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Monthly Archives: October 2011

What happened to Teams?

This question has been asked by several VMware Workstation 8 users who have previously used the Teams feature in prior versions of Workstation to create a group of virtual machines that operate together. Teams are a concept that was pioneered in Workstation 5 to simplify the creation of multi-tier environments. Applications installed in a virtual multi-tier environment have many benefits over physical server installations including portability which is why they are also often referred to as a virtual appliances or vApp.

In VMware Workstation 8 the concept of a Team has been removed from the user interface, but all of the functionality has been preserved. We did this because we believe that our implementation had serious limitations that both our users and our developers were going to great lengths to work around.

For instance, thumbnail views, bulk power operations, bandwidth throttling, packet loss, and LAN segments were all artificially restricted to only work within a team. It was also becoming increasingly difficult to add features to our product because we had to write conditional code to handle when a virtual machine was operating in a Team.

Where did all of the features go?

Instead of launching the Teams wizard to create the equivalent of a Team you now can simply create a new folder. Any virtual machine created or copied into that folder can be considered to be equivalent to a member of a Team.

Selecting the folder will now open a new tab that display a folder view of the virtual machines including thumbnails of each running virtual machine.

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Figure 1: Folder View (click images to expand)

Double clicking on any one of the virtual machine thumbnails will display the console of the chosen virtual machine on the majority of the screen.

To see both the thumbnail view of the virtual machines in the folder and interact with your chosen VM like you were able to do previously – simply display the Thumbnail bar via the icon on the toolbar and ensure that the Thumbnail bar is set to display “Folder View Virtual Machines”

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Figure 2: Toggling the Thumbnail Bar

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Figure 3: Console View with Thumbnail Bar of Virtual Machines in the same folder

The result should look familiar (ok… the thumbnails are now on the bottom of the screen instead of the top…)

How do I perform power operations on all of the virtual machines in a folder?

To power on, power off or suspend all of the virtual machines in a folder you can select the folder and you will notice that the “Play / Stop / Suspend” icons on the toolbar are enabled. Selecting one of these operations will act on all of the virtual machines in the folder in the order that they are displayed in the tree.

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Since we no longer create an abstract container to hold the virtual machines, we no longer have a place to store settings specific to the virtual machines contained within a folder. Therefore we have moved the ability to control the delay between virtual machines starting to a global preference setting.

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Figure 4: Workstation 7 setting the delay between virtual machines within a Team starting

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Figure 5: Workstation 8 setting the delay between Virtual Machines within a folder starting

This is admittedly a little less capable than the previous implementation but we felt that the tradeoff was worth it.

How do I throttle the bandwidth of my connection and simulate packet loss?

In a Team, the ability to throttle the bandwidth of a connection or simulate packet loss was restricted to a LAN segment connecting virtual machines within a team. As our development team began to dig into the code behind this feature we discovered (remembered) that the implementation was actually being done by the virtual network adapter so we decided to add these capabilities to all network adapter as advanced settings.

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The decision to add this capability makes it easy for anyone to evaluate how their applications work over a dial-up line or unreliable connections.

Where did LAN Segments go?

Network traffic between virtual machines is typically sent via a VMnet. However, all virtual machines on the same VMnet can see and potentially intercept or be affected by the network traffic being transmitted.

Any virtual machine in any folders could be share a single VMnet with the virtual machines that are within the folder that you have created. This could be an issue if you are working with malicious software or highly sensitive data.

Teams provided a solution to this by creating LAN Segments that isolated the network traffic to only the virtual machines on the same segment.

Workstation 8 includes this functionality of LAN Segments as an additional network connection option that can be treated like a local virtual private network. When a virtual machine is connected to a LAN Segment only the virtual machines on the same LAN Segment can communicate with each other. This allows you to create a DMZ or virtual proxy server to bridge a set of virtual machines to the outside network.

A benefit of this impl
ementation is that any virtual machine in any folder can be added to the LAN Segment without having to move its location in the virtual machine library. This allows a user to organize their library however they wish and still communicate securely.

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Figure 6: Adding a virtual machine to a LAN Segment

What happens to my existing Teams when I upgrade?

When upgrading from previous versions of VMware Workstation to VMware Workstation 8 the user will be prompted to convert their Teams into folders that take advantage of all of the benefits of this new implementation for multi-tier environments. Once the conversion is made, the user will never be able to tell that the folder was not created natively in the latest version of VMware Workstation!

If you would like to discuss this change further and/or provide some feedback on this change, please join us in the VMware Workstation community.

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VMware Workstation 8 running Ubuntu 11.10

Ubuntu 11.10 launched yesterday and we have been testing the GA version as both a host and guest OS for VMware Workstation 8.0. So far, most of the core features are working, but we are aware of a few issues that we will fix in an upcoming maintenance release. Please report any issues you find via a service request or the community forums.

Even the Unity desktop appears to be working! Please don't be fooled by this, 3D support for Linux guests is not enabled… yet…. Ubuntu has updated their standard desktop UI with the new graphical interface which is what is being displayed.