Virtualisation has become all the rage recently. Running multiple instances of a system on a single piece of hardware is a very compelling proposition as everyone try’s to get more out of their investments. While virtualisation is typically applied to server environments there is no reason why it cannot be used on a suitably specified desktop PC or laptop.
In the past I have tried out virtualisation using with Microsoft’s VirtualPC or VMWare’s offering but I wanted to give VirtualBox, principally because it is open source and I knew that it was available for Mac so if I move across to that platform it would give me the knowledge I needed to implement.
My requirement was for two Windows XP environment to allow my to access the networks of two different organisations that I am currently working for, however, it is possible to have any number of different VMs, including Linux. You can download some pre-built ones here.
Installation and setup was simple, as was creating the first image and installing Windows. From then on everything within the image worked exactly as if you were connected to a “real” machine. The advantages of this are that I have been able to keep my work separate across the two networks. I have also been able to install a Linux image and play with it without the worry of trashing a machine.
One thing that really impressed with VirtualBox was it’s seamless mode which displayed the application windows as if they were part of the host operating system, which was a neat trick and made the use far more usable.
The only thing I would say is that virtualisation is a real memory hogger and 2gb of memory is essential to make the best use of it and not affect the performance of the host system. Hard disk space may also be a consideration but given that it is so cheap these days that is easily overcome.