VmWare released their VmWare Server for free yesterday and I had the opportunity to test it today. I am familiar with the workstation version and the recently released free VmWare viewer which I use for a couple of development VMs but I hadn’t seen any server products yet. As I understand the new free VmWare server covers about the same functionality as the former product GSX Server. It looks like VmWare is trying to secure it’s market share before other opensource virtualization tools like Xen catch which will certainly happen as soon as virtualization support in the latest intel and amd processors can be used.
As for my experiments, I installed a VmWare Server on my debian linux box without any problems. The console installation script let me customize the install paths and vmware modules were compiled against my kernel-headers successfully. As client I installed the VmWare Server Console on Windows XP which looks similar to the workstation version with the ability to connect to a server (user authentication uses PAM against the linux users btw.). I created a new virtual machine with the console but copied the harddisk image from an exisiting virtual machine (using the old workstation virtual machine directly resulted in problems with sound configuration and other stuff). Very useful is the ability to use the cd/dvd drive on the client PC which can be accessed from within the VM running on the server.
I really like the ability to disconnect from the virtual machine which then keeps running on the server and reconnect later, but then again, thats what you expect of a server. As for the performance it’s definately slower than vmware on a standalone workstation but that is understandable considering the network connection. Using the windows remote access to connect to the server seems to be only slightly faster so I suppose it’s the overall speed of the virtual machine that’s limiting. Maybe the performance can be approved by tweaking some server settings, I’ll look into that.
To conclude, the free VmWare Server is a useful tool to have and it’s apparent that it is a mature product but it could be improved performance wise.