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New virtual machine tools available for PCs running Windows and Linux

VMwareWorkstation 4, a new version of the virtual machine software designed to run on Intel-based processors, is being released in April by VMware Inc. (http://www.vmware.com), Palo Alto, Calif.

The new version of the VMware workstation supports additional operating systems, according to company reps, including: Microsoft Windows Server 2003, Red Hat Linux 8.0 and 8.1 beta, Red Hat Enterprise Linux AS, SuSE 8.0 and 8.1, SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 8, Mandrake Linux 9.0, and Novell NetWare 5 and 6.

This is an area of interest for many observers, given Microsoft's acquisition in February of Connectix Corp., a provider of virtualization software for Windows and Macintosh OS-based computing. In addition to its Virtual PC for Mac software, which allows Mac users to run Windows-based applications, the company also produces software packages that allow users to run different types of Windows operating systems on the same PC, or consolidate multiple NT servers onto a single system.

VMware products for creating virtual machines on PCs are based on research done by the its founders at Stanford University, explained Ed Bugnion, the company's chief architect and a co-founder. The VMware technology is a "cousin" to the VM system originally developed in the early 1960s by computer scientists at MIT and IBM, which is still available for IBM mainframes.

"By virtual machine we mean in the traditional mainframe sense in that the virtual machine has an operating system in its application," Bugnion said. "However, the concept of the virtual machine is relatively closely tied to the underlying architecture of the systems. The issues you have on the Intel system and on the mainframe are very different. But basically, they both have the same primary purpose, which is to run operating systems and applications in multiple instances of those pairs on isolated virtual machines on their respective hardware."

VMware allows developers and testers to run an application on the various flavors of Windows and Linux on one PC, Bugnion said. For network systems development and testing, it is possible to create a virtual network on a single PC, he said.

"For example," the VMware architect explained, "you could be running Windows in a virtual machine and Windows on top of it. And you can have another virtual machine that's running Linux and an application. Each virtual machine is independent of the other virtual machine. Furthermore, each virtual machine completely isolates from the other virtual machine, so you could consolidate a large number of servers on the same PC."

A full-featured trial version of VMwareWorkstation 4 can be downloaded directly from the VMware Web site, said a company spokesperson.

-- Additional reporting by Will Kilburn

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About the Author

Rich Seeley is Web Editor for Campus Technology.

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