VMware Workstation: The perfect staging tool.

What's better than a tool that saves you time and money? Nothing. That's what VMware Workstation is to me: The perfect tool.
Written by Ken Hess, Contributor

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?

Editorial standards