[Haifux] QEMU/KVM vs. VMWare: The beauty and the beast

Eli Billauer eli at billauer.co.il
Sun Jan 10 22:06:01 MSK 2010


I've been playing around with my new Fedora 12 computer (Intel i7 quad 
core) for a few days, mainly for the purpose of making educated 
decisions about how to virtualize two old computers, which I want to get 
rid of. They are running Windows 2000 and Redhat 7.3. I only tested the 
Windows part (Linux should be much easier). Fedora 12 is the host, of 

I've looked at QEMU/KVM vs. VMWare.  I want to share my experiences and 
insights with you, because I don't like the bottom line, which is the 
VMWare is better for almost all home purposes (I'm not talking about 
cloud servers and such). Which makes me wonder: Is VMWare a honey trap, 
or is it currently the preferred choice?

In case you wondered, both tools can run simultaneously on the same 
computer, seemingly without disturbing each other. It looks like I'm 
going to take advantage of this.

I ran VMPlayer (free as in beer version) with VMTools in the Windows 
guest machine. I take it that their licenses don't limit me in time nor 
the number of guests I can run simultaneously. Please do correct me if 
I'm wrong on this.

The concept is to copy these machines' disks as image files, and then 
seamlessly go on working as if nothing happened. The most important 
issue for me is that after the transition I can go on doing everything I 
did before (including using electronic development hardware through USB).

I should mention, that both tool's documented and encouraged flow is to 
install a new operating system from scratch on a blank (virtualized) 
disk, and not run a previously installed one. Indeed, a preinstalled XP 
image tends to give me the blue screen. The Windows 2000 image runs 

* Free (as in freedom)
* Allows incremental images (good for running possibly malicious software)
* Can be run from the command line, and is generally script friendly.
* Appears to be more secure (SELinux is all over)
* Display on VNC allows remote access to guest

* Doesn't currently have an EHCI driver (and hence guest sees only USB 
1.1, not 2.0)
* Didn't manage to attach a USB device I need for electronics 
development (Xilinx programming cable).
* Has Windows paravirtualization drivers for network card only. Display 
is slow.
* Using the mouse is annoying (poor tracking, clicks are sometimes missed).

VMPlayer Pros:
* VMTools offers a nice set of paravirtual drivers
* Very good emulation of graphics card (through paravirtual driver). 
Feels like a real computer, it's possible to play movies. The guest's 
desktop size is dynamically adjusted to the virtual machine's window 
size, which is pretty convenient.
* Very good handling of USB hotplugging. Needless to say, it handled my 
special piece of hardware seemlessly.
* Easy to feel with mouse.

VMPlayer Cons:
* Feels like it was designed for Windows host. If you can't do it 
through GUI, you can't do it at all (?)
* Everything about their website says "we'll give you this for free (if 
you manage to find it), but you really want our million dollar version"

So this is my grim bottom line: I don't like the music I get from 
VMWare, but VMPlayer does the job, and QEMU is almost there. But almost 
is not enough when you want something to work. Remember that I'm the one 
who wants his computer working, first and foremost?

Your information, comments and insights are mostly welcome.


Web: http://www.billauer.co.il

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