Saturday, July 2, 2011

What is the Best Desktop Virtualization Software, How to Decide?

I decided to publish this article after received several emails from readers regarding what is the best desktop virtualization software. This is completely from my experience and personal opinion.  If you ask an automobile expert about which is the best car in the world, he or she can’t answer, because it depends on your requirement and category or type. It’s applicable here too.
Best Desktop Virtualization Software
I’m a heavy user of desktop virtualization software on daily basis. I use these products at my work place to install Server operating systems with client operating systems for testing purpose. Again at home, I do all testing on different types of guest Operating systems such as Windows, Linux and Mac OS X for blogging purpose.
So far, I have worked with VMware workstation, VMware Player, Sun/Oracle VirtualBox and Microsoft Virtual PC. I have never worked with Parallels desktop virtualization products.

So, what is the best desktop virtualization software? Here are the few facts decide it.

1) Compatibility
The best software should run on any host operating Systems with any guest OS. For example if you take VMware Player, it should be able to run in Windows, Linux and Mac OS X, also it should support multi Operating Systems as guest.
Most of the time we use desktop virtualization software for testing purpose with different types of OSwithout disturbing host OS. So, make sure your software can run most of the latest OS as guest.
2) Performance
This is another major factor to decide the best desktop virtualization software. Performance of guest and host machine should be good with any product.
Some software will take more resources from host computer to just run the application without running any virtual machines. On the other hand, with minimum configuration for VM, it should work fast and smooth within the desktop virtualization software.
3) Built in Features
The each additional built in features will help to have a good working experience with the best product. When it comes to desktop virtualization, I think Snapshots, P2V, Cloning, Export/Import, guest additions, shared folders, networking and virtual disk options are essential for a normal user.
Therefore, it’s always better to have software with most of the built in features.
4) Cost
Yes, it decides the best.  If I can get the most of the features what I wanted for free, then I will stick with it. Instead of paying some money for few features for different product, we will be happy with using free product without any cost. Am I right?
5) Hardware Support
The program should be compatible for the hardware platform of your physical computer. If you have AMD, Intel, 64 bit or 32 bit processor based computers, then the software must run in it with full usage of physical hardware.
Supporting number of processor cores, virtual memory, virtual display, sound cards and physical ports will be an added advantage.
6) Additional Tools for Virtual machines
The special package which helping Virtual machine to communicate with host computer’s hardware, is an essential for each guest OS.  In my opinion, the best desktop virtualization software must have these types of tools (like VMware tools and VirtualBox guest additions) for all guest Operating Systems. So, we can experience the performance improvement, display options, sound and other features.
7) Cross Software Support
I don’t know how much this is important for you, but I like this feature. For example, if I have a Linux VM in VirtualBox at home, I should be able to take this VM to office tomorrow and work in VMware with different host, then bring back again. It sounds cool, isn’t it? But it’s very much possible.
This type of cross software supports depends on virtual machine’s configuration and hard disk file formats. Also, export and import options of different file formats will be an added advantage of moving virtual machines across different hosts.
8.) Support and Updates
How quickly you get support from vendor? How often they release the patches and updates?, these all are not only important  for desktop virtualization software but for all software.

Final Thought about Best Desktop Virtualization Software

I have listed above points which I considered to select the best desktop virtualization. These all are depending on my requirements. To be honest, I worked only on Intel physical computer with Microsoft host Operating Systems, therefore I would have missed some important facts should be considered here.
Leave comments on points I missed.
Oracle VirtualBox is the best desktop virtualization software in my personal opinion. I never worked with Parallels for Windows. VMware workstation is an excellent and competitive product for Oracle VirtualBox, but it’s not free. VMware Player is a free product, but its missing most the required features.
This final thought doesn’t mean that VirtualBox is 100% perfect and not having any issues. It’s having several drawbacks.
do expect your opinion on this post and tell me what is your favorite or best desktop virtualization software and reason for that.