Using VMWare Fusion: A First Look


VMWare Fusion logo

Last Friday I wrote that VMWare had released the second beta of Fusion, their virtual desktop for OS X. Over the weekend I took a little time to play around with it and had a few observations. Note that this is not a formal review--don't take it as one.

First, Fusion works well, as promised. No major hiccups to report. I was able to set up a Fedora Core 6 image with only a few issues. Here are some of my discoveries and impressions:

  • Fedora isn't one of the "supported" operating systems. I mistakenly chose "Redhat Linux" thinking that Fedora was close, but it didn't work. When I went back and created virtual machine with "Other Linux 2.6.x kernel" things worked fine.
  • The defaults for disk size, memory, and so on seemed to work fine.
  • After you start your machine, you can go to "Virtual Machine -> Install VMWare Tools" to set up some things in the image so that it interacts better with the virtualization engine. The RPM wouldn't install for me, but just unpacking it and running the "vmware-install.pl" script worked fine.
  • One of the things that running the VMWare tools does is allow you to set the screen resolution to what ever you want. My method worked fine too.
  • The virtual machine was able to see USB devices and the network without a hitch. The sound was awesome.
  • Disk images take as much space as they need, not the whole amount you allocate. So even though I allocated a 8Gb disk to the virtual machine, the image size is around 4.5Gb at present. df reports that I've got a 7.2Gb disk with 3.3Gb used, so there's some overhead.
  • When you start up, a dialog box says "You are running VMWare Fusion with the DEBUG option" and warns that this will result in substantially slower execution, but I searched around and couldn't see anyway to turn the debug option off. Hints, anyone?
  • You can drag and drop files on the virtual machine and cut and paste work too. Very handy.
  • The update tool on Fedora keeps telling me I've got 240 updates, even though I've told it to download them and seen it go through the install process. I'm not convinced this has anything to do with VMWare.
  • The command console could have a richer set of tools for copying, deleting, and otherwise managing images.
  • The snapshot feature is cool--and fast. This is a very handy feature if you're about to do something you think might cause the machine to be unstable or if you're doing testing and want to start in a known state each time.
  • When I wasn't doing anything with the virtual machine, but had it running in the background it was eating about 10% of one of my two CPUs. How much that would change if I turned off the DEBUG option, I don't know.

Overall, this is a pretty nice offering and I think that Parallels has some real competition. I could easily see myself using Fusion as my virtualization appliance.