VMware Workstation: The perfect staging tool.

VMware Workstation: The perfect staging tool.

Summary: What's better than a tool that saves you time and money? Nothing. That's what VMware Workstation is to me: The perfect tool.

SHARE:

Did you ever find a tool that you really like and realize that you can't live without it? That's how I am with VMware Workstation (WS). And, version 8 is the latest and greatest version yet. WS is the perfect staging tool for me because I can install just about any operating system (OS) into it and work with that VM as if it were installed onto bare metal. I'm very impressed and excited about WS like never before.

You see, like many of you, I have a very limited budget for additional hardware--especially hardware that can run OSs like VMware's ESX and ESXi, XenServer, Windows 8, Windows Server and Solaris. I would need my very own data center teeming with systems whirring, clicking and blinking about. That's what one-fourth of my garage does now--houses a few systems on which I research topics, test software and use as fodder for articles and posts. They exist much to my wife's chagrin. And, she does a lot of chagrinning when she opens the electric bill on particularly busy months.

WS prevents a lot of the angst associated with my wife, the electric bill and the pile o' hardware accumulating in the garage (data center). It also prevents me from having to invest a lot of money into ever-depreciating computer hardware that I can't afford in the first place.

But, what do I mean by perfect staging tool?

Staging means that I can use WS to test an OS's installation, patches, updates, software installation and penetration testing without ever touching a production system. The real bonus for me is that I can do everything on my workstation--no exchanging hardware components, no system building, no reimaging and no using valuable computing resources in an actual VMware host environment.

Plus, when I'm finished with the VM, I can copy it to my VMware host environment and create a template or deploy it as is. I don't have to reinstall everything from scratch because WS images are ESX/ESXi compatible and I don't have to go through a bunch of nonsense (ftp, copy, DropBox, etc.) to deploy those images to my host environment anymore--I can connect directly to a vCenter Server from WS and drag the VM to its new home.

One of the coolest aspects of WS's compatibility with ESX/ESXi is that you can create virtual appliances and export them to VMware's Appliance Marketplace as an OVF package. You can use OVF packages in WS, ESX/ESXi, VMware Server, VirtualBox, KVM and XenServer.

And, if your computer has the resources, you can nest VMs in WS. Nest? Yes, nest.

The easiest nesting example to understand is that you install an ESX/ESXi host into WS as a VM. You can then install VMs onto that ESX/ESXi host. And, with WS 8, those VMs can be 64-bit. It's crazy cool. A little confusing too but cool.

VMware Workstation, now in its 8th version, has gone through many changes since its first release and still remains one of my all-time favorite System Administration tools. I'll never be without it.

Admittedly, the $199 price tag seems a little steep but for anyone who works with VMware's virtualization technology, I have to ask, "What's the cost of not having it?" For me, a virtualization professional, WS is an essential tool.

Talk back and tell me about your experiences with VMware Workstation. Could you do your job as efficiently without it?

Topics: CXO, Hardware, Virtualization, VMware

About

Kenneth 'Ken' Hess is a full-time Windows and Linux system administrator with 20 years of experience with Mac, Linux, UNIX, and Windows systems in large multi-data center environments.

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

9 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • RE: VMware Workstation: The perfect staging tool.

    Great article Ken. I'd also like to point out that VMware's Player is now a great staging tool as well, since the last edition they added the ability to create virtual machines. Plus it's free!<br><br>Of course, Player doesn't have near the functionality of WS, but it's great for quick laptop/desktop staging -- loading a trial version of Windows Server 2008 (or whatever), testing out a patch or tweak or whatever... then you can always blow it away, or, you have the .vmdk if you'd like to move to your virtual environment

    And, did I mention, it's Free! ;)
    UrNotPayingAttention
    • RE: VMware Workstation: The perfect staging tool.

      @UrNotPayingAttention

      You're right. I use it too. Player is a great tool.
      khess
    • RE: VMware Workstation: The perfect staging tool.

      @UrNotPayingAttention
      I use WMware Player in Linux and even Windows 8 Preview runs! However, Gnome 3 is still elusive and falls back to the conventional view. :( Other than that, I love Player and will not even consider VirtualBox. - Even if Gnome 3 does run it. Oracle has made using VirtualBox an absolute nightmare. The last FULL upgrade required a complete un-install of the lesser version to install the newer version! REALLY?! No real upgrade like other programs? No thanks Oracle!!!!
      The Rifleman
  • RE: VMware Workstation: The perfect staging tool.

    I use VMWare in conjunction with Hyper-V on Server 2008 R2 to test Domain security settings and OUs as well as network security settings. Individually, I use VMWare to host linux guests for testing (still learning Linux) in order to become more comfortable with the OS. Linux doesn't play well with Hyper-V (or vice-versa) as far as my experience is concerned. I also prefer VMWare WS to the player due to the additional options that WS brings and the better UI. With a simple hack my player will have the same network functionality that WS has although with WS I don't have to bother with that hack. The number of things I can do with VMWare WS is phenomenal as far as networking and configuration goes. I have a complete domain contained completely within a virtual environment. Gotta love that.
    kc117mx
  • RE: VMware Workstation: The perfect staging tool.

    Ken, I think you hit the nail on the head once again, but I think you didn't use a large enough hammer.

    When I started using VMware I started with server because you could get a legal license for free. When VWware Server 2 came out I was hopelessly lost. Not because it's a bad product, but because at the time my head wasn't wrapped into the idea of the ESX format. In fact, when I built my first ESX rig, in my basement I should add, I had trouble with the idea that, while my ESX machine had a local optical drive, it didn't acknowledge the drive. When I wrapped my head around that idea, VMware Server 2 finally made sense to me, but by this time I had bought a VMware Workstation License.

    What really makes Workstation shine is the ability to "fork" your snapshots. Leaving you with that wonderful ability to go back to any stage of deployment and move forward from there.

    Also, there is the added bonus that while your electric bill takes less of a toll on your wallet, it also takes less of a toll on the environment.
    davbran
  • RE: VMware Workstation: The perfect staging tool.

    Do you know any good tutorial sites for VMware Workstation?
    I've got VMware Workstation 7.1.5, but I have no idea what most of the features do (e.g. ACE & Unity) and I consider the "help" to be mostly useless.
    lehnerus2000
  • RE: VMware Workstation: The perfect staging tool.

    I have been using WMware Workstation for about 2 years and totally agree with the author. I couldn't imagine my life without it, even if I am using it at my home environment only. I have the HP Elite Book 2530 laptop Intel Cored 2 Duo 1,9 MHz with 8 GB RAM and solid state hard drive (only 111GB unfortunately, but I hope to upgrade it when price becomes affordable). Anyway, even with this 111GB I can have from 3 to 10 virtual machines on my laptop. Solid state hard drive and a lot of RAM gives me an ability to run 3-6 virtual machines simultaneously absolutely with no quality loss. I have an 64 bit Windows 7 as a host, which I use only as a host and nothing else. And I have a bunch of different OS-es to work and play with, My main environment is 32 bit WIndows 7 guest, which I use almost for everything(even for the things like Skype video calls). I am keeping my old Windows XP (virtualized from the old laptop) as a mail archive ( I like Outlook Express and keep all my mail in it, sorted by years and persons in different folders). I have a lot of Linuxes, Windows Servers (2003 and 2008) and even Mac Snow Leopard, they are all on external hard drive and I can transfer any of them into my hard drive and run any moment. Sometimes I make groups and connect different OS together to check any kind of software. It's cool. Workstation 8 gives a good way to connect any external devices to the virtual machines, that what I like the most. And backups of course, they are so easy, you just backup a folder with virtual machines. I love VMware!
    asmetanin
  • VirtualBox is Open-Source is worth a try

    VirtualBox does almost everything VMware Workstation does Plus it is Open-Source. It is a big Plus, with a capital P.

    I like it _a lot_, and can't imagine myself working without one.
    I like it's user-interface way more than that of Workstation.
    VirtualBox is definitely worth a try.

    Best wishes,
    -Technologov, 22.11.2011.
    Technologov
    • RE: VMware Workstation: The perfect staging tool.

      @Technologov

      Oddly enough, for desktop virt and just quick prototyping, I use Virtualbox as well. For the server side, I use ESXi.
      admiraljkb