Saturday, October 26, 2013

Free virtualization: VirtualBox

When it comes to virtualization, I honestly like VMware. It is one of the best platforms I ever tried to create and manage Virtual Machines. However, it is kind of expensive, and you are trying to run something in a Linux environment, you may want to have, as usual, a free alternative that works fine. That alternative is VirtualBox.

In this article I'll review some of the features of VirtualBox that I liked the most, and some others that, in my opinion, need to be improved.

I don't want to make a comparison between VirtualBox and VMware, because they belong to different worlds and it would be unfair to compare their features. However, I think there are some particular aspects that they share, and I'll be talking about compatibility with VMware


First of all, VirtualBox is available for Linux, Windows and Solaris. I don't use Solaris, so let's focus on Linux and Windows. If you have the last, the installation is very simple. You can download the installer from here and you'll get a "next, next" classic Windows installer.
Surprisingly enough, installation in Linux is easy too. You just have to open a terminal and type:

sudo apt-get install virtualbox

After the installation finishes, type: virtualbox and you'll see the VirtualBox main screen:
As you can see, you can have a virtualization platform for free in just few minutes. That's great!


This is something interesting: VMware disks can be managed by VirtualBox. So, a good way to share machines is just to share the disk and then deploy another machine. Unfortunately, Snapshot cannot be recovered from VMware. The following images show the same machine (well, disk) in VMware (the first) and VirtualBox (the second):

The steps I followed to clone this machine were:

1. Copy the disk of the VMware machine.
2. Create a new virtual machine in VirtualBox. Select the copied disk for the new VM.
3. Turn on the VM and that's it!

Using VirtualBox

Once the VM is turned on, you can notice some differences with VMware. For example, when you go to full screen, the VirtualBox bar is in the bottom of the screen. If you work a lot with VMware, this will be a little odd:

One tip I can give when creating VMs in VirtualBox is to select VMDK as disk type. This is just because it's compatible with VMware.
The logic of VirtualBox is different from VMware in some details. For example, there is a master key for some actions, it's called "Host". This is a customizable key. By default it's Right Control. Just to mention something, in VMware you can hit CTRL+ALT to move the mouse pointer without affecting the VM. In VirtualBox you need to press Host+I, in my case, Right CTRL+I.

This was just a first approach to VirtualBox, but I'll be writing more about it. It's one of the greatest free applications I ever used, definitely a quality option for virtualization.


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