The best VMware product guide: Hypervisors, desktop products and cloud services

If you're looking for a quick overview of all of VMware's products, this guide is what you've been looking for. In part one of the two-part series, learn about VMware's different hypervisors, desktop products and cloud services.

It wasn't long ago that when talking about VMware, we were only talking about VMware Workstation, GSX and ESX. It was a nice portfolio of products and everyone knew exactly what did what. Today the story is a bit different when you look at the VMware products website.

In this two-part series, we're going to go over what products are what and what they do.

Hypervisor products

VMware vSphere 4
This is easy since everybody today knows about vSphere. VMware's main flagship vSphere is a minimal hypervisor that enables you to virtualize your servers by running directly on the bare metal hardware. VMware vSphere is a mature product that has proven to be stable and fast. Features like VMotion and memory Transparent Page Sharing differentiate vSphere from competing products.

VMware Server
VMware Server runs on top of an OS such asWindows or Linux and VMware Server is therefore a type-2 hypervisor, where VMware vSphere is a type-1 hypervisor. VMware Server (formerly known as VMware GSX) was mostly used in test environments where administrators could get a better feeling on what virtualization was. Today however, as VMware ESXi is free, VMware Server is not often used.

VMware ESXi
On the VMware website, ESXi is a different product from vSphere because ESXi is free. It's possible, however, to make ESXi the same product as vSphere by buying extra licenses. ESXi is ideal for the test environment since it is free and you will have the guarantee that applications performing well on ESXi will perform just as well on vSphere.

Desktop products

VMware View 4
Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) was the hype on desktop virtualization in 2009. With VDI your virtual desktop runs in the data center and the user is provided a thin client or a client OS with client software. VMware View 4 is VMware's VDI solution which gives you the ability to supply virtual desktops on demand to your end users, who can then connect to them over Remote Desktop Protocol or PCoIP.

VMware ThinApp
Where VMware View4 offers a complete virtual desktop, VMware ThinApp only offers a virtual application. Application virtualization encapsulates the applications from the OS and each other. This enables you to run conflicting applications on the same OS, without conflicts.

VMware Workstation
With VMware Workstation you can run multiple OSes at the same time on one PC or laptop. New techniques are often first released in the Workstation product before they make it to products like VMware Server or VMware vSphere. Workstation offers the broadest host and guest operating support and is used by almost every technician in the field of IT.

VMware ACE
With VMware Workstation the user running Workstation is the owner of the VMs and decides what the VM can and cannot do. With VMware ACE is it possible to create a VM that complies with a predefined policy. A policy can define that a VM can only run before a specific date, cannot be changed, only connects to specific networks, etc. VMware ACE is an ideal solution to provide remote workers, third-party service providers access to your corporate network while complying to your security regulations.

VMware Player
VMware Player is the free version of VMware Workstation, although it lacks some of the powerful features of Workstation and ACE like multiple snapshots, teams, clones and virtual rights management features. VMware Player 3 has a great new feature compared to VMware Player 2, you can now also create VMs and edit their settings.

VMware on a Mac

VMware Fusion
This is actually VMware Workstation for the Mac. The feature set is almost identical with just minor differences. VMware Fusion delivers very good graphics support which makes it possible to play advanced 3D games inside a virtual machine or use graphical features like Windows 7 / Vista Aero support. You can even view Windows applications in Exposé and Spaces or access Windows appslications from the Apple menu bar, in just a click.

Cloud Services

VMware vCloud
With vCloud, VMware offers a way to manage the virtual resources in the cloud. The most important part of the vCloud is the vCloud advanced programming interface (API). Through this interface virtualized workloads can be deployed and managed in the VMware powered cloud.

VMware vCloud Express
VMware vCloud Express is an Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) offering by VMware partners. They enable you to run your virtual machines on their infrastructure, which is powered by VMware vSphere and VMware vCloud. At the time of writing most of these partners only offer beta access.  

Gabrie van Zanten (VCP) has been in the IT industry for 12 years. Currently he is a virtualization architect for a worldwide consultancy company and has designed and maintained virtual infrastructures for a number of customers. He has written articles for magazines and frequently publishes in-depth articles at his weblog, GabesVirtualWorld.

This was first published in January 2010

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