by August 4, 2005 0 comments

As individual users, you can install virtualization software such as VMWare or Virtual PC on your 
machine or notebook and use it for either testing software or giving application demos without disturbing the rest of your 
machine’s original setup. 

An enterprise has two primary uses for it-one, where it provides easy manageability, security and isolation of environment and two, multi-level usability. VMWare ACE is a desktop virtual machine s/w that fits both these requirements. Networks may use it remotely to create virtual machines and package them for distributing to end users.

A virtual copy of Win XP running in VMWare and a VB application running on top it

But how exactly is this product useful for the enterprise? There are people such as consultants, auditors and outstation salesmen who come once in a while but need workstations when they come. Keeping spare machines for them is not practical. But, you can easily have a centralized high-end server running and a number of virtual machines on it. To access and use it, you only need a thin-client style PC with the
capability to remote-desktop to that server and use one of the virtual machines. This saves on the hardware and network provisioning, and eases the pain of
security-related configuration for these users and machines. Also, virtual images can be loaded and unloaded on the fly, letting you run different combinations of those users as the
situation demands. VMware ACE fits here.

Its can emulate Windows, Linux, Sun Solaris and Novell NetWare platforms. We reviewed it on a machine with Win XP, P4 and 512 MB RAM. You can install the software to a virtual machine faster from an ISO image than from the physical CD drive. After installation, we set up three virtual machines, one running Win XP and other two running Linux (one a live CD and the other a copy of PCQLinux 2005). Our test PC performed well with all the three machines running simultaneously. To stress the virtual machine, we installed VS.NET 2003 in the Win XP instance and worked on it. We also checked network file access and activities like e-mail and Internet usage. In full screen mode, It worked as smooth as working on a real physical machine.

For the first time, you can apply policies even to a virtual machine. The software provides four levels of
security-encryption, authentication, expiry and copy protection. These policies are meant for the guest user, who uses the virtual machine over a remote thin client. This prevents guest user to access or tamper the physical machine’s application data. You can also set policies on network connections. When encryption policy is set, VMWare uses a private/public key to encrypt all the configuration data for that machine. Authentication requires a password to run the virtual machine and setting an expiry date and time ensures that you cannot use the virtual machine after that time. Copy protection prevents re-use of the image file elsewhere, including other copies and versions of

But, even then if someone deletes the virtual machine’s files, there is no way to
recover the virtual hard disk, unless you have a back-up copy. It has a snapshot feature that lets you take snapshots of the machine at a particular state and revert to that state when needed. Though it doesn’t help in case of image-file deletion. Say, while testing a particular software in a virtual machine that changes the OS settings and registry, you can use the snapshot images to revert to any previous stage. 
Bottom Line: A great self-policing, hardware-independent product that improves security and manageability on a virtual PC.

Sanjay Majumder

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