VMWare Revisited

Last century I was sometimes noticed to be using VMWare to run a weird platform on my Linux Desktop , or to run some test installations. With the introduction of Qemu and later Xen there was no need for me to use the proprietary closed alternative.

So I got the question earlier this week to build a virtual instance of our bootstrapping environment so that field engineers could take that virtual machine on their laptop and do installations from there.

One of the collegues told me that booting a fresh VMWare instance of the network would be no problem so I took up on the challenge.

First of all a registration procedure so the nice folks over at VMWare can spam me with their marketing stuff during the next couple of months. I needed to register as I seemed to need a Serial Number.. whow .. that was ages ago since I last needed such a beast.
A full 101Mb download later I had an RPM ready to be installed.

"Cool an RPM" I tought, that means that I will be able to clean up all the mess they leave behind with a simple rpm -e.
Wrong guess. it seems like VMWare starts copying around files in different places on your filesystem and actually even wants to compile stuff against your running kernel. All fine and well, but the result is a bunch of unidentified files that are cluttering my filesystem.

The next step required me to start the gui to create a virtual machine, suddenly the load of my machine skyrocketed. Load 11 whew.. yep the VMware process was the guilty one.. luckily it went back to normal after a while .. but I`m still not sure what happened there.

Click, click, click and before I knew it VMware was allocating 4Gb on myfilesystem for an empty VM. Noo.. don't allocate it yet.. retry.. ok .. take it when you need it .. that's better. And why do you think I only want 256Mb for this machine ? Hmm.. where's that config file.. aah.. clickerdy click again .

Start VM, F12 to boot of the network, wait, reboot done.

And thus we joined the era of transferring an unmanagable image that everyone will copy around wile slightly modifying things and never placing them in version control . hence ending up one day with something nobody knows how we got there..

What did we learn, that the way I bootstrap a Virtual machine or a physical machine really doesn't matter, and is still just a matter of mapping a MAC address to a HOSTNAME.

When working on the system, to check if the install was done correctly it felt like I was on a remotely bad connected machine, not really slow, but really slow but still (could have been because I logged on via the gui). Certainly not like the paravirtualized Xen machines I`m used to work with, more like the VirtualBox experience.

The big problem with giving someone an image to play with however is that you loose all control over what is being deployed , configured or changed and it just becomes a change management nightmare. At least reinstalling won't take much time.

But I`ll go back to KVM and Xen for my daily work.. I've seen enough GUI's for this month :)


Kris Buytaert's picture

#1 Kris Buytaert : No Thnx

I have Virtual Box on the same machine, (for a while already) works like a charm apart from It's freaking Memory leak , but then again I should probably upgrade it.

Fact is that I never use it.. I don't need virtual desktops that often.

Christophe Vandeplas's picture

#2 Christophe Vandeplas : Did you know you can edit

Did you know you can edit the .vmx file manually ? You can change all the settings of the virtual hardware from that file. If I'm not wrong VMWare has a hidden feature that lets you enable VNC by adding these lines:

  1. RemoteDisplay.vnc.enabled = "TRUE"
  2. RemoteDisplay.vnc.port = "5901"
  3. RemoteDisplay.vnc.password = "password"

Some examples for VMWare Fusion (Mac edition) here, but they are probably working with the other editions. (As VMWare Fusion is based on the Linux version of VMWare like a dev tells during the Google Tech Talk)

Dave Milne's picture

#3 Dave Milne : Did you know you can edit (Password)

the RemoteDisplay.vnc.password is an encrypted one.

Kris Buytaert's picture

#4 Kris Buytaert : No I didn't

No I didn't know that .. but it doesn't surprise me as you can also that with a HVM Xen VM.

However the machine I installed was headless so that didn't really matter anyhow.

Nicolas's picture

#5 Nicolas : VirtualBox

You really want VirtualBox (using it since a couple of days, already a huge fan). It's free (as in speech if you take the OSE version), can be used through a GUI or manipulated by command line commands, it's really fast, doesn't need any special helper services like vmware does, only one (non-vanilla :() kernel module,... 2 shots of what it's capable: http://key.nicolast.be/files/vbox-iscsi-seamless.png and http://key.nicolast.be/files/vbox-oldwin.png