VMware Workstation 9 upgrades benefit IT admins and educators

There's a lot to like about VMware Workstation 9 if you're an IT instructor or system administrator. Is it enough to convince you to upgrade?

VMware Workstation 9 offers more than just optimized integration with Windows 8. Some new features in Workstation...

9 could make a real difference for VMware educators working with students in test-and-development environments.

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VMware didn't do a complete overhaul with Workstation 9. The VMware program interface shows no significant changes since Workstation 8. The tool is still easy to install on different computers, which is appropriate for use in VMware education environments where reinstalls are common.

Restricting VM access

If you're creating virtual machines (VMs) for educational purposes, use Workstation 9's option to create restricted VMs, which prevent users from dragging and dropping files between the VM and the physical desktop, changing VM settings or attaching devices. Instructors who want to keep their students from messing with VM configurations will appreciate this feature.

VMware Workstation 9 allows admins to restrict virtual machines
Figure 1. Limiting access to VM configurations

To implement VM restrictions, administrators first must encrypt the VM. Otherwise, users could circumvent VMware security by editing the configuration or virtual disk using tools on the Windows or Linux host platform.

Once the VM is encrypted (it will take a long time on most VMs), set a restrictions password. Users with this password will have full access to the VM configuration; there is no option to restrict access piecemeal to specific features.

VMware WSX Server

WSX Server -- a mini Web server installed on the same desktop as the VM -- allows access to VMs from other desktops or mobile devices via an administrator-defined port. You'll find WSX Server installation files in your download options on Workstation 9. The WSX Server Web interface does not need any browser plug-ins or Flash, so administrators can access the VM from almost any device.

Optimization for Windows 8 is interesting but, by itself, it's not a driving reason to upgrade to Workstation 9.

Welcome to … Hyper-V?

Though strictly unsupported, the addition of Microsoft's Hyper-V to the Workstation 9 guest OS list is causing a stir. Customers of Workstation 9 can run Hyper-V Server, or Windows 8 with Hyper-V enabled, in a VM. Count this out in production environments, but the real benefit is in educational environments where people want to work with Hyper-V without having to purchase Hyper-V hardware.

Hardware, graphics and other updates in VMware Workstation 9

As is typical with new versions, VMware improved hardware support for VMs in Workstation 9. The company claims faster start-up performance, but there's no noticeable difference. Better support for graphics, especially in Linux environments, does make it easier to run high-demand graphical applications from a VM. Workstation 9 supports USB 3, which is good news for users who frequently transfer large amounts of data between the VM and a USB hard disk.

Optimization for Windows 8 is interesting, but, by itself, it's not a driving reason to upgrade to Workstation 9. Instead, consider the benefits of password protection for VM configurations and a Web server that gives admins plenty of device choices for VM access.

This was first published in September 2012

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