Comment There has been a lot of interest in virtual desktop systems over the last couple of years. It is worth recognising that, until recently, usage of such virtual workstation software has usually been limited to those with relatively well-developed IT skills. However, recent developments are opening up the potential use of such solutions to ever-broader swathes of the community.
Last month, VMware Inc., one of the leading suppliers of virtual infrastructure software solutions for Intel architecture computers, announced the release of VMware Workstation 5. This product includes a number of new features designed to make the life of software developers more productive.
This VMware Workstation software allows organisations to build a library of virtual machines for the operating systems commonly deployed on Intel x86 platforms, namely Windows, Linux, Netware and Solaris x86. Such virtual systems are then readily available to be utilised by developers and quality assurance professionals, allowing them to spend more time concentrating on their core activities and less time building and configuring their desktop.
The latest release of Workstation includes sophisticated new features to help with the development of multi-tier applications, and for the first time includes some of the memory sharing technology previously only available in the company's server software, VMware ESX. Together these new capabilities permit organisations to simulate the deployment of multi-tier applications on the desktop of a developer or tester.
The new features of Workstation 5 include simplified cloning to allow the configuration of any virtual machine to be shared easily. In addition, users can take multiple point-in-time snapshots and have the ability to revert back to a snapshot with a single click. The new software also provides enhanced team working facilities that connect multiple virtual machines together.
Beyond these advances, the software now supports a number of 64-bit operating systems including Red Hat Enterprise Linux 3 and 4, and SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 8 and 9. Workstation 5 also includes support for the experimental 64-bit editions of Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 SP1. Support for processors with 64-bit extensions includes AMD Opteron, AMD Athlon 64 and Intel EM64T.
VMware also adds support for additional 32-bit host / guest operating systems including Novell Linux Desktop 9, Sun's Java Desktop System, Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4, Red Hat Linux Advanced Server 3, SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 9, SUSE Linux Pro 9.2 and Mandrake Linux 10.
These enhancements to Workstation 5 have not been delivered at the expense of usability. Indeed, the new release also delivers performance improvements in memory consumption and networking, and product quality has advanced further to supply a robust, functionally rich tool capable of meeting the needs of a very large range of enterprises.
VMware continues to enhance the capabilities of its wide-ranging solutions. In my opinion, for any organisation that is not currently making use of VMware's offerings, there is every reason to spend time investigating the capabilities that the company's tools can deliver.