XEN, KVM, VMware Player, or ESXi?

Just getting started to visualizing my desktop and it is currently running OpenSuSE 13.1. So which is easiest to get started with? Which is preferred? Which is more common? (All subjective I know) Tried installing ESXi but couldn’t even get it to load on a USB thumb drive!

One other thing: Does any of them support running OS/2 as a guest?

KVM’s pretty easy. I’ve never used VMware Player, but VirtualBox is also
very easy and popular for use. ESXi… the last time I checked that
needs to be the OS, so if you’re trying to add it to openSUSE then I think
you’re attempting the impossible.

Good luck.

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Seems that each one needs extra work to import a guest as opposed to saying here is a config file stating what NICS are used, what disk/partitions are used etc…

OS/2 is a fairly old OS without any recent development AFAIK.
If you need hardware emulation to provide devices that existed at that time, you may want to run full emulation QEMU.

Of the three you mention
Xen - If openSUSE is your HostOS, Xen is the only one that can’t be installed and run using your current kernel choices. You will have to install the Xen kernel and choose it on bootup. FWIW, if you need to deploy Windows you <may> benefit from the cross-technology agreement between Xen and Microsoft years ago (In exchange for Xen’s kernel technology to improve Hyper-V, Microsoft granted Xen access to writing better device drivers). You can manage Xen clients using command line or libvirt. Does not support Plan9 folder sharing.

KVM - Technology is embedded in the Linux kernel, so maintenance is automatic… When you update your kernel, KVM is updated as well. Manage with command line or libvirt. Probably one of the best choices if you’re “all Linux” (Hosts and Guests).

VMware player - Is VMware’s simplest software. Supports running only one Guest at a time (all others support running as many as your resources allow). Cannot configure anything “advanced” like complex network configurations. I suspect though this is a limitation only in configuration, if a VM was created with complex configurations I’d expect them to function fine in Player.

ESXi - Is VMware’s minimal “bare metal” HostOS. Unlike the full suite VSphere, ESXi exists with a stripped down list of supported device drivers (by default), so it’s <very> sensitive to specific hardware, and that hardware is general “enterprise.” It’s unlikely you can install ESXi on low end hardware. I won’t go into what to do if you were a Business. Of course, it won’t run on a thumb drive… :slight_smile:

Some additional info… If you want/need more than what VMware Player can provide, you can pay $200 for VMware Workstation. It supports just about anything imaginable without needing to know how to create the configuration files manually. And, in general you would have fewer issues running VMware technology compared to every other alternative.

You didn’t mention VirtualBox. Although I’m personally a bit irritated by some features VBox supports only as “experimental” (Another way to say YMMV because they don’t want to spend time on it) and a few peculiarities (like 2 types of NAT settings), I find it an acceptable option when “free” is required.


All the technologies use config files that specify external/environment properties like networking.
Disks would also be specified in the config file, but not partitions (partitions exist within the disks so are not external)

Generally speaking, although all virtualization technologies can be configured to run on a raw, exposed file system it’s almost never done because you expose yourself to possible corruption from external access. Instead, typically a disk file is created which holds an entire file system so that the Guest file system is isolated from external causes of corruption.

I don’t know what you might mean by “import a guest” but if you want a disk file to work across different virtualization technologies, you can try using the RAW format. It won’t work everywhere, but it’ll work with many technologies. Remember though it’s not enough to have a universally read diskfile, the Guest configuration still has to be created and will be unique for each virt technology. As expected though, choosing the RAW format also means that you won’t benefit from the special features that might be supported by that virt technology.


Thank you for all this and gives me some thinking to do.

As for OS/2, yes I know it is not being enhanced or maintained but there is eComStation which is doing some. And it’s not a high priority.

Thinking a bare-metal type of VM would probably work best for my needs. What I would prefer is to have two Linux machines where one can be exposed to the outside world as it runs an email server and a web server. The other one for my own personal use. Think security would be better doing it that way as opposed to having a separate physical machine.

As for importing a guest, it seems that with each VM you have to do some process to get the guest into the VM which modifies the guest. This is opposed to altering a VM config file saying: this is the partition to boot and it accesses these partiitons/disk, how much memory is to be allocated for the guest, this is the NIC to use, etc.


I think as a private user and a IBM account 1994 modem/I-net it was OS/2 Warp. I was scraping Novell 3.11, 3.12, 4.Xn and OS/2 Warp 2009. It’s still works to install in VirtuaBox if I can trust the net.




With all virt technologies, when you create your first Guest, you typically follow a “Wizard” which guides you through setting up the Guest properties and usually pointing to install media.

Once that is completed, it functions just like a physical machine with install media in the CDROM.
At that point you just click the button to turn on your new Guest and the install process is like a physical machine.

Once you have created your Guest, you can clone it to create additional copies… Many technologies support linked clones which build off other Guests and full clones which create full, standalone copies (in both cases remember to change the machine network names). Cloning automatically modifies various settings that identify your machine uniquely on the network so your new Guest won’t conflict with your old.

The other possibility which is <sometimes> supported is to import a pre-built machine from a library, for instance VMware has its OVX format. I’ve always been somewhat mystified why VMware created this format which must be imported, I don’t see any advantage over simply copying the vmdk disk file.

You’ll learn all this by “just doing.” Choose a virt technology and just start playing around… It’ll come to you easily.