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VMware Workstation 5: The Software Testers' Friend

For the software tester there's one invaluable tool, VMware Workstation 5

I love virtual machines. They enable me to stretch my limited hardware by letting me run more than one operating system on a single computer. But my needs pale in comparision to those of quality assurance and testing teams. They have to test tens if not hundreds of configurations and setting up individual machines is expensive in terms of both time and hardware.

For the software tester there's one invaluable tool, VMware Workstation 5, released in early April 2005, whose feature set development was driven mainly by customer requirements, according to VMware senior product manager Srinivas Krishnamurti. VMware is a highly effective virtual machine infrastructure for software and infrastructure testing environments. The company also has a server line that consolidates servers on Intel/AMD hardware. The VMware Workstation 5 beta program boasted over 230,000 downloads and provided valuable feedback and consquent improvement in this major release. The release should help IT administrators that support cross-platform applications on NetWare, Linux, Solaris x86 and Windows conserve hardware and run operating systems and those applications concurrently on the same PC.

VMware Workstation is a unique product that serves software testers well by allowing them to stage pre-production environments to test software before it goes into production. The idea of creating snapshots and multiple insulated machines on the same server is an excellent way to extend software testing and quality assurance budgets. While often used as a multi-platform workstation, VMware may be overkill in some instances since the feature set and capabilities are ideal for software testing. VMware Workstation 5 has a number of new features but its developers specifically focused on three core improvements:

  • Teams - Users can now connect virtual machines with configurable network segments to test multi-tier applications like those delivered across the Web. Using the Teams feature, testers can throttle bandwidth and network conditions to test how applications might perform. Browser-based applications are often easy to distribute to the desktop; developing and testing is difficult as 25-30% of the time can be absorbed by just setting up networks. Many enterprises don't have resources to purchase and set up test beds for a large number of potential configurations. In the VMWare test environment it's possible to throttle bandwidth to duplicate network conditions and test performance. Also, from the perspective of resource conservation, VMware Workstation includes a page-sharing feature so that memory pages can be shared across virtual machines, reducing overall memory requirements of the host PC.
  • Multiple Snapshots - VMware has enhanced Workstations' snapshot feature so that it can take multiple snapshots of a virtual PC at different times. Regression testing is much easier since finding the point before the bug was introduced is done by loading previous snapshots.
  • Cloning - Cloning virtual machines lets developers share virtual machines. You can now share not only the whole environment but the delta between virtual machines' base image, a useful feature when debugging.
Besides these major features VMware now supports 64 bit platforms from both Intel and AMD. For Linux users there's a new gtk2-based interface and support for the following additional 32-bit operating systems as guest or host: Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4, Red Hat Linux Advanced Server 3, SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 9, SuSE Linux Pro 9.2, Mandrake Linux 10, Sun's Java Desktop System, and Novell Linux Desktop 9. For developers porting applications to these new platforms VMware provides an easy to administer and flexible test environment.

If you need to test and debug software or provide snapshots of multiple x86 operating systems for sales demos, VMware is a good and unique choice. VMware Workstation 5 is available now at a suggested download price of $189 or $199 for a box version. Registered VMware 4.5 customers are entitled to a free upgrade while version 4.x and 3.x customers can get a reduced price on upgrades for a limited period of time.

Product Info

Product: VMware Workstation 5
Price: $189.00 (upgrade pricing also)
URL: www.vmware.com

Supported Linux Host Operating Systems
Supported distributions and kernels are listed below:

  • Now supporting many 2.6 kernels
  • Mandrake Linux 10
  • Mandrake Linux 9.0—stock 2.4.19
  • RHEL AS/ES/WS 4.0—32-bit, 64-bit (experimental)
  • RHEL AS/ES/WS 3.0—stock 2.4.21, update 2.4.21-15.EL, 64-bit
  • Red Hat Enterprise Linux 2.1 —stock 2.4.9-e3
  • Red Hat Linux Advanced Server 2.1 —stock 2.4.9-e3
  • Red Hat Linux 9.0—stock 2.4.20-8, upgrade 2.4.20-20.9
  • Red Hat Linux 8.0—stock 2.4.18
  • Red Hat Linux 7.3—stock 2.4.18
  • Red Hat Linux 7.2—stock 2.4.7-10, upgrade 2.4.9-7, upgrade 2.4.9-13, upgrade 2.4.9-21, upgrade 2.4.9-31
  • SUSE Linux 9.1—stock 2.6.4-52
  • SUSE Linux 9.0—stock 2.4.21-99
  • SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 9.0—32-bit, 64-bit, SP1(listed versions also supported with no service pack)
  • SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 8 —stock 2.4.19, 64-bit
  • SUSE Linux 8.2—stock 2.4.20
  • SUSE Linux 8.1—stock 2.4.19
  • SUSE Linux 8.0—stock 2.4.18
  • SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 7 —stock 2.4.7 and patch 2
  • SUSE Linux 7.3—stock 2.4.10

    Note: As newer Linux kernels and distributions are released, VMware modifies and tests its products for stability and reliability on those host platforms

  • More Stories By Mark R. Hinkle

    Mark Hinkle is the Senior Director, Open Soure Solutions at Citrix. He also is along-time open source expert and advocate. He is a co-founder of both the Open Source Management Consortium and the Desktop Linux Consortium. He has served as Editor-in-Chief for both LinuxWorld Magazine and Enterprise Open Source Magazine. Hinkle is also the author of the book, "Windows to Linux Business Desktop Migration" (Thomson, 2006). His blog on open source, technology, and new media can be found at http://www.socializedsoftware.com.

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