Vmware Server Console — Introduction to Virtualization

[ Monday, 16 July 2007, paulina ]

The majority of Linux users have gotten used to keeping more than one operating system on their hard disks. Most frequently the second system is a version of Microsoft Windows. Switching between the two systems tends to be irritating, especially when the secondary system is needed only once – to run an application WINE has refused to start, for example. Now we introduce the virtualization technology which allows us to run several systems on the same computer, at the same time, all under the control of one of them, called a “host”. My examples are based on the Vmware Server Console v. 1.0.3 (distributed from its manufacturer’s WWW free of charge) running under Mandriva Linux Spring with KDE 3.5.7.

Author: Paulina Budzoń

Is There A Need For Virtualization At All?

This all depends on what a user’s computer is being used for. It may be that the technology will seem useless to “a buddy”. Perhaps the system he owns entirely fulfills his demands. However, for a user familiar with products coming out of Redmond, wishing to experiment with a new Linux distribution and not having the guts to run the risk of formatting and partitioning their disks, or for users who simply do not wish to waste their time on an installation process, virtualization technology might be ideal.

The Vmware Server is able to start practically every Linux distro with 2.4.x or 2.6.x kernels, the whole family of Windows systems, Novell NetWare, Sun Solaris, MS DOS, FreeBSD, and others. Both in 32 bit, and 64 bit versions.

Why Then The Vmware Server?

Well… a whim! :) Apart from the Vmware Server, I familiarized myself with such applications as the Vmware Player, and the VirtualBox. In my opinion the first one is less flexible than its Server counterpart, and the second one is less intuitive to operate. In my small private contest it is the Vmware Server which excels.

Where to Start?

First of all you need to provide yourself with the application – the newest version is always available on the manufacturer’s WWW – http://www.vmware.com/download/server/. Do not forget to fill out a registration form (the Server is free of charge of course, though sadly not Free as in Freedom). Now you need to install the application. I’m sure it ought not to cause any problems. If you made use of prepackaged .rpm file then after installation you’ll be prompted to go through some configuration steps. Likewise you shouldn’t have any major problems if you have chosen to compile from source. The only disadvantage is the “small” 100 MB which has to be downloaded.

Pic.1. Vmware Server Console

What After Installation?

Let’s start the fun! After starting the Vmware application you’ll be asked whether you would like to make use of a local computer or you would like to connect to a remote host. The second option allows you to run a virtual system on another machine with Vmware installed. However being a prudent guy or girl you will likely decide that, for the first time, you want to use your local computer. Choose the “Local Host” option then, click the “Connect”, and you’re in.

Your First, Simplest System – Live

To start a Live system is the easiest thing to do. You’ll need an ISO image or a CD with such a system. I will bring Mandriva One Spring into play.

Pic.2. Bootable screen of Mandriva One in Vmware

Choose from your host’s main window the “Create a new virtual machine” option or make the selection via menu “File”- “New” – “Virtual Machine”. You can also press Ctrl+N. A “new virtual machine” creator will show on monitor’s screen. Select the “Next” option.

The application will ask you about a configuration mode in its next window. Choose the “Custom” option because it gives you the most options for setting virtualization parameters. If you prefer the Vmware Server with default values choose the “Typical” option.

The next question asked will pertain to the type of virtual system which is to be started. This step is an important one as Vmware needs to select proper parameters for the system. Windows family systems do not work like Linuxes. Choose the “Linux” option and from the pop-up menu “Mandriva Linux”. All that is left to do now is to set a name of the system under which it will be stored by Vmware, and to define a directory where all the configuration files related to the system will be placed.

Now it’s time to declare the number of processors available to the system. If your computer is equipped with only one I strongly advise you not to use other options. The more processors emulated, the less responsive your applications and your host system will be!

In the next step you need to enable your virtual machine to be accessed by other users of your computer. If you do not want to do that tick off the “Make this virtual machine private” option.

In another settings window you’ll need to define the memory assigned to your virtual machine. This time every user should define appropriate values according to their resources. You ought to pay attention to the information provided by Vmware about the kind of memory sizes – minimum, maximum, and recommended. I must add here that defining less memory than suggested as a maximum (blue triangle) will not guarantee that the virtual machine works without accessing swap space. This remark is particularly valid in case of the Windows systems. But in the case of the Live system you can set the suggested amount of memory (green triangle) or even a bit more. More so when you are not going to push your virtual machine to the extremes.

The follow-up window will contain setting parameters related to the network conditions. With questions about the way you’d like to setup your network, if at all. The options are fairly clear – you can “Use bridged networking”, run your host as a NAT, create a virtual network between your host and a starting system via “Use host-only networking” or cut off your virtual machine from a network with the “Do not use network connection” option.

After clicking the “Next” button you’ll be asked about which I/O adapter types to use. You do not have to change default settings suggested by the application, unless you have your own preferences.

Another option will be shown. This time the Creator Module needs to know the disks you’d like to allocate to your virtual machine. In the case of your Live system this option is excessive. I will describe it later in this series of article.

Now you have to choose three types of data. 1) “Create a new virtual disk”, 2) select HDD type (SCSI would be the best), and 3) the size of the disk volume you want to allocate for your system. As your Live system will not make use of any hard disks, it is best to select minimum size allowable by the application (0.1 GB), and tick off both options below (they too will be described later in the next part of this article).

Another Vmware question concerns where to save the file with the disk. Without passing a path Vmware will make use of default settings and will save the data in the directory belonging to the machine you selected at the begining.

Click the “Finish” button and enjoy your “new” system.

Pic.3. Virtual Machine’s Setting Window

You have to tweak additional settings now (Pic.3). Open your virtual machine’s Setting Window and select the “Edit virtual machine settings”, then tick off CD-ROM, and choose the “Use ISO image” option in the options area placed on the right side. Then click the “Browse” and find the ISO image with your Live system on a disk. If the system is burned on a CD, insert the media into the CD device. Now open the “Use physical drive”, select the “Host”, and then the appropriate device.

Click the “OK” button and now you are ready to start your machine. Next click the “Power on this virtual machine” and wait a while until your system is loaded through its boot sequence.

To make use of your mouse and keyboard in a virtual machine it suffices to click in the machine window. All keyboard activities (apart from special keys like Ctrl+Alt+Del, Ctrl+F2, etc) and mouse movements will be sent to your virtual system. In order to come back to the host system press Ctrl+Alt keys.

After loading the system it can be run just like a typical Live system.

What Next?

Next? The future is bright! :) You can now use Livedisc systems as other systems. The virtualization technology is very handy – in case of testing new distributions you won’t find yourself in jeopardy of losing any data or up to your ears in unspecified troubles.

It needs to be remembered that two systems are not equivalent to one system and your computer will work somewhat slower – everything depends on types of the distributions. In general such distros as Mandriva One, Backtrack, and PCLinuxOS run without problems as I’ve found through my experiences. But OpenSUSE can be a true challenge to a computer.

I will describe in the next article how Debian can be quickly installed on a physical HDD against a virtual one. I’ll show an easy way to start Windows XP through Vmware as well. And I will prove that not only VirtualBox is able to “virtualize” Windows Vista!

This text is based on the article published in Dragonia Magazine, a Polish online magazine about Free and Open-Source Software. You can download the latest Dragonia issue (first one in English from our mirror). The article has been slightly modified compared with the original version by the PolishLinux team.

About the Author

Paulina Budzoń

Former Mandriva's translator, Dragonia Magazine's editor and great OpenSource fan. Lives in Warsaw, Poland.

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