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VMware products 101: Super definitions

Keeping track of VMware products and features isn’t easy, but this guide explains some of the company’s server virtualization, desktop virtualization and cloud computing offerings.

VMware made its name in the server virtualization market, but the company has expanded into many different areas since its founding in 1998. Today there are VMware products for management, desktop virtualization, cloud computing and even hosted email.

The flagship VMware products are vSphere, its server virtualization platform, and vCenter Server, its management console. (The current version is vSphere 4.1.) VSphere supports the ESX and ESXi hypervisors, and there are several other point products in the vCenter family. For desktop and application virtualization, the primary VMware products are View and ThinApp. And for cloud computing, there’s vCloud Director, which is designed to bridge private and public cloud infrastructures.

This guide contains more information on specific VMware products and features from our VMware Super Definitions series. We’ll add more VMware products and features to this guide as more Super Definitions are published.

VMware Player
VMware Player is a free, lightweight tool for creating, editing and running VMware VMs and virtual appliances. Because of its small size, it can run on many desktops as well as servers. The main uses for this VMware product are to experiment with virtualization, run incompatible legacy applications and test new software before deploying it on a large scale. You can download VMware Player from VMware’s website.

VMware ThinApp
When it comes to application virtualization, VMware’s product is called ThinApp. This tool abstracts the application from the underlying operating system and converts it into a single executable file. A working ThinApp environment requires a minimum of three VMs: one to install and run ThinApp itself, one to run the base OS and store the application, and another to run the virtualized application.

VMware vCenter Converter
VMware vCenter Converter turns physical workloads into virtual machine disk (VMDK) files. As a physical-to-virtual (P2V) conversion tool , it is designed to help jump-start virtualization deployments. Converter can perform P2V migrations in one of two ways: hot migrations (which don’t require any server downtime) and cold migrations (which do). This VMware product can also perform virtual-to-virtual migrations and convert other platforms’ VMs to the VMware-compatible VMDK format.

VMware vCenter Server
VCenter Server is the main VMware product for managing server virtualization infrastructures. It allows administrators to centrally manage hosts and VMs, and it provides insight into a virtual infrastructure through a single pane of glass. For expanded management capabilities, vCenter Server uses plug-ins that import data from third-party sources. It’s important to note that many popular vSphere features, including vMotion and High Availability, require vCenter Server.

VMware View
VMware View is VMware’s desktop virtualization product. It takes a desktop’s operating system, applications and settings and converts them into a virtual machine (VM) file, which is stored centrally in the data center. VMware View then sends this data to an endpoint using an agent and the PC-over-IP protocol. Because these virtualized desktops are VMs running on VMware hosts, they can take advantage of other VMware products and features, such as Distributed Resource Scheduler and vMotion.

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