A friend who is just getting started with virtualization asked: Should I install VMware Workstation on Linux or Windows? It's a simple question with a not-so-straightforward answer. When it comes to Type II hypervisors (i.e., those that run on top of a mainstream operating system), there are a lot of considerations.
First, let's go over what the options are for Type II hypervisors. The most well-known example is VMware Workstation; other options include Oracle VM VirtualBox, VMware Player, Microsoft Virtual Server, VMware Server, and VMware Fusion. My favorite Type II hypervisor is Oracle VM VirtualBox, primarily due to historical experience and the number of features that are available for free.
Many of these hypervisors can be installed on any number of operating systems, which function as the host. The best example of how to illustrate this is a Windows 7 laptop loaded up with extra memory can have a Type II hypervisor (such as VirtualBox or VMware Workstation) installed and run additional operating systems as guest virtual machines.
Now back to the example from my friend, whose Linux and Windows skills are about equal: Which operating system is better for the host? My response was that he should identify what the host operating system needs to do. If it is simply to run a number of different guests, then it really doesn't matter which operating system is used. If the host still must function as the everyday workplace computer (presumably Windows), then that environment should be the priority, and Windows would run on the native operating system.
Generally speaking, I think Linux would be a more efficient host operating system for virtual machines, though Windows may be easier to support and use (at least for me). Many of my colleagues like Mac OS X and prefer the VMware Fusion route. I don't use Apple operating systems, but I can appreciate that with Type II virtualization tools other operating systems can be used.
There are a lot of factors to consider when deciding which operating system will host the Type II hypervisor. The broad recommendation is usually to keep the purpose of the host operating system in mind during your decision process.
What factors do you think about when deciding a host operating system for Type II hypervisors? Let us know in the discussion.
Rick Vanover is a software strategy specialist for Veeam Software, based in Columbus, Ohio. Rick has years of IT experience and focuses on virtualization, Windows-based server administration, and system hardware.