Virtual machines

Whenever I want to test some operating system other then running one, I think about VMWare. From the late 90s, I remembered that they are fair enough to give a license for research purposes. However, I don’t want to use proprietary software.

Freeshmeat has one interesting option. When you type something like “nero” inside of the search box, you will get as a result some software which is not “nero”, but they are used for burning CDs and DVDs and they have graphical interface. During late 90s and early 2000s, it was very useful because there were no so much of useful free software when you run out of server applications. And a lot of them didn’t have a consistent keywords.

I think that I tried to find some similar software to VMWare (free, of course) typing “vmware” into Freshmeat’s search box and I found one. Today, I don’t remember what it was, but I remember that I just realized that it is nice to see that someone is working on such software. However, it was not useful.

Today the situation is completely different. VMWare is still maybe the best end user virtualization software, but there are a lot of other (and free) software for running systems at the top of the host system.

So, it is not a problem to find free virtualization software today. It is problem to choose one.

But, today we don’t need to search for such software on Altavista, Yahoo, Google… Today we may use Wikipedia 🙂

I went to Wikipedia articles VMWare. Almost every article bigger then one screen has “See also” section. And, of course, there is an article “Comparison of virtual machines“. I went there.

46 free and proprietary virtualization machines. Huh!

But, I had some conditions: (1) software must be free; (2) I need it for two reasons (a) to play with network; (b) to develop some specific GNU/Linux distributions (for routing, for teaching, for VoIP, for…); and (c) to play with other operating systems; (3) it has to run on GNU/Linux.

21 virtual machines are free software (Bochs, Cooperative Linux, DOSBox, DOSEMU, FreeVPS, Jail, Linux KVM, Linux- VServer, Mac-on-Linux, Mac-on-Mac, OKL4, OpenVZ, PearPC, QEMU, kqemu, qvm86, User Mode Linux, View-OS, VirtualBox, Xen, Zones).

  • One of them runs on FreeBSD exclusively (Jail), one is exclusively for Solaris (Zones) and for one it is not known if it is run on GNU/Linux (Cooperative Linux).
  • Two of them doesn’t have articles on Wikipedia (OKL4, View-OS). It is a relevant information not about how some software is good, but how it is widespread. If it is not widespread, it is reasonable to suppose that it lacks in a lot of features because it doesn’t have enough developers.
  • I don’t need virtual machines which are used exclusively for not so rare and (for me) not so useful OSs (DOSBox, DOSEMU, Mac-on-Linux, Mac-on-Mac).
  • Some of the virtual machines are both – slow and without diversity of architectures and/or operating systems: User Mode Linux,
  • I didn’t find some of the virtual machines in Debian unstable/experimental. This is a good indicator that software is not usable or that it has some other problems: qvm86, VirtualBox, FreeVPS.
  • My computer is from the end of 2004, so I don’t have x86 virtualization. This means that Imay not use Linux KVM.
  • So, 6 virtualization machines left: Linux-VServer, kqemu, PearPC, Bochs, QEMU, Xen, OpenVZ.

From those virtual machines, it is possible to use them for the next purposes:

  • Simulating different architectures:
    • Bochs (Intel x86, AMD64)
    • QEMU (Intel x86, AMD64, ARM, SPARC 32 and 64, PowerPC, MIPS)
    • PearPC (PowerPC)
    • OpenVZ (Intel x86, AMD64, IA-64, PowerPC64, SPARC64)
  • Using different operating system:
    • Bochs (officially supported DOS, Windows, xBSD, Linux; may run arbitrary OS)
    • QEMU (officially supported a number of them; may run arbitrary OS)
    • QEMU/kqemu (officially supported a number of them; may run arbitrary OS)
    • PearPC (officially supported OS X, Darwin, Linux; may run arbitrary OS)
    • Xen (officially supported Linux, NetBSD, FreeBSD, OpenBSD, Solaris, Windows XP & 2003 Server, Plan 9; may run arbitrary OS)
  • Using for GNU/Linux development:

QEMU seems to be the most usable. Xen looks like the next choice. OpenVZ and Linux-VServer may be used for playing with GNU/Linux guests. I didn’t choose which machine would be first, but my next post about virtual machines will be, almost for sure, about the first one.


~ by millosh on August 7, 2007.

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