Wednesday, August 17, 2011

migrate to VirtualBox from VMWare Server : sadly & happy to

I have been a loyal VMWare server 1.0 user since it became free in 2005. It is used to build various sandbox  on my Windows XP laptop at work. The guest OS include RHEL, CentOS, Fedora, Solaris 10, Windows server 2008,  Windows server 2003,  Windows XP & Windows Enterprise 7. One feature I like a lot is its capability, with an easy-to-use GUI, to modify network settings to choose subnet, DHCP lease, and port forwarding, etc.
After upgrading my home desktop to long-awaited CentOS 6 early this month, I could no longer compile & run VMWare server. Since my home PC runs a mini lab of 3~4 nodes to play with cobbler & puppet, I need to find a solution that can play the same vmware machine (VMDK storage). Virtualbox from Oracle (Sun/Virtualbox.org) seems to be a good choice, given its popularity in LinuxJounal's 2010 poll. 
  • The one RPM installation is great.
  • It uses DKMS to compile and it compiles successfully in one shot.
  • Guess OS support is up to date, with WIndows 7 and Server 2008. It does not differentiate versions of RHEL, RHL, Fedora though.
  • PXE capability comes from the extension pack. you'll need to download & load. The extension pack license is free only for evaluation or personal use.
  • Nowhere to find UI to modify network settings, other than choosing types of networking (NAT, bridged, etc.).
    • add NAT adapter, only when you need this VM go talk with the world linked to the host
    • add 'intnet' adapter and provides a meaningful name. This name apparently is used by Virtualbox to wire the other guest os into the same network, if they share the same name for their intnet adapter.
  • Virtualbox won't import vmware guest images as is, since it imports only Open Virtualization format. On the other hand, it does support VMDK format, such that you can create a new virtualbox and choose to use an existing virtual disk (the vmware guest image you intend to import or run from virtualbox).
  • Too bad the proxy preference do not extends to guests (behind the NAT). Instead, I had to configure http proxy at various places (profile.d, yum.conf, gnome) inside my CentOS 5 or CentOS 6 guests.
The other thing noteworthy is what type of controller Virtualbox associates your existing vmware disk (vmdk) to. It needs to match. Otherwise the working vmware image may fail to boot properly. It happened to me, when Virtualbox associated an IDE-based disk to SATA controller. Once I powered off the guest, then redid the association, I were able to boot up the image w/o a glitch from there on.

The installation & look & feel are pretty smooth & consitent & faster(?),on both a Windows 7 Enterprise x64 host (HP Elitebook laptop. 4G RAM) and a CentOS 6.0 i386 host (a Compaq PC, 2G RAM).  For now, I think I'll continue the path of migrating to VirtualBox. VMWare server will stay on for a bit, just in case I decide to roll-back.  I am definitely looking forward for taking advantage of the capability to take multiple snapshots, with notes!  It bothered me when I could keep only one snapshot and couldn't annotate what is this snapshot, with VMWare Server 1.x & 2.x

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