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Thursday, October 1, 2009

Virtualbox - Virtualization Technology for desktop users

This is just a short intro to Virtualbox. Hopefully will give a rough overview of virtualization for desktop users new to this kind of technology. I've chosen Virtualbox as its in my opinion the easiest to work with on all platforms and is likely the easiest for the beginner.

Sun's (Now Oracle but originally Innotek) VirtualBox is software that enables an end user to run multiple operating systems on their desktop. With VirtualBox, you can virtualize 32-bit and 64-bit operating systems on machines with Intel and AMD processors, either by using hardware virtualization features provided by these processors or even
entirely in software.
Vitualbox will run on many types of OSs. It is currently supported on:
  • Windows XP
  • Windows 2003 Server
  • Windows Vista
  • Windows 2008 Server
  • Windows 7
  • Intel based Mac OSX all versions
  • Debian GNU/Linux 3.1 Sarge and above
  • Fedora Core 4 and above
  • Gentoo Linux
  • Redhat Enterprise Linux 4 and above - Likely CENTOS as well
  • SUSE Linux 9 and 10, openSUSE 10.3 and above
  • Ubuntu 6.06 Dapper Drake and above
  • Mandriva 2007.1 and above
  • Any other kernel 2.6 and above linux host should work fine as well.
  • Solaris hosts (32-bit and 64-bit) with restrictions
With VirtualBox, you can run unmodified operating systems – including all of the
software that is installed on them – directly on top of your existing operating system,
in a special environment called a “virtual machine”. Your physical computer is then
usually called the “host”, while the virtual machine is often called a “guest”. This means you can have two operating systems running at the same time rather than dual booting for instance.
Possible uses for virtualisation are:
  • Standalone development environment
  • Test environments - software evaluation for instance
  • Backup and recovery - Its easy to backup guest vms and recover as they are simply files on the host machine
  • Hardware utilisation - Having multiple machines running on the one set of hardware utilises more of the resources on the host machine.
  • Multiple OSs - You can evaluate multiple types of OSs. You can run a linux host on Windows or vice versa for instance.
VirtualBox has special software that can be installed inside Windows, Linux and Solaris virtual machines to improve performance and make integration much more seamless. These guest additions are similar to Vmware Tools and allow the guest OS to present higher display resolutions, better mouse support, time synchronisation and shared clipboards for example.
Virtualbox supports USB pass through which is a very handy feature. It allows USB devices attached to the host machine to be seen by the guest OS. Along with this Virtualbox supports audio and serial devices within guests as well. Many other virtualization technologies are yet to implement this. 

Next time, I will post a short blog detailing how to install and configure a Virtualbox installation on Windows 7 with an Ubuntu 9.10 guest OS. Stay tuned!

Links Section

The Virtualbox download candidate can be found here - http://www.virtualbox.org/wiki/Downloads

This list of Virtualbox HowTos will help you get on your way faster - http://www.virtualbox.org/wiki/User_HOWTOS

Virtualbox documentation can be found here - http://www.virtualbox.org/manual/UserManual.html


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