VMware

Sneak peaks on the Mac

[Updated with more reviews below.]

Scott Lowe and Bob Roudebush and give us two views on the beta of The Product Codenamed VMware Fusion on the Mac:

Scott Lowe liked the performance:

I had a fully functional installation of Windows XP Professional up and
running in less than 15 minutes.  (I kid you not.)  The installation
was faster than any physical/non-virtual installation I’d performed.  I
was astounded.  While Windows XP was installing, I flipped over and
surfed the web, checked e-mail, helped my wife with some font designs,
and checked my RSS subscriptions—all without any
noticeable performance impact.  (In fact, the Windows XP virtual
machine is still running right now as I post this blog entry.)

 

Bob also liked the product. It was able to handle everything he threw at it — Windows XP, SUSE Linux 10, a downloaded virtual appliance — and he liked the attention to detail. He did wonder if the product was too simplified:

From what I have seen with “Fusion”, it’s this use case that the VMware development team has focused on in building the product. Instead of building a very complicated, console-looking application with lots of knobs, levers and switches, they opted for a very “Mac” feel. “Fusion” has a very simple UI (screenshot to left) that removes much of the complexity of VM management. The creation of a new virtual machine is achieved through a very simple wizard which guides the user through configuring the virtual machine and setting options such as memory usage, processor count, disk size, etc. …

I wonder, though, that for a lot of potential users of “Fusion” that
the interface doesn’t provide enough access to the product’s
functionality. I know many IT administrators and developers that have
“made the switch” to Mac, for example. They will want to run Windows
and other OSes on OS X using products like Fusion. They will also want
to be able to leverage some of the more advanced capabilities of the
product without resorting to editing configuration files. When I
downloaded a virtual appliance from VMTN,
for example, it required some modification of the Ubuntu virtual
machine’s VMX configuration file to make the ethernet connection work
properly.

We’ve been keeping quiet on purpose until now, but now that we’re in a private
beta, feel free to link to any other reviews that are out there in the
comments of this post. Substantive comments from beta testers on the
products should probably be left in the appropriate newsgroup to ensure
the product team sees them. You can register for future beta phases here.

Update: Powerpedia likes the feature set:

Drag and drop between guest and host was also awesome looking.  Parallels
has nothing like that. The VMware product also appears to have better
USB support. Using the iSight camera in the VM was nifty but with iChat
and Skype on the Mac natively i
don’t know what i would use it for. Well maybe the Cisco video
conferencing software with Call Manager so it might be worth it. If i
can get my Treo 700P to sync to the
VM on my Mac with Fusion i will be completely sold. I cannot get
Parallels to do that even with the latest build.

I will say that i am a bit biased for the VMware product (just
because of the interoperability with their other products), so unless
Fusion really sucks i will be using it. That doesn’t mean that i won’t
be critical of it if i have issues with it!

 

Comments

0 comments have been added so far

  1. Yep I agree, I saw Fusion in action and it’s wimpy… no flexibility. The only reason I’d use VMware over Parallels is functionality. 64-bit support, virtual SMP, snapshots, that’s all it has over Parallels really. VMware Fusion’s inflexible wizards make it useless to me, when Parallels offers similar configuration routine that I came to expect on VMware Workstation for Windows and Linux. For the cost, Fusion is not worth it in any way shape or form, if it costs the same as workstation, it should allow the configurability VMware users have come to expect. Automatic changes to fix paths when importing virtual machines should come standard, so there is that nice compatibility with VMTN machines, even if they came from a Linux VM, cd-rom should convert to /dev/diskX, D:, or /dev/hdc, depending on what system it is imported to, and it should have the ability to manage snapshots via a GUI which shows thumbnails of the console on each snapshot.
    You guys need to get that public beta out asap, it’s killing me having to wait. Expect a lot of negative comments, because the forceful debugging and logging is gonna deter all the Parallels users who love the feature-filled and must faster virtualization I doubt that VMware will be able to compete with even without the debugging enabled. Since Parallels dedicates a core, it can use the core extensively without performance degridation caused by additional instruction mapping of memory and cpu operation, and this could be inverse for customers with higher end boxes with high end Woodcrest enabled Mac Pros and gobs of ram who like the virtual SMP.

  2. I signed up for the VMware Fusion on OS X a couple of weeks ago. Finally got around to trying to put in a version of Windows XP Home this morning. Everything seemed to be going fine, but during the “finalizing installation” process, it slowed to a crawl. The estimated 8 minute setup has dragged on for the last 5 hours. It is weird because there is plenty of ram left over, and the processors are not being taxed either.

  3. Peter, that kind of report should go to the VMTN Forum for the beta test. There the product team can help you directly.
    The location of the forum should be in the beta materials you received. Thanks for helping with this beta test.

  4. The key thing to keep in mind (at this point, at least) is that it *is* still a beta product. Making comparisons of performance against a shipping product isn’t really fair, since the VMware developers haven’t yet taken their turn optimizing performance. John’s absolutely right–let’s judge the final product on its merits.
    As an aside, I wasn’t aware that Parallels dedicated a CPU core to the VM–in my opinion, this will give VMware a big advantage over Parallels in that VMware can leverage the extensive experience and knowledge they have in efficient CPU scheduling to allow both the guest (when applicable) and the host to take full advantage of all available CPU cores.

  5. How does one get in on the beta? I signed up at the form on the main site months ago, and I haven’t seen anything from VMware since… I’d love to be involved in testing this – it looks like a great step forward!

  6. Hi Tony. The beta signup is the way to go. As we add more people to the beta, you will eventually be notified. As you might guess, this is a hot one, so we are trying to open the floodgates gradually so we can manage the feedback productively. Sorry to keep you waiting!

  7. James,
    > VMware Fusion’s inflexible wizards make it useless to me
    That is the very purpose of an alpha version: we give you something to toy with, and you give us your feedback, so we can deliver a final product you like.
    > For the cost, Fusion is not worth it in any way shape or form, if it costs the same as workstation,
    VMware has not made any official statement on the cost of Fusion yet.
    > it should allow the configurability VMware users have come to expect.
    It is sometimes hard to reconciliate with the simplicity and ease-of-use Mac users have come to expect.
    > You guys need to get that public beta out asap, it’s killing me having to wait.
    We committed to deliver a public beta by the end of year 2006. Your wait will soon be over.
    > Expect a lot of negative comments, because the forceful debugging and logging is gonna deter all the Parallels users who love the feature-filled and must faster virtualization
    The forceful debugging and logging during the beta program is all about providing a high-quality final product.
    VMware does not play the vaporware game. Since the company’s inception, the company has consistently under-promised and over-delivered. We have no reason to believe that this time it should be different.
    > I doubt that VMware will be able to compete with even without the debugging enabled.
    Have you actually benchmarked VMware vs Parallels on Windows or Linux? Maybe you should, it might convince you… We have no reason to believe that benchmark results will differ significantly on Mac OS.
    > Since Parallels dedicates a core, it can use the core extensively without performance degridation caused by additional instruction mapping of memory and cpu operation
    First, there is no way to dedicate a core on Mac OS. There is no CPU affinity API exported to user or kernel code.
    Second, dedicating a core is orthogonal to additional instruction mapping.
    Thanks for sharing your feedback and concerns.

  8. Parallels is doing a pretty good job allowing Mac users to run XP. It would indeed be a great pity if VMware’s Mac solution aimed only at the same market – not satisfying the more technical user base with the functionality associated with Workstation.
    Please don’t dumb it down – Mac users aren’t dumb so please don’t treat us that way! 😉
    Cheers,
    aid

  9. I agree!.. Mac Users are not dumb!.
    I was so excited about this software but now feel like these programmers think we are little kids plaing with our tinker toys.
    Back to Parallels I Guess….
    Keep it splmie or us sutipd MAC usres wlil get cnofeusd. Hekood on pcionhs wekord for me.

  10. I’m not on the beta (yet!) so I haven’t played with this, nor do I know what VMWare is planning on providing, but as a hard-core Workstation user, I can state that I really really really want the multi-snapshot functionality, as well as the ability to run any ol’ operating system that I could in Workstation…not everybody just wants to run Windows…some of us want to run Oracle10g on a Solaris 10 x86 install with ZFS. On our mac. At Starbucks. 🙂

  11. Seat-of-the-pants-sans-benchmarking…
    Just got a Macbook Pro 2.13 Core 2 Duo yesterday. I was using an iBook 14″ for remote administration of a MS Active Directory infrastruction with some Linux sprinkled in.
    – Hardware: Macbook Pro Intel Core 2 Duo 2.16GHZ, 1 Gig ram.
    – Long time Microsoft user, short time Mac user (1 year) and used VMWare Workstation since 1999 off and on. I have used MS Virtual PC 2004 on the Mac and the PC version.
    In true Mac fashion, I basically did not read any documentation:)
    Installed Windows XP Pro SP2, with 256 meg ram option. It installed in something like 40 min. I “suspect” VMWare is finally taking advantage of the hardware virtulization capabilities with Fusion, as Parallels does.
    XP ran very very smooth as in you could not tell it was a virtual system. I think by default the system was set up to use NAT so for fun, I did a connection speed test through speakeasy.net/speedtest to the Dallas connection. the shop, I tested about 5100 kbps down and 6000 kbps up using Safari. In the XP system I used IE 6 and got 5801 kbps down, and 396 kbps upload speed. I ended up installing AVG Antivirus and Antispyware, Firefox and SeaMonkey.
    Then, I installed a second virtual machine with the same settings, but Windows XP 64 bit edition. Now, I have a copy of Windows XP 64 bit edition that has been sitting around, but never have used/installed it. I installed it, and it installed in similar time. I did the same bandwidth test and got 5992 kbps down and 3138 kbps up, though didn’t install any additional software. Install time was app. the same as the first. Additionally I did all this while the First XP system was still running!
    I am not sure if it’s the 64 bit dual-core processor or the way OS X manages memory but performance is much better than what I expected with only a gig of ram. The “feel” of the systems was extremely smooth though there were several pauses when I would switch windows that I am sure were memory swapping.
    My seat-of-the-pants feel is this is an amazing product, especially considering it is a beta. As an extremely valuable addition, the ability to run Windows XP that is installed in a Bootcamp partition would be extremely useful. This is especially the case when Mac’s are used in a business environment as when you need the extra graphics performance, you may simply reboot into XP/whatever OS is installed using Bootcamp directly.
    The drag and drop functionality is well implimented. With VMware tools installed I was impressed in the command+enter full screen transition. Look-and-feel are excellent with the curious IR, Bluetooth and iSight buttons a plus though I have not had any time to try them out.
    Thanks guys!

  12. Really looking forward to VMware on Mac OS X. After playing with the beta, I have a couple of concerns.
    1) Where is the network plumbing? I only see options for NAT or bridged networking. What about the virtual networks that allow VMs to talk to each other as a sandbox?
    2) Will teaming be supported? I have found this to be very useful for demonstrations and testing.

  13. Yes, I’ve benchmarked them, both their beta and release versus two builds of Fusion. It’s wayyy too dumbed down, and in all honesty, 64-bit computing is not cracked up to what it is meant to be. I understand the benefits of 64-bit pointers, integers, and the memory addressing, but you must fail to see that we NEED snapshots, even for a beta, the lack of them is a jip of what I have come to expect from VMware. I like how you have VirtualSMP and I have always believed you had a better virtual BIOS implementation. You are a company I’d rather found upon. The price if it had snapshots would be best set at 100 dollars at the current state. I understand all the debugging and logging, I am a user of workstation 6 beta also. As another user said, we’re not babies, I chose to buy two Macs because of technical merit and capability, not because it was easy, that’s more of a bonus. Leave it flexible, and deliver it by Q2 2007 with snapshots, USB 2.0, and I will buy it, forgive you for your initial mistakes (No one is perfect), and will recommend it even. The performance is slower, even against debugging versions of Parallels, but I’d rather see snapshots before optimization, I will take the hit, even in the GA release. After all you are a company of your word, you deliver, I am entitled to updates for a stretch of time, just as I am for Parallels. Make a converter for Parallels also please, and fix the portability issues when transporting vmx files across operating systems, the C drive mess drives us bonkers when we must be able to use the more feature complete product but be able to reboot and use the same machine under Mac OS X. Thanks VMware.

  14. I regularly use Windows XP on my Macbook Pro Intel Core Duo, by running it through the Windows version of VMware Workstation 5.5, on a Macbook Pro Intel Core Duo (at 2GHZ with 2 gigs RAM, and the result is a Windows machine faster and better than I expected was possible.)
    I have not tried the Fusion beta, but I just want to say that, like someone posted earlier, it would be great to have a version that can run the instance of Windows XP already intstalled on the Bootcamp partition.

  15. I want to use the Fusion beta something bad, but I am afraid of how much VMware is going to cost. I got burned years ago on the windows side with brutally high costs and I don’t want to live through that again.
    I have sent a request to sales to see if I can find out how much this puppy is going to cost. Until then I think I’ll stick with Parallels, which I own for a reasonable $80.

  16. I have been using the beta for quite awhile now. I don’t think I could live without it. I just hope the pricing is affordable. When you mix the quality of Vmware products with the quality of Mac Hardware (and host OS) you just cannot go wrong.

  17. Indeed there are many features in Workstation that exists but have no user interface in Fusion. To configure them you have to open the VM in Workstation.

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