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ZDNet comparison of VirtualBox and VMware Server 2.0

Jason Perlow of has written a great feature comparison post of the 2 best multi-platform, free virtualization products in my opinion – Sun xVM VirtualBox 1.6 and VMware Server 2.0 Beta 2.

Personally, I used to run VMware Server 1.x on my XP notebook until I was tempted to try VMware’s first beta of version 2.0. Although not an officially supported OS for any version of VMware Server, my use of Server on XP was for basic research and test purposes, and I chose the free version over VMware Workstation. Like most, after the switch to 2.0 beta 1 I experienced frustration with the web interface. Now, since I discovered Sun’s xVM VirtualBox 1.6 seamless feature and the ability to run virtual machines created in VMware’s .vmdk format, I have switched. I am extremely happy with VirtualBox, and I even consider it to be a closer open-source replacement for VMware Workstation with features that rival the still in beta version of Workstation 6.5. I also use VirtualBox 1.6 on both 64 bit and 32 bit Ubuntu at home.

Jason’s comparison focuses on using the products in a true virtualization host capacity, and he provides some interesting performance analysis.

On xVM VirtualBox 1.6:

“Overall we found VirtualBox xVM performance to be excellent, especially when loaded on a 64-bit machine with AMD or Intel virtualization acceleration enabled. However, even software-based virtualization on 32-bit systems running 32-bit virtualized OSes ran acceptably. While the software could run on as little on a system as little as 1GB of RAM running a single 512MB VM, we would recommend a minimum of 2GB on the host machine for predictable performance using 512MB or 1024MB VMs. Like VMWare, VirtualBox comes with its own set of integration tools which can be installed on the guest OSes to improve performance. VirtualBox also supports Virtual Machine formats of competitive products, such as Microsoft’s Virtual Server and VMWare. Be advised that if you do port one of your older VMs over, you’ll want to remove the “tools” (paravirtualized device drivers) from the guest OS install before running them in VirtualBox, or you will run into a number of compatibility problems.”

On VMware Server 2.0 Beta 2:

“Server 2.0 beta 2 weighs in at a mammoth 450MB download, and requires a fairly serious box to run with good performance. For our tests, we used a dual-core Athlon 64 X2 5000 ASUS mainboard-based PC clone with 2GB RAM, and an IBM xSeries 1U server with twin dual Xeon 3.6gGhz processors with 4GB of RAM, using the 64-bit version of CentOS 5 (a free identical clone of RHEL 5) as the host operating system. VMWare Server 2.0 also comes in a Windows version, but this version was not tested due to time constraints, and the web UI is identical regardless of what client is used. Performance on the 4GB system was excellent, and quite fast when we doubled the host memory to 8GB, but we started to see some scalability and response issues on the 2GB machine with 1024MB VMs. Additionally, we found that the only reliable browsers to use as the administrative client were the beta and release candidate versions of Firefox 3 — Firefox 2 and Internet Explorer 7 seemed a bit glitchy with all the Ajax components of the new Web UI.”

For some great screen shots of both products in action and to read all of Jason’s comparison use the following links:

Screenshots of VirtualBox 1.6 and VMWare 2.0 Server

Virtualization smackdown: Sun xVM VirtualBox 1.6 vs. VMWare Server 2.0 Beta 2 | Between the Lines |

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