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VMware OSP vs. VMware Tools: For select Linux VMs, OSPs ease updates

VMware OSPs make updating drivers in Linux guest operating systems a lot easier than it is with VMware Tools, provided you're using one of a select few supported Linux distributions.

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VMware OSP pros

Virtualized operating systems work with VMware's hypervisor via drivers. VMware Tools, a set of utilities for the OS, provides an archive file during installation, which in turn helps install the appropriate drivers and other VMware Tools components on the OS. The guest OS does not manage VMware Tools, however, which can cause the VMware Tools drivers to break when you update a Linux guest OS.

Linux kernel drivers must match the specific kernel version in use. For example, if you're installing VMware Tools on a SUSE Linux server using kernel version 3.0.13-0.27, drivers will be compiled for this specific kernel version. If you update the kernel to address a security concern or for another reason, the VMware drivers will not automatically follow. This disconnect has the potential to prevent the virtual machine (VM) from booting up.

Operating system-specific packages (VMware OSPs) are a better way of installing drivers for Linux OSes. A VMware OSP adds specific VMware repositories to the Linux OS. Repositories install and update software on all modern Linux distributions, keeping the OS and software compatible. When you upgrade the kernel to address that security risk, all of the specific VMware packages follow automatically.

VMware OSP cons

VMware Tools runs on nearly every Linux distribution, thanks to its generic installer nature. VMware simply provides an installation script and compiles all necessary software for the guest OS.

In contrast, the VMware OSP is a specific installation source for specific Linux distributions. VMware ensures that the requisite OSPs are available for the Linux distributions at the moment of installation and that all required software is present. This means that VMware takes much more responsibility for the software installed on the Linux guest OS, and OSPs are available only for the most commonly used Linux distributions.

The Linux guest OSes supported by VMware OSPs include:

Working with Linux VMs

Configure Linux guest OSes in ESX

Installing VMware Tools on a Linux VM

  • CentOS 4.0 and higher
  • Red Hat Enterprise Linux 3.0 and higher
  • SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 9 and higher
  • SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10 and higher
  • Ubuntu LTS 12.04 and higher
  • Ubuntu non-LTS 8.04 and higher

If you use a different Linux distribution, VMware Tools is your only option to install the appropriate drivers into the guest OS.

This was first published in June 2013

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