VMware Unveils Workstation 5

The application allows enterprises to create a library of virtual machines for x86-based operating systems that resemble production environments.

The new version offers a number of features aimed specifically at software developers and testers, said Srinivas Krishnamurti, senior product manager at VMware, Palo Alto, Calif.

A key new function is the ability to create and tie multiple virtual machines in configurable network segments to test multitier and browser-based applications on a desktop, which eliminates the need to copy a new application to hundreds of machines to test it, Krishnamurti said. The bandwidth between different virtual machines can be throttled to simulate remote-office or home-office connections, he said.

Developers now can take multiple snapshots of virtual machines and switch between them. For instance, Krishnamurti said, a tester could install Windows XP with and without Service Pack 2 into two different virtual machines and move back and forth between them to test a new application.

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Workstation 5 clones virtual machines to a server for downloading by other users. This feature saves disk space by allowing changes to be made to a saved clone so that only the changes need to be downloaded to the workstation, Krishnamurti said.

Movie capture, another new feature, records screen, keyboard and mouse activity in a virtual machine as an AVI file for debugging and team collaboration.

Phillip Hice, director of technical services at Computer Configuration Services, an Irvine, Calif.-based VMware solution provider, said he is happy to see a number of features from the vendor's server-based virtualization application move into the workstation space.

Hice said he likes the idea of being able to capture the user's input activity for debugging problems, for example. "Unless you can see the user's display at the same time, it's hard to compare with what should happen," he said.

Workstation 5 is scheduled to ship this week. Pricing is $189 for electronic distribution and $199 for a packaged product.