VMware Workstation 6 on Windows Vista

Virtualization software provider VMware announced the release of Workstation 6, the first of the company's product line to offer support for Windows Vista, Microsoft's newest operating system.

In this sixth generation of its desktop virtualization software lineup, EMC subsidiary VMware is touting other new features as well, including support for multiple display monitors and USB 2.0 devices.

The Vista support will allow users to deploy the operating system as a guest or host system, facilitate hosting of legacy systems, and enable upgrade and migration projects with "minimal end-user disruption," according to the company's product announcement.

The new software is likely to appeal most to developers, who have to test applications on multiple systems such as Windows Vista and Windows XP.

Windows XP, both in the 32-bit and 64-bit versions. Usually, developers would have to work on multiple computers to test their code, but Workstation 6 would allow them to test applications on a single desktop that can run multiple operating systems.

Benefit Round

Forrester Research analyst Frank Gillett noted that although the term "virtualization" is becoming broadly used, the type of virtualization provided by Workstation is primarily focused on hardware abstraction. "Workstation gives users the ability to run multiple operating systems on one desktop, and do hardware abstraction in the process, so you don't have to worry about drivers and other desktop issues," he said.

This technology is advantageous developers, who sometimes need multiple systems and hardware in one area, he added. Using virtualization can cut down on the costs associated with additional PCs at the same workstation, said Gillett.

Another benefit would be the uncoupling of desktop identity from hardware, he noted. "That aspect is appealing for folks who worry about virus stuff," he said. "It's all about trying to make it easier to set up managed, secure PC operating systems and users experiences. That's one of the most interesting things going on with virtualization -- the improved management and usability."

Feature Rich

Beyond the support of Vista, Workstation 6 features include integrated physical-to-virtual functionality so users can create a virtual machine by "cloning" an existing computer, and an integrated virtual debugger to debug programs inside a virtual machine.

The product also offers automation APIs for easier creation of scripts and programs that can help speed virtual machine testing, and virtual machine interface (VMI) support, which allows execution of paravirtualized guest operating systems that implement the VMI interface.

VMware Workstation was one of the first virtualization applications on the market when it came out in 1999, and since then has benefited from a lack of intense competition, although Microsoft has been increasing its efforts in the arena.