Sun Virtualbox – Commercial grade virtualization for free!

VMware Workstation  running Ubuntu, on Windows...
Image via Wikipedia

Virtualization, according to Wikipedia, is the abstraction of computer resources…

Okay cut it. Let us make it simple. Virtualization in simple terms is running another Operating System (OS) on top of your current OS. For an example, if you have Windows Vista, a virtualization software like Sun’s Virtualbox will allow another OS, say Ubuntu Linux to co-exist using resources such as disk space, memory, video as you like. Woot? How is that possible? Sun Virtualbox, Amigo. Of course, there is also wubi for Ubuntu or LiveCd but these are beyond our topic. For this article’s purpose we will only discuss Sun’s Virtualbox.

I find virtualization a clever idea. Who could have thought that we could run two Operating Systems (i.e. Vista and Ubuntu Linux) using the same resource, running at the same time! There are a lot of software packages out there that can do virtualization, most famous among which is VMware, but we will take up here Sun’s package, Virtualbox, Sun’s very own hypervisor, since we only like freeware. Why? It’s free, enough said (laughs). Virtualbox is a serious product, it sure does mean business. Coming from Sun Microsystem’s mouth, it is the only virtualization product that is at the same time professional, commercial-grade and open-source. On this, I couldn’t agree more, they’re right.

VirtualBox
Image via Wikipedia

Now let us get off the hook of being wordy, right away let us discuss the features:

  • Modularity. Natively Virtualbox dons a software design that is modular. If you are a developer that wants to tinker the software this one is for you. With the Software Development Kit that comes with the software, there is no need to hack the system, you can write your own interface on the fly. This feature also allows ease of control, you can start your virtual machine by Graphical User Interface (GUI) mode  or via Command-Line Interface (CLI), locally or remotely. Seems fun, right?
  • Virtual Machine descriptions via XML. Settings, configurations are stored on XML, independently. Ergo, we can port our XML configurations to new virtual machines, also… on the fly. Now this is getting more fun.
  • Guest Additions for Windows and Linux. Guest Additions is a special software that can be installed on the virtual machine to accommodate seamless integration with the host OS which includes mouse pointer and arbitrary screen resolutions. I told you, this is good.
  • Shared Folders. Additionally, hosts and guest may share directories as “shared folders”. Sharing can be accessed from the virtual machines.

More perks:

  • Virtual USB controllers/USB over RDP. Connect usb devices on the host and make it available to guest virtual machines.
  • Remote Desktop Protocol. As a Network Administrator, I like this feature so much. Ease of administration, I guess. Virtualbox sports the RDP feature, remote access is like heaven if you are an IT admin. This means that you don’t have to go physically to where your server or workstation is. Stay where you are, connect to the network and click your way to your virtual machine, simple and easy.

One real-life use of Virtualbox is optimization of servers. Gone are the days that you dedicate one service to one server, like running Active Directory (alone) on one server. Nowadays, where servers have become monster computers running one service would certainly mean that you are underestimating your machine. Try to optimize by using Virtualbox and adding more services. Server consolidation is one great thing Virtualbox can offer.

And, there you have it, Sun Virtualbox, commercial-grade, full-featured and free hypervisor solution. Honestly, there is no reason really why you should not try this software, after all it is free. If you want to know more about virtualization, head your way to this info at wikipedia.com.

As usual, thanks for reading.

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