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VMware Workstation, one of the company's first products, was released about 20 years ago. Nowadays, it goes by a slightly different name: VMware Workstation Pro. VMware Workstation 12 Pro is designed to integrate closely with features that administrators require in corporate data centers, justifying its price in comparison to similar products that are available for free.
VMware first developed Workstation with professionals and home users looking to run a virtual machine in mind. It provided users with the opportunity to learn about a specific operating system or to use features that were not available in the default OS the user was running.
Workstation was particularly useful for Linux users, as it offered an alternative to other cumbersome dual boot offerings. Rather than continuously rebooting between OSes, Workstation made it possible to run a VM just as an application on the host OS.
Others have tried to imitate the success of VMware Workstation since its initial release, including the free Oracle VirtualBox, which also gives users the option to run VM as an application on top of Linux or Windows hosts. Pressure from competitors pushed VMware to add new capabilities to its Workstation offering, starting with the free VMware Player as an alternative to VirtualBox.
This strategy proved to be ineffective, as the current version of VMware Player, known as VMware Workstation 12 Player, is now available only as a paid product. So what are customers paying for in the latest versions of VMware Workstation 12 Pro and VMware Workstation 12 Player?
VMware Workstation 12 Pro features
VMware Workstation 12 Pro includes support for many hardware configurations, with VMs that offer as many as 16 vCPUs, 8 TB disks, 64 GB of RAM and 2 GB Video RAM. More importantly, Workstation 12 Pro offers integration with enterprise environments.
For example, with Workstation Pro you can protect VMs using enterprise permissions and make them available to co-workers in the same enterprise environment. You can also integrate Workstation Pro with enterprise VMware products such as vCloud Air. Administrators can upload VMs to vCloud Air and run them, and can apply power operations after importing a VM to vCloud Air.
Workstation Pro also integrates with vSphere, although this integration isn't as thorough as the vCloud Air integration. This allows vSphere administrators to test and develop VMs offline in their own environment and upload them to vSphere once they're ready for production.
VMware added a new version -- Workstation 12.1.1 -- in April 2016. It mainly focused on maintenance fixes and was a free upgrade for users.
VMware Workstation 12 Pro gives users the option to run as a server and, from that server, share VMs with other Workstation Pro. In this configuration, complex virtual networks can be created using the Virtual Network Editor. You can also apply bandwidth throttling to VMs to ensure that each VM is limited to the maximum amount of available bandwidth.
In addition to options designed to allow for a smooth integration with the corporate virtualization infrastructure, Workstation Pro has some excellent features for VM management, including restricted and expiring VMs. These two options allow the VM owner to define exactly what should and shouldn't be allowed, and using expiring VMs helps prevent confidential material from becoming available after a defined expiration date.
Even with several free desktop virtualization products on the market, VMware Workstation 12 Pro's integration options make it well worth the money.
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