Virtualization

VMware Server 2.0 offers handy new upgrades

Vincent Danen discusses his favorite features of VMware Server 2.0 and tells you how to get started with this virtualization tool.

Virtualization is one of the most useful and important technologies to deploy right now. With it, racks of servers are being consolidated into beefy machines running virtual machines and users are able to experiment with and use multiple operating systems on a single computer.

A number of virtualization products exist for Linux including QEMU, VirtualBox, Xen and other open source implementations. On the commercial side, both Parallels and VMware offer commercial products, such as Parallels Workstation or VMware Workstation. VMware also offers a free server-oriented product called VMware Server.

VMware Server has recently undergone a significant upgrade, bringing it to version 2.0. If you have yet to upgrade from 1.x, or have never looked at VMware Server before, now may be a good time to do so.

VMware Server allows you to run multiple operating systems on the same computer, just like any other virtualization product. VMware Server 2, however, does things somewhat differently than other similar products. You can schedule when a virtual machine starts after boot, which allows staggering startup to avoid overloading the host CPU, and also schedule similar shutdown or suspend operations, staggering when the host is requested to shutdown or reboot.

One new feature in VMware Server 2 that is quite interesting is the ability to view the console of the virtual machine via a Web browser. This feature currently requires Firefox or Internet Explorer and is available for Linux or Windows browsers. The Web console for controlling VMware Server 2 is extremely impressive. Essentially, it duplicates what you would see for the management console of VMware Workstation or the old VMware Server and makes it available via any browser; the console, which allows you to view and manipulate the guest OS as if you were local to it, is the only part that requires Firefox or Explorer.

To begin with, you must sign up at the VMware site in order to download Vmware Server. When you are able to download the packages, you may opt to download an RPM package or a tarball archive, for either 32bit or 64bit systems. If you are using an RPM-based system, feel free to download the RPM; otherwise download the tarball.

When you have downloaded the appropriate package, make sure you have the Linux kernel headers and/or source files installed for your distribution. You will also need the same programs you would use to compile the kernel: gcc, make, and others. Typically, installing the kernel-source (or similar) package will bring these required tools in as dependencies, which are required to build the VMware kernel modules. With that done, install VMware Server using rpm or, with the tarball archive, using:

$ tar xvzf VMware-server*.tar.gz
$ cd vmware-server-distrib
$ sudo ./vmware-install.pl

The sudo command is usable with Ubuntu systems; for others, you may have to su to root first to run the installer script.

The install script is very straightforward. You will need the serial number you obtained during signup, and you will have to choose which user will be the VMware "user," which is used to authenticate logins. If this is a single-user machine, you may opt to use your own username here.

Once the installation is complete, visit the Web console at https://yourhost.com:8333 or https://[IP_of_the_machine]:8333 and log in with the user you assigned during installation.

Note that with VMware Server 2, there is no local client. Even locally, you must connect to the Web server in order to configure and manage the system. Once you are in, you can create a new virtual machine, download a virtual appliance, or copy over a pre-existing virtual machine and begin using it.

VMware Server 2 is the next major step for VMware's free server product and it provides some very welcome new features. The lack of a local console may be seen as a bit of a drawback for some, but the new Web console more than makes up for the lack, as it is very impressive. All in all, this is a welcome upgrade to VMware's free server product.

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About

Vincent Danen works on the Red Hat Security Response Team and lives in Canada. He has been writing about and developing on Linux for over 10 years and is a veteran Mac user.

49 comments
jackie40d
jackie40d

I now have it installed on 2 laptops and it runs great was even biker friendly ( only thing is to start in PEUL mode is a royal pain ) But it works GREAT and is a lot more simple

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Anyone have this running clean on Debian? I have it running but only stable through http and with a minutes long hang when stopping the vmware deamons. It's running well enough but is the first install that didn't go in clean since VMware Server was in version 1 beta.

jabid
jabid

Forget it with Vista. If you don'tknow how to get a certificate for your own computer, you might as well go back to school, because from the Windows Certificate management files you can't get there from here. Just endless running around in ambiguities, and referencing footnote links that let you request a certificate, import a certificate, export a certificate, but never actually get a certificate. So you can't even start. I've uninstalled it four times hoping to reinstall without needing a password that is never specified. I think it should be given a pass.

Craig_B
Craig_B

I run this on Windows and VMware Server 1.x worked well. The only thing it needed was to support the latest OS's Vista, 2008. VMware Server 2.x web management interface takes up a ton of resources is harder to use and hangs frequently. I have gone back to 1.x.

ktunison
ktunison

One of the environments I worked in, we stayed with 1.0x because of the inability to have a shared console. Of course, the situation was unique. We had a limited number (one) of public IPs to initiate VPN connections for remote support. Not being able to see/share another users connection just wasn't workable, which is a shame because overall 2.0 is pretty much ESX on a host OS. Before running off and upgrading your existing 1.0x VMware implementations to 2.x, make sure you test/analyze how you actually use the virtualization technology, or you could end up with some frustrated employees, or worse, an environment that doesn't allow the organization to carry out its business as well. Not to mention long hours trying to revert to the earlier version (you took backups, right?).

David.Apimerika
David.Apimerika

The lack of support for Apple Mac (even using Firefox) is lamentable. Surely all the best System Administrators have a MacBook Pro as their weapon of choice? :-) One way I get around this limitation is to run Firefox on the VMware host server (CentOS) itself and redirect output to my Mac (i.e. using the X Windows client-server feature). Here's what I do (using BASH) in essence : * On my Mac, execute: xhost + thevmwarehostname ssh root@thevmwarehostname - On the VMware host: firefox & Note that there are requirements on the server for redirecting X Windows output to the Mac display. I achieve this seamlessly by some lines in the bashrc file (Google for it - my server is turned off). The technique does use resources on the host server, but you get the general idea.

lmurillo
lmurillo

I have been using it for a week now and I like it a lot. There are a couple of things I'd like to add though, the vmrun command does exist and allows you to do a couple of things with the VMWare server 2, I haven't used the one in version 1.0 but know that the version 2.0 does require you to specify the server address, username and password, something I'm not happy with, to the command when running it. Also the VMWare Infrastructure Client will allow you to connect to the server and manage it from there, though limited in functionality it does the job, plus allows you to monitor the performance of the VMWare server as well as the VMs. I say this because I have actually done all of those things with my VMWare server 2 installed on a Debian 4.0 server.

gordon.obrien
gordon.obrien

VMware now have a free version of their enterprise product - ESXi. It is the same as the full product but without the high availability options (which can be activated with a license). Rather than sitting on a pre-installed OS of your choice, ESXi wipes the host server and installs its own locked down OS. Performance of your guest servers is also better than with VMware Server.

MrBrightwork
MrBrightwork

The new management interface is slow. The remote console is even slower.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

It apears to be a copy/paste from VMware's marketing information with a link to some third party company at the bottom. - Anyone else smell fresh pan fried spam? - Maybe st.kpo01 wants to answer the question?

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I miss a vmrun that functions properly though. That's probably my only complaint. With Server v1, I could boot my machine, do a quick vmrun /path/machine.vmx to get my background VM loading and I'm all set. With Server v2, I'm limited to the browser interface. When I set a machine to auto start during bootup, it loads up but I have to restart the vmware deamon before that loaded machine becomes accessible by network. Since I usually use ssh or rdesktop, this is a bit of a pain. The "make shortcut" link within the interface doesn't help either it seems. I also don't get sound forwarded to my local soundcard under Linux or Windows even though I always install the virtual sound device on the VM. Beyond that, v2 is a fantastic upgrade. The longer list of supported OS alone makes it worth a look.

tomofumi
tomofumi

I've tried 2.0 for a new linux server, and the plugin just give me a black screen for the VM (I'm running ubuntu+firefox), I've tried to solve this problem from websites but still no solution could be found, looks like some permission/firewall problem. And the management interface is slow and not responsive. So I had fallback to v1.0.x and keep using the VMware server console....they should not drop this client anyway...

edlutz
edlutz

After installing and trying a little bit the version 2.0, I decided to uninstall it and install a version from 1.x series. The web inteface was too slow and it was hard to find simple things like: how to send special key combinations to the VM, like alt-crl-del for example. Bottom line: for me version 2.0 is a really bad idea and I'd rather change to VirtualBox or something else instead of upgrading to 2.x.

dold
dold

With VMWare 1.0, that worked for me, but with VMWare 2.0, the "console" has to be a downloaded plugin. How do you connect to the virtual client?

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I haven't taken the step of adding the X server into my wife's mac as it's not mine to muck with. I assumed if I did, I could just use the ssh -X switch to allow X forwarding to my local machine though. On my other machines I work like that regularly. The couch and my laptop as a thinclient make for a comfy play to work some days.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

If it's working for you then my issues must be the chair-keyboard interface. I'll have to take a better look at that tonight since opening X and a browser just to boot or halt a VM sucks.

dold
dold

Two things I don't like about 2.0 verses 1.0. "version 2.0 does require you to specify the server address, username and password" over, and over, and over. Every time I open the web interface, with no opportunity to save it. You can make a shortcut to the Console agent which you can launch directly, starting that VM if it isn't already started, without visiting the Web management interface, but again, the login and password, every time. For Windows servers, I generally turn on RDC and use that instead of the console interface. The other thing that I dislike is that the console _must_ be separate from the web interface. It doesn't play well in my cascaded network of hiding servers from the internet that are accessible via intermediate hops. Overall, this is a very handy tool. I used to multi-boot different OS for my application software test, and now I just have a pile of VM clients on an external USB drive. I generally only run one, maybe two at a time. I've thought about ESXi, but I also use the native Linux or Windows platforms for some testing. I'm not sure that I always trust the VMWare emulation.

pete.carpenter
pete.carpenter

How are you administering ESXi for free? According to this ESXi FAQ, it the CLI is read-only on the free version. You need a paid VI Client license (GUI tools) or a Agent license (CLI tools) for administration. I'm interested how you worked around it. Thanks! http://www.vmware.com/products/esxi/uses.html

lmurillo
lmurillo

It probably was my fault but I tried ESXi first but had issues with how it managed the system resources so it wouldn't allow me to run more than one virtual machine at a time whilst the Server 2 allows me to run multiple VMs at the same time on the same server.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I've always found a noticable difference between VMs run under a Windows host versus a *nix host. Resource management and all that sort of thing. One thing you could check if it's a Windows box; is your AV software scanning \virutal machines\? Excluding that directory from the active AV may improve performance but insure the VMs are doing there own AV.

louspag
louspag

Well, for me the biggest pain with vmware server 2 is the management interface. I am running vmware on fedora 10 and the web interface seems to crash quite often. This also happened with Fedora 9. It may be do to Fedora, I'm not sure but I don't have time to test it on another distro just yet.

jackie40d
jackie40d

I am now using the newer Version of Ubuntu 9.10 has a gob of better drivers an runs a bit better ( just can't change some things like sounds ) and I use the Newer Virtual Box 3.1 I have it on 2 laptops one so I don't have to fix Thomas's computer every week hehe ! I put Windows XP Pro inside of Virtual box and it runs GREAT when Linux ( Ubuntu 9.10 ) is on line Windblows is on line inside of Ubuntu and much safer . .

sean.s008
sean.s008

You are right Neon, I have better experience with using this... its very easy and worth to use.

David.Apimerika
David.Apimerika

I'm not sure if I understand you completely, so I'll paraphrase what I do (without the details). Note that this works for any X application running on a machine: A Mac wants to connect to and manage a VMware 2.0 server. However, Firefox on Mac cannot open a Console Windows because the required plug-in doesn't work. The trick then, is to run Firefox on another machine but display the output (i.e. the windows of Firefox) on the Mac. X Windows does just that - it separates the running process from the displayed output. So you run Firefox on your Linux host (which may or may not be the VMware Server as well) but redirect the screen output on your Mac. This is X Windows Client & Server voodoo. The magic commands to read up on are xhost, ssh and the DISPLAY shell variable. I hope this helps. Apple do have a web page detailing this, which I think I posted earlier. If not, it's: http://developer.apple.com/opensource/tools/runningX11.html

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

If you use the VMware console then it's the client software with V1 and the client console plugin with V2. You get a screen view and your keyboard/mouse are forwarded to the machine. Once the machine is setup, you can use any remote software installed on that VM. With unix like machines ssh gives you full control of your VM without going through the VMware client/plugin. With Windows, you can use remote desktop to skip the client/plugin requirement. The only time you really need it is during the initial setup before you get remote desktop services or openssh-server installed.

pgit
pgit

You have to install the cocktail package to the Mac, in order to get to the hidden files for one thing. Not sure what-all is going on with Mac and ssh, but I just set up 2 of 'em and it was no go until I added cocktail.

lmurillo
lmurillo

Here's how you use the vmrun with this version of server: To stop a VM: vmrun -T server -h https://localhost:8333/sdk -u USERNAME -p PASSWORD stop "PATH TO VMX FILE" To start a VM: vmrun -T server -h https://localhost:8333/sdk -u USERNAME -p PASSWORD start "PATH TO VMX FILE" To list the running VMs: vmrun -T server -h https://localhost:8333/sdk -u USERNAME -p PASSWORD list

David.Apimerika
David.Apimerika

What do you mean by VMware emulation? The ESXi, as far as I now of ESX, is a solid Linux distribution, based on RedHat 7.x. Please correct me if I'm wrong.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I rarely use the console to access a *nix VM outside of the fifteen minutes of initial install. After that, ssh makes everything happy. Since I'm not getting audio bridged from the VM anyway, remote desktop is the way to go with Windows VM. The only place you end up needing the console after that is when swapping media if you mount .iso instead of your physical drive.

gordon.obrien
gordon.obrien

First you need to request a free license on the VMware website (not a trial license!). Once installed, hit the IP address of the ESXi box in a web browser and you get a link to download the infrastructure client. Point it directly to the IP of the ESXi host and you get full management tools. If you want to add it to and enterprise V.I.C. console, you will need a license.

ktunison
ktunison

On ESXi did you try modifying the the memory management? I'm not sure on the default in ESXi, but with 1.0x the auto-memory management is used. Moving to ESXi is fantastic so long as the hardware is officially supported. If it is not, very strange issues can arise. For example, some hardware will let you install from CD/DVD, but then upon reboot, the disc drive will no longer be recognized when ESXi boots! If it is just to test and play with, 2.0 is really all you need to get your feet wet because you essentially are using ESX. If ESXi is going in to a serious/critical server then throw your money in to getting supported hardware and save yourself worlds of misery.

gordon.obrien
gordon.obrien

I am running 12 production servers (Windows & Linux) on a single free ESXi box. It does eat RAM though.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Windows, Mandriva and Debian have run it rock solid. I mentioned my issue with start at boot VMs not accessible be network on my Mandriva box at home but the Mandriva machine at work hasn't presented the same issue. It may be worth trying it on a different distribution as I'm not sure how close to bleeding edge Fedora tends to be. It's just that vmrun I miss. the command is right there in V2's install but consistently complains about no url. I miss being able to boot up the VMs I need running without going into X and a browser interface. I may take some time to investigate that further though later.

Adam S
Adam S

that I can manage my VMs from any client with the web interface. I only need to install software for the console (to actually view the virtual machine's desktop), if I so choose. The plugin installs quite fast, so this is not a problem. Whereas before the process of installing the client software was rather bulky and cumbersome. I'm not trying to start a contest or anything, I just want to give a point of reference with this next remark. I'm using VMWare Server in a Windows environment and not having any trouble with crashing.

edmicman1
edmicman1

I agree, I upgraded to v2 and immediately hated it. Maybe for production use a web-based console would be helpful, but I'm just wanting a handful of VMs for development use on my local machine. I found the web interface cumbersome and buggy. I did manage to find a standalone management console, but it doesn't have the full feature set of the web interface. On top of all that, it seemed like the server instance was taking up a lot of resources, more than it used to. I'm working on converting over to VirtualBox. It's two bad the two don't seem to be able to easily read and work with each other's images....at least when I tried they didn't. I just want to be able to fire up a VM here and there to test something, I don't need a full time VM instance running all the time. I could see running VMWare server as part of a development server for multiple people (heh, or even production!), but for personal use I think I like VirtualBox much better.

dold
dold

You are absolutely correct. I ssh from my laptop into a Linux box hosting VMWare Server 2.0, and I can open a Firefox on it, to it. When I launch a "console", a new Window pops open on my laptop that is such a clean rendition of the VMWare console that I get from the plugin on my PC that I mistakenly thought it was the plugin, running on my machine, which would be nearly impossible, but I was annoyed that VMWare 2.0 changed the way VMWare 1.0 used to work for me, and drew the wrong conclusion. I can also open a Firefox Window from that Linux box to a Windows-VMWare Server that I can't reach directly from my laptop due to routing and firewalls. From there, I would have sworn that a console just did not work. Tonight it did, but it was a _long_ time before the console window opened. I probably just didn't wait long enough when I tested it the first time, right after the upgrade to 2.0. Thanks for typing slowly, so I could catch up. ;-)

pgit
pgit

...it depends on what you want/need to do. Numerous of my clients have groupware running off a Linux server and access it from any workstation available, including windows and mac clients. It wasn't that hard getting it going, but it took me forever to find out you needed cocktail in order to set preferences to see hidden files. (at least on the clients I've played with) These get-ups are neat. To see a Mac client running an instance of XP remotely in a VM on a Linux host... what can't Linux do?!

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I've gone from osX out through ssh but only for cli needs. ssh and scp work nicely for going into osX. I've not had the need to open remote GUI apps under osX though. I only knew that X was on the OS install CD because it is needed for some FOSS applications that can be easily run on osX once the server is installed.

dold
dold

The "start" command doesn't seem to work for me. I don't get an error return, and if I start the Web interface, it shows "succeeded" on the power on in the taks list, but the individual status shows powered off, and I can see the start, a suggestion that I should wait for it to finish booting, and then install VMWare Tools, and then a power off. I think I need a "console" started somewhere for it to succeed.

dold
dold

> VMWare is only emulating the hardware. > The hosted Linux OS would be no different > than the same Linux OS installed on > physical hardware. I don't agree. If that were true, VMWare wouldn't need to know what OS was being installed. It's all the same hardware. The SuSE Console would work correctly, and not need adjustment when running from a Windows VM host, when the same image works without adjustment on a Linux VM host. USB and raw disk are places where the reason for the differences is obvious. Sharing those through any sort of emulation is not going to be the same as native access.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

My understanding is that ESXi replaces the host OS with it's own specific Linux based host OS so any user accessible OS has to be installed within a VM. For a dedicated VM box, that's a great way to go. For my own needs, I require Windows or my preferred Distro bootable and usable directly against the hardware so loosing the dualboot hosts by installing ESXi instead of VMware Server would be a problem.

mclghlne
mclghlne

VMWare is only emulating the hardware. The hosted Linux OS would be no different than the same Linux OS installed on physical hardware.

dold
dold

> What do you mean by VMware emulation? > The ESXi, as far as I now of ESX, is a > solid Linux distribution I was referrnig to keeping the Native Linux available for me to use as my test platform, for cases where I don't think the VMWare hosted Linux client is doing the same thing. With ESXi, you lose that native Linux as one of the "platforms". I see native Linux and VMWare hosted Linux as two different environments, depending upon how much you trust their emulation.

lmurillo
lmurillo

It is though you don't have access to the console, as far as I saw, but the web interface that it has is useless and is only used to download the Infrastructure Client application. I liked the idea but hated the fact that wouldn't allow me to run more than one VM at a time...though might have been my fault ;)

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I used to use video games as the benchmark for a personal machine upgrade. They where the heavyweight that could push the need for ram and similar resources. My last upgrade was benchmarked against how many VM I could run at a time instead though. two 2 gig ram sticks and a multi-core cpu where the main requirnments. 1 gig of ram is probably what is holding your machine back. A windows VM doesn't run well with less than 512 meg of ram allocated and a unix like OS will want 256 meg though more is always better. I can get about two or three winXP's at 512 meg each running at the same time where I haven't had a slowdown with multiple *nix VMs until booting one of the win32 images. I'm pushing them with a quad core and four gig of ram so I suspect the limitation is running them all off the same physical hard drive. If I placed the VM files on separate hard drives then I could get the expected four VMs per core running smoothly.

lmurillo
lmurillo

The server I have has only 1GB of RAM, if it wasn't as expensive as it is it would have more, so that's probably why :) This is a personal server and not from work so it's not like I have a huge corporate level budget to put hardware into this thing :D

jmj2969
jmj2969

I have been tinkering with the new release of VB on a Mac with OS X 10.5.6 and have been able to access external drives through the USB interface. Haven't tried a printer yet. Getting ready to install VB on a Ubuntu 8.10 installation to try using a Windows-based Panasonic printer. Will let you know how that goes.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I tried Virtualbox a while back but couldn't use it yet as I needed the bridging between physical and VM USB bus. I'm assuming it will continue to evolve quickly and provide those missing funtions though. Are you hitting specific hardware on your physical machine through a VM such as usb printers?