There has been a lot of excitement about VMware Player on Slashdot and other sites. I’ve also seen many people talk about it on IRC and some have messaged me with questions. Namely, what’s the catch? Why give away our virtualization platform? Are the VMs DRMed? Will they expire? Do they not work as well as in Workstation?
There’s no catch. This is the same virtualization platform we use in Workstation. The VMs are the same VMs. They won’t expire. They should work just as well in the Player as they do in Workstation.
Now, Workstation does have a number of features that take advantage of what virtualization can do. The Player does not have many of these features. Examples include multiple snapshots (which is an awesome feature, as many Workstation users will tell you), cloning, VM creation, and teams. It does suspend, however. If you close the Player while a VM is running, it will suspend. The next time you start it up, it will be in exactly the same place as when you left it.
Now, as to the question of why we’re doing this. Eventually, virtualization will be everywhere. Microsoft has said that Longhorn will contain (someday) contain virtualization support. Xen is another virtualization platform that someday will be available to all users for the tasks they need. Virtualization won’t be the interesting thing of tomorrow. What you do with it will be. For example, let’s look at multiple snapshots again. You can create snapshots of various configurations and sofware installations in your VM and then at any point revert back to one. If you’re about to upgrade your Windows XP VM to SP2, you can snapshot before the install. If things go horribly wrong, you can revert to that snapshot, and be exactly where you left off.
ESX’s VMotion is another example. With VMotion, you can move, say, a running database VM from one physical computer to another with no interruption. This is important for enterprises who may have to deal with a hardware failure. If a piece of hardware on the physical server is starting to go bad, you can move the running VMs to a good piece of hardware without any downtime at all. There’s more information about VMotion on the Virtual Center FAQs page.
Those are two very cool uses of virtualization, and there are many more that you will see in time. So, the platform, while still very important, no longer becomes the interesting part of it. It’s what virtualization allows you to do that just wasn’t possible or was very difficult before.
The other major question I have received is about third party software to create or modify VMs. Is this allowed? Will VMware go after you? I should make it clear first that I don’t speak for VMware in this post, and that everything stated is of my own opinion. Standard disclaimer, etc. Now, if you want to create or modify VMs, you can still get the free trial of Workstation and use that. Hopefully you’ll see all that it has to offer and buy it 🙂 If you’re a student, you can usually get discounts, and they’re often given out at VMware conferences. I hope that Workstation offers more value to most people than just being able to create VMs. That being said, I don’t believe we’d go after anybody that created such tools. (Insert standard disclaimer again 🙂
If you haven’t tried Workstation 5.5 beta yet, though, give it a try and see if it’s worth it first. It’s an awesome product.
So, yeah, in summary, no evil ulterior motive, just like there wasn’t with the release of libview, which is our cool widget library, built upon the wonderful gtkmm (like the rest of Workstation and the Player). We try to be a good company.