VMware Australia Fusion 1.0

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VMware Australia Fusion 1.0
  • VMware Australia Fusion 1.0
  • VMware Australia Fusion 1.0
  • VMware Australia Fusion 1.0

Pros

  • Fusion's multicore support performs really well, it's a great power user in regards to SMP and 64-bit operating systems

Cons

  • Fusion's Unity gets rid of the Windows task bar, sometimes copied images doesn't work, the P2V conversion tool doesn't come with Fusion and must be downloaded separately

Bottom Line

VMware Fusion is a solid virtualisation package for OS X that builds on VMware's long experience but offers a native Mac look and feel. Support for SMP and 64-bit operating systems make it the top choice for power users. Support for Windows is strong, but some switchers will find the sparse set of GUI-based management tools a turn-off.

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The big undo command

Snapshots allow you to save a particular state of the VM, and then revert to it later. Think of it as an OS-level undo command. Snapshots are useful for backing out of an update gone badly, or for testing an application before committing to it. We use snapshots regularly when using virtual machines and have started to wish this feature were available on our standard OS. Snapshots are one of the most useful features of virtualisation.

Snapshots are also where Fusion and Parallels diverge in a significant way. Fusion's snapshot facility is fairly simple, allowing you to set a single snapshot, then return to or discard it. Parallels has a sophisticated snapshot manager that lets you keep multiple snapshots simultaneously. You can return to any of these former states and run them -- while keeping any changes you've made to the system in a new snapshot. Further, you can fork multiple changes from a single snapshot, resulting in a hierarchy of machine states that can be revisited at will.

Taking a snapshot on Fusion happens so fast we wonder if anything's happened. Parallels can take 10 seconds or so to create a snapshot. Still, that's a small penalty to pay for the piece of mind that snapshots give.

Resource requirements

One of the more important questions for anyone considering virtualisation is resource consumption. Both Parallels and Fusion allow you to easily constrain the resources that a given VM uses. Our recommendation is to accept the recommended defaults unless you have a good reason not to. In any case, you can always change these settings later.

Running virtual machines isn't for skimpy hardware. The two resources that matter most are memory and disk space. There's no way to get around the fact that virtualisation requires substantial amounts of both. We ran our tests of Parallels and Fusion on a MacBook Pro with 4GB of memory and 200GB of disk.

Each running guest takes a substantial amount of RAM, as much as several hundred megabytes. The amount of RAM in your machine will limit which other programs you can run alongside the virtual environment, what you can do on the guest, and how many guests you can run simultaneously.

Most users will have one or two guest images -- power users may have dozens. A virtual machine image consists of configuration information, a memory image, and a disk image. The disk image is the largest of these files, typically starting at a 2GB to 4GB for Windows and increasing as you install applications and add files. Both Fusion and Parallels support sparse disk images that use only as much physical space as necessary.

When you first start using virtual machines, it's interesting and helpful to keep an eye on OS X's Activity Monitor (Applications-Utilities-Activity Monitor) to monitor resource usage with different workloads. For example, we found that Parallels and Fusion both consumed 5 to 10 per cent of the CPU when running Windows XP, even when the VM was idle. With Word loaded, you will see CPU usage run as high as 20 per cent, even when you're not using the application.

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