> Can anyone suggest a good free Virtualization Software Package that work
> on OpenSuse with the KDE Desktop, as I need to use Windows for some
> applications that have not got a Linux equivelant, Namely Reserch In
> Motions BlackBerry Desktop Manager and the drivers for my Printer and
> Scanner, so I would also need something with USB pass through. Or if
> there isn’t any free virtualization software that will dowat I want
> that’s free then something that is not expensive that’s paid for. I
> like the look of Parallels Desktop 4 for Windows & Linux but I’m not
> sure if I would be able to justify paying £54.99 for the ammount of use
> that it will get?
(long winded post follows)
Well… there are choices.
- VirtualBox Oracle free
- VirtualBox Oracle
- VMware personal free/non-free
- VMware ESX enterprise
- Xen Citrix free
- Xen Citrix
- Xen SLES free
- Xen RHEL free (deprecated)
- KVM free
- RHEL RHEV (warped kvm) NOT free
I want to lay all of these out because there are a LOT of choices (and
probably even more if you want to add Qemu, etc to the list).
A popular choice is quasi-hypervisor on top of an existing USED OS. This
would be 1,2,4 in particular. I would ONLY recommend that if you have NO
other choice. That is, the cost of adding an extra platform is so extreme
that you have to use an existing platform which already serves some other
purpose. It’s the highest risk choice as well… I do NOT recommend doing
this for anything worthwhile… though it is fun to play with.
Unfortunately, if you want some kind of intregrated desktop (with desktop-
ish features), this may be the only route. It’s VERY VERY VERY high risk
since a crash to the hosting platfrom takes out ALL of the VMs as well. For
example, you decide to play a 3d games using proprietary Nvidia or AMD
drivers… suddenly the desktop goes south… end of story. And with that
said, don’t expect FULL featured Windows desktop experiences… I’ve seen
some things that come close, but ONLY with VERY VERY specific components (no
The industry choice is standalone hypervisors. That would be 4,5,6,7,8.
These are OS’s (NOT Linux) that are designed to run VMs. Often times they
come with a controlling guest instance that is ofter times a Linux variant.
So, like in the case of ESX (not ESXi) there is a Red Hat default VM that
has ties into the guts of the VM and there is some cooperation that happens
between it and the VMs. ESXi, VMware’s other hypervisor, removes the
default Red Hat controlling console and (unfortunately) some features. Xen
is also a standalone hypervisor and the Dom0 (their name for the controlling
guest) is usually a Linux (there are choices for Dom0 with Xen). Xen has
maturity and is probably the closest to having all of the features that
VMware ESX has to offer today (which is to say, it’s closest, yet still
pretty far away).
Numbers 9,10 represent something different.
10 is as a result of a Red Hat purchase. They were not competing well using
their version of Xen which was pitted up against Novell’s SLES. This is
99.99999% Red Hat’s fault as they told everybody Xen was complete JUNK when
Novell became the first to ship with it. Then, when Red Hat shipped a
mildly newer variant (btw, SLES ships the newest variant between the two
now) to try to compete with Novell, nobody took it very seriously… why
would Red Hat want us to use something that they themselves have labeled as
JUNK? Ok… back to the purchase, Red Hat’s Xen failed, therefore they
bought Qumranet which had developed a priority protocol that worked with kvm
(more later) combined with a .Net (Windows 2003 Server SP2) based control
panel (SQL Server DB, the whole Microsoft nine yards effectively). This is
RHEV TODAY. Basically all Red Hat did was remove the interior kernel and
replace it with theirs… and presto… a Red Hat product! However, it is
NOT RHEL 5.4 or 5.5 (depending on which RHEV version you’re running).
Designed to be a standalone hypervisor style of install, the RHEV-H is
ideally supposed to be a black box with the only hooks being from the
Microsoft .Net control panel (RHEV-H + the .Net piece = RHEV). In fact, the
standalone RHEV-H unrolls itself in appliance like fashion… so any change
you make to RHEV-H will undo on the next reboot (unless you roll your
changes into the rollup file). There’s no good documentation on this. Yes,
there are hooks like many appliances to allow you to roll in your own files,
but it gets REALLY messy when you need to adjust the kernel of RHEV-H. Red
Hat is working on porting the .Net pieces over to JBoss (yes… it will
require JBoss in the future).
Finally, #9. This is kvm. It is the hypervisor that comes with Linux.
Thus kvm is probably the ideal choice for hypervisor on the cheap. Yes…
you have the choice of whether you choose to dedicated the host to just
being a hypervisor or using the host for other things (albeit with some
risk). It is NOT RHEV kvm… please understand that. It uses libvirt for
it’s communication protocol… something that both Xen and kvm can use.
RHEV, again, speaks a proprietary protocol. Kvm is the future, but
successful implementation is a bit daunting for most. It will likely get
better in the future… my guess is that most kvm (and possibly most free
Xen) deployments are built using configuration files that are NOT understood
well (the “hey, it works!”, “-What did you change?”, “I don’t know.” test).
What have I used? I have used VMware ESX, VMware Server, VMware
Workstation, VMware Player, SLES Xen, RHEV and VirtualBox. The platform
that runs the most stuff is VMware ESX (and a close second is probably ESXi,
though we’re just now getting around to using that). I’m not if I’d
recommend RHEV. I mean, it’s GOTTA change. So if you go with RHEV today,
realize that there are MULTIPLE radical changes coming your way. First the
transition to JBoss and later there will be the switch to libvirt (after a
LOT of modifications). We have NOT used kvm… not yet. It is probably the
least mature… but it is quite usable today… just remember that Red Hat
has a LOT of radical plans for libvirt… and I’m not sure how that will
affect kvm and/or Xen moving forward.
My workstation (what I’m typing on) is an openSUSE 11.3 running as a
paravirtualized 64bit guest under Xen 4.0 (which comes with SLES 11 SP1).
My Dom0 (duh) is a SLES 11 SP1 Dom0, but I use it strictly for controlling
Xen. I have NOT attempted anything like USB pass through with Xen. So all
of this writing may be for naught.
My primary desktop Windows 7 64bit instance runs on VirtualBox on top of an
openSUSE 11.1 host (which I uses primarily as a frontend host apart from
running Win7). My only Windows peripheral that I wanted to use directly
attached is a device that is NOT supported by Windows 7… oh well…
With regards to Xen vs. VMware ESX… today (for heavy production
customers), I’d go VMware… but we’re doing some heavy tests on Xen to see
what it’s capable of. Who knows, we might switch. We’ve got about 7 Xen
guests up right now in test (including my desktop as mentioned)… but the
heavy tests are coming (large scale guests with 16G of memory running
SLES9… due to customer requirement). Xen has “bugs”… well… I’ll call
them bugs. Truth is it comes with pieces that work well and other that
aren’t quite ready for primetime… it’s just not well documented with
regards to what truly works well vs. what does not work well.
AFAIK, if USB pass through is a must have… you’re stuck with the mature
but questionable VMware Workstation and Player… and possibly Server…
product lines AND the venerable VirtualBox (which I DO recommend).
So… why not VirtualBox? (sorry, yes… there’s more to type)
VirtualBox is now in the hands of Oracle. Which has made it VERY CLEAR that
IF an acquired piece of software does NOT generate DIRECT revenue to them…
then they shut it down. That SHOULD make every user of Virtualbox quiver a
bit (including myself). There is Virtualbox OSE, the GPL, edition. So the
goods news is that there EXISTS a truly free version… BUT, Oracle likes
to strangle their FOSS advocates by removing services and support donated to
such projects (again, BE WARNED). Look for Oracle’s “free for non-
commercial use” VBox to move to non-free and look for Oracle to pull out any
hw and network service support for the GPL version. If Oracle follows their
existing pattern with regards to FOSS.
To make matters worse, Oracle’s “free” (but non-free) edition of VirtualBox
is the one with the most desktop USB and other features. Hopefully, the GPL
version will get caught up and possibly surpass Oracle’s version in the