VMware pushes free virtualization tool for desktops

VMware recently released tools for users who want to run desktop computers with multiple personalities. The move is to help promote the use of VMware's virtualization on desktops, while getting the brand in the heads of IT professionals who may be considering a move to virtualized servers in data centers.

VMware Player is a free software product that lets users run multiple instances of either Windows or Linux on an Intel-based machine. The company, which is a subsidiary of EMC and makes powerful virtualization software for data center servers, also released its Browser Appliance software aimed at securing Web browsing on a PC.

VMware Player allows users to boot up multiple instances of an operating system, which has long been a staple technology for software developers writing code for different platforms or for users with high-security needs. Virtualized operating system instances allow users to segregate data; if one system gets a virus, the other is not affected, for example. The Browser Appliance, co-developed with Mozilla, is software that secures Web browsing by allowing users to wipe clean downloaded cookies, bookmarks and files after a browser session.

The move by VMware is smart - give away the VMware Player in order to promote the use of its products and help it compete with the free, open-source Xen virtualization software package, which is gaining traction among enterprise users (and recently launched a commercial product to virtualize servers). VMware hopes those playing with its free software will be interested in its high-end enterprise products when those users start thinking about consolidating and virtualizing servers in the data center. Of course, this will cost users a little more than going the Xen route.

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