New VMware Workstation beta to support 64-bit guests

Summary:In my quest for the perfect notebook that could double as both my production system to get my job done as well as a test system for a year's worth (or more) of testing Microsoft Windows "Vista64"  (see our new blog: Microsoft vistulations),  I've been playing around with the idea of using virtual machine (VM) technology like VMware Workstation 5 to minimize the headaches of having to re-provision my production setup (in the event that the test setup destroys it).

In my quest for the perfect notebook that could double as both my production system to get my job done as well as a test system for a year's worth (or more) of testing Microsoft Windows "Vista64"  (see our new blog: Microsoft vistulations),  I've been playing around with the idea of using virtual machine (VM) technology like VMware Workstation 5 to minimize the headaches of having to re-provision my production setup (in the event that the test setup destroys it).  The experience has so far inspired me to write a blog about how no user should be without a virtual machine product like VMware Workstation 5 (VM-W5). In that blog, which isn't even written yet, I'll explain why the $150 cost of VM-W5 is short money in the big scheme of things. 

In brainstorming testbed ideas that involved virtual machines, one thing became clear: since there was no way to use VM technology simultaneously run Vista64 as one VM guest and my production version of Windows XP as another VM guest (in a way that one couldn't interfere with the other and both were easily reprovisioned without upsetting anything), I was going to have to split my AMD Turion 64-based Acer Ferrari 4005 test notebook into two partitions.   But the VMware limitation that's holding me back from the nirvana I seek is apparently one step closer to fading away now that the company (a subsidary of EMC) is going to release the beta of version 5.5 this Monday. In addition to added support for 64 bit Windows guests  (since Vista64 is in beta, support is currently experimental), VMware Workstation 5.5 has a bunch of other enhancements on tap (be sure to note where certain 64 bit technologies from AMD and Intel are required).

According to company spokesperson Amber Rowland, here's the company-provided version 5.5 enhancment punchlist :

  • 64-bit Guest Support for AMD64 Technology Systems and Intel EM64T: Systems with VT Support:  Building on the 64-bit host operating system support introduced in previous releases, VMware Workstation 5.5 delivers support for 64-bit FreeBSD, Linux and Windows guest operating systems and experimental support for 64-bit Solaris x86 operating systems. Developers and testers now have the flexibility to run 32-bit and 64-bit operating systems simultaneously on the same hardware.
  • Two-way Virtual SMP (Experimental): VMware brings server-class Virtual SMP now to the desktops.  Virtual SMP makes it possible for a single virtual machine to span two processors, enabling developers and testers to configure real-world production environments on developer class desktops.
  • Enhanced VMware Virtual Machine Importer: VMware Workstation 5.5 provides developers and testers the additional flexibility to convert Symantec Ghost images into virtual machines or to open those images in their native format without any modification.  Developers and testers can now reuse their libraries of physical machine images when deploying or building a virtual infrastructure.
  • Enhanced Command Line Interface: VMware Workstation 5.5 offers an enhanced vmrun interface to allow organizations to automate repetitive manual tasks.  New vmrun features include the ability to take snapshots, list all snapshots for a virtual machine and revert to a selected snapshot.
According to Rowland, one extremely cool feature of 5.5 is that, in a VMware-based system,  the host operating system doesn't need to be a 64-bit operating system in order to run 64-bit guests.  In other words, as long as the underlying hardware has the right 64-bit capabilities, an officially supported 64-bit guest OS like FreeBSD or Linux should be able to run when the host OS is 32-bit Windows.  Whether or not I'll attempt to run the Vista64 beta as a guest on top of  the beta version of VMware Workstation 5.5  remains to be seen.  By running beta like that, I'm not just asking for trouble; I'm asking for double trouble.  We'll see.

Topics: VMWare

About

David Berlind was fomerly the executive editor of ZDNet. David holds a BBA in Computer Information Systems. Prior to becoming a tech journalist in 1991, David was an IT manager.

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