Andrew Connell

I've made the switch, and I'm not looking back

Back in May I posed the question asking why people liked VMWare’s virtualization offerings over Microsoft’s. I got some decent feedback, but nothing that made me switch. So I got both VMWare Server (equivalent to Virtual Server 2005 R2, both also being $0.00) and VMWare Workstation 6 (equivalent to VirtualPC 2007, except VPC is free and Workstation is $200). I went back and forth… kicking the tires here and there but never really could make justify the jump.

Until this week…

I [used to] run both Virtual Server 2005 R2 SP1 & VirtualPC 2007. VS was on the server where I did all my virtualization work when I was working out of my home office, but used VPC2007 on the laptop when I was remote teaching or presenting or doing whatever outside the home. I’ve been having issues with the admin site for VS over the last few weeks, but early on this week it went belly up for good. I tried numerous uninstalls/reinstalls, fixes, running everything as a domain admin… nothing worked. What about troubleshooting? Ha… there’s a cryptic HRESULT error here, one there, nothing telling you what the real problem is (ok, they told you TOO REAL what the problem was, but not in pure English). Maybe some error code being 6661234666… gee… thanks… and the coffee is over on the {E052E45D-B487-4593-AF2B-D6283E21C43A}. Then yesterday I get a new message in the event log referring to an error log… sweet! More details. Nope… just loaded with a memory dump. OK, while I’d love to read memory dumps and understand them like Tess can, I don’t have time to learn that crap right now. Looking at that page… hell, I get more out of looking at a page of GUID’s! When one of my important VMs was no longer booting, I finally gave up and made the [gradual] switch.

Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 R2 vs. VMWare Server v1.0.3 The damn Virtual Server 2005 R2 admin interface, a crappy Web site, was always finicky. Right when I got VMWare Server I loved the console approach, both on the server and connecting remotely. I love the little things in VMWare Server… configurable buttons to shut down or restart or recycle a machine… easily binding CD/DVDs or floppies, but not having to connect them. Just so much I like about VMWare Server over Virtual Server 2005 R2.

And before someone says “oh, VMRCPlus is a much better interface” I say “whatever”. Completely unsupported and it takes an act of god to get it working between my laptop and server (yes, I tried for DAYS). And the constant crashes? Yeah, no thanks.

VMWare Server on the other hand… it just worked… piece-o-cake. The only complicated thing is figuring out the port necessary to connect to it from outside my home office.

Microsoft VirtualPC 2007 vs. VMWare Workstation 6 I’m really liking Workstation 6 too… still getting used to it though. But I like it a lot more than VirtualPC 2007. Oh, get this… it even has extra goodness that helps you setup remote debugging into a VM straight from Visual Studio 2005. No lie… there’s even a freaking VMWare toolbar in VS2005! Now THAT is slick!

Snapshots are easier to use than undo or differencing disks in VPC/VS. I see why you VMWare people rave over MSFT’s solutions… it’s just better.

And this is soooo cosmetic, but the GUI consoles of both VMWare Server and Workstation are just 10x better than what we have with the Microsoft solution.

But Microsoft’s solution is getting better with Windows 2008? Great… woopee… I’m not waiting, nor am I tying my virtualization stuff to a specific OS. Where’s the support for Vista going? If it’s there, you have to mine for it, and frankly, I don’t have that time for that. I’d rather drop $200 and walk away saying I’ve got a good, AND SUPPORTED solution (which is FAR more than I can say for Virtual Server 2005 R2). Anyway, even if it is, something tells me VMWare will update their stuff too.

So far there are three things I’m still struggling with:

  • Some VMs are just slow. I’ve made sure the latest VMWare tools are installed. I’ve deleting the keyboard and mouse from Device Manager to let it re-find the drivers. I’ve made sure I’ve got the right SCSI driver installed. I’ve defragged… they just still run slow. Chalking this up to “newbie” for now.
  • Moving VM’s from one machine to another. Part of this is just not knowing what files is what. I created a new MOSS developer image on my server and tried to move it to my laptop, but even though I’m trying to create a new VM using an existing disk in Workstation, it won’t ever take it (I click FINISH so many times, but it never finishes).
  • Shrinking the virtual hard disks. That same MOSS developer image came out to roughly 14GB, but I know it can be smaller… yet I’m still trying to find where the compact process is.

Oh, and VMWare can import VS/VPC2007 virtual machines! What about going the other way? There’s a utility, WinImage , for $30 that claims it can go from VMWare ->VHD files. We’ll see… I’ll give it a shot in a while.

So that’s that. I’m still running VirtualPC 2007 on my laptop as so many things ship as VHD files, but if I can help it, I think I’m going to make the clean cut over to VMWare.

Andrew Connell
Developer & Chief Course Artisan, Voitanos LLC. | Microsoft MVP
Written by Andrew Connell

Andrew Connell is a web developer with a focus on Microsoft Azure & Microsoft 365. He’s received Microsoft’s MVP award every year since 2005 and has helped thousands of developers through the various courses he’s authored & taught. Andrew’s the founder of Voitanos and is dedicated to delivering industry-leading on-demand video training to professional developers. He lives with his wife & two kids in Florida.