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

Shachar Raindel raindel at tx.technion.ac.il
Mon Jan 11 11:02:47 MSK 2010

Few words from my experience in the subject (sorry for top-posting):

A. VMware workstation used to be a GUI only program, but it is getting
much better scripting abilities lately, and it supports roll-backs
much better than how QEMU supports them (same back-end functionality,
much easier to use GUI). Their USB support used to be very unstable
about 2 years ago, but it is much better now.
B. Copying a Windows XP hard-drive into a virtual machine wouldn't
work well, since windows XP attempts to detect when you are moving it
to a new machine, and dies with a kernel "licensing-problem" blue
screen of death if it seems to it that the hardware have changed too
C. Virtual-box is also a very good competitor, which should be tried
too. It is somewhere between QEMU and VMware Workstation in my
D. Your comparison is very task oriented - you are looking for a free
solution to migrate your old computers, and are willing to spend
considerable amount of time on that. Be aware that there are many
other users who have different requirements from their virtualization
systems. For example, the debug in a VM feature of VMware Workstation
is priceless for many developers (and companies will pay lots of money
for their developers to have this feature).


On Sun, Jan 10, 2010 at 9:06 PM, Eli Billauer <eli at billauer.co.il> wrote:
> Hello,
> 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
> course.
> 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
> beautifully.
> * 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
> QEMU/KVM Cons:
> * 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.
>    Eli
> --
> Web: http://www.billauer.co.il
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