stand-alone executable that allows you to “Play” operating systems created with the VMWare Workstation product. Therefore, you can download the evaluation version of VMWare Workstation 7.1 and after the evaluation period expires, you can continue to use your virtual machines on the “Player”.
[EDIT: It has been pointed out to me by VMWare's Public Relations firm, Outcast, that the latest version of Player, version 3.1, also currently in Release Candidate status, uses the same virtualization engine as Workstation 7.1 and now has the ability to create Virtual Machines. However, we did not test Player as part of this review.]
Oracle, having recently completed its acquisition of Sun, has continued to develop and introduce significant improvements in VirtualBox. Version 3.20, the first version to bear the Oracle logo, was also released this week.
With the latest releases of the two major desktop virtualization apps released at around the same time, which one reigns supreme? We thoroughly tested both on our Linux system and observed them for performance and usability. Here’s how they fared against each other.
What we tested on
For the purposes of testing the two software packages, we used a dual quad-core 2.7Ghz AMD Opteron workstation with 16GB of RAM, a GeForce 9800 1GB DDR3 graphics card and a 500GB SATA-2 hard disk. Our OS environment was Ubuntu LTS 10.04, 64-bit edition. Internet connectivity was an Optimum Ultra 100Mb cable modem link.
For the purposes of our tests and for limiting the scope of the review of both VirtualBox 3.20 and VMWare 7.1, I decided to concentrate on Windows XP and Windows 7 64-bit and 32-bit performance and usability under 64-bit Linux, otherwise there are far too many permutations to consider for host and guest operating systems.
For 32-bit VMs, we used 2 vCPUs and 4GB of RAM. For 64-bit VMs, we used 4 vCPUs and 4GB of RAM. For all benchmarks, we ran at 1024×768 resolution unless the benchmark software forced it down to a lower resolution.
This desire to test Windows virtualization on Linux exclusively was motivated by my recent switch to Linux as my primary operating environment, so be aware that performance of other host and guest OSes under your specific system may vary considerably.
Note that the requirements of both of VMWare Workstation and VirtualBox are well below that of the test system. You can comfortably run each software package on a dual-core 32-bit processor with as little as 2GB of system memory. However, it is recommended that you have at least a 4GB system and a 64-bit CPU if you are going to be virtualizing desktop operating systems with full GUIs.
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