Is it time to switch VM apps on OS X?

Thought I’d throw this out to the lazyweb for advice. I’ve been running OS X as my primary desktop OS since I got my macbook pro around May 2006 or so. I installed Parallels as soon as I found it, and it was great. I still have it installed. However, I’ve found two issues with Parallels in the past two years:

1. There’s no kind of easy upgrade path for existing parallels users that I can find. Their web site is a mess, (like most software vendors, oddly) and there’s no upgrade license that I could find.

2. It’s non-trivial to install of versions of linux that are released after the version of parallels you’re trying to install to, for whatever reason.

I remember having issues with installing an Ubuntu version, and a CentOS version, both newer than the parallels I had installed. Then I upgraded parallels, and they installed fine.

So today I tried to do the impossible: install CentOS 5.2 on a build of Parallels from March 2007. I get a kernel panic, which I remembered a hack for (add “linux kernel agp=off” to the boot: line), but even that didn’t have any effect. Guess I just pushed the limit too far this time.

So, since there’s no upgrade license to make it cheaper for me to stay with Parallels, I have no particular reason to stay loyal to them. However, I cannot find a single mention of Linux on VMWare Fusion’s web site (?!), so….

What’s everyone doing about virtualization on the OS X (Leopard) Desktop?

  • Doug Hellmann

    I’m using Fusion with CentOS and it works great. You can download any of the pre-built VMs from their site, too, because Fusion is compatible with the other VMware products. The “Fusion” part (that lets you have windows from both OSes on the same desktop) doesn’t actually work, AFAICT, but I don’t care about that anyway. For one project I run PostgreSQL in a VM and keep it minimized, for another I use a few windows on the VM desktop.

  • Adnan

    Virtualbox works great for me… and its free!

    I’m have VMs for Linux, Solaris and Windows in virtualbox.

  • sharms

    I recommend checking out Virtualbox — its great

  • Cowmix

    I have to 2nd Fusion.. It ‘just works’.. I have a VMWare Server at home (and one co-located) and my VM’s can seamlessly float between a Mac and my servers w/no issues.

  • m0j0

    Hmmm… never heard of VirtualBox, so I’m going to try that first since it appears to be free, and it runs on os x. If it works out, I’ll post about it, and if not… well… I’ll probably post about it, and then try fusion.

  • David Goodger

    I recently installed Sun’s free (& Free) VirtualBox and installed Ubuntu 8.04 (Hardy Heron). No problems. Seems to be quite snappy. I haven’t put it through any paces yet though — I was just playing around. Now I’m waiting for a use case to wake up the VM. I can’t speak for the features.

    Free/gratis makes for an easy upgrade path. And Free/libre (GPL) gives me the warm fuzzy feeling.

  • Matt

    I’ll throw my vote in for VirtualBox. It’s not quite as full-featured as Parallels or Fusion, but it feels faster and more responsive.

  • Matt Simmons

    Here is another vote for VirtualBox. I run it on Linux, and have all sorts of virtual machines running on it. I’ve had nothing but good experiences with it, and can’t recommend it highly enough.

    I just wish I could get OSX as a guest OS

  • m0j0

    Yeah, this looks pretty nice. Can’t get much easier — go to the site, click to download, and the CentOS install is already off and running installing the packages I’ve selected.

    It seems to use lots of CPU, but I’m doing an install, so I expect that (and it was the same with the other tools I’ve used). I agree it feels snappy, and I’ll report on the feature set later — but I did see ‘snapshots’ as a feature, which I don’t need now, but missed at certain times when I used parallels (VMWare desktop had this feature).

  • Troy Telford

    I’ve got Fusion, Parallels, and Virtualbox.

    I pick Fusion, here’s why:
    1.) I’ve used VMware for years on Linux, and it’s rock solid.
    2.) VMware is currently the only one that supports 64-bit guest OSes.
    3.) SMP – you can have more than one CPU used with VMware’s virtual machines.
    4.) VMware takes Linux much more seriously than Parallels does. Want to run the newest, most bleeding-edge kernel & distro? VMWare’s guest tools will probably work fine. Parallels… not so much.

    Though I admit I have played around with Parallels and Virtualbox

  • nnp

    I switched from Parallels to Fusion about this time last year because Parallels crashed far too regularly under the kind of stress I was putting it (Thousands of network connections and other such fun). Since switching to Fusion I’ve yet to have it die unexpectedly.

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  • EmmEff

    I have been using Fusion since the free Beta download. As soon as it went commercial I bought it. Fusion “just works”. I cannot recall having difficulty installing any guest OS (several Linuxes, Solaris, Windows, etc).

    I’ve used Parallels and VirtualBox (albeit on Linux). Parallels might look a bit nicer, but when it comes to functionality, I am not disappointed with Fusion.

  • K Lars Lohn

    I’ve used Fusion since its early betas. Fusion has successfully run every Linux distro that I’ve thrown at it. It has the added bonus of being compatible with VMWare Workstation so I can move virtual machines at will between the MacBookPro and my Linux workstation.

  • marc

    I use Fusion for Centos 5.2 running on the XEN hypervisor; i.e. for learning all the virtualization feature before going to the big servers.

  • Adam V.

    I use Fusion on OS X, and I’ve been running “Fusion 2 beta 1” for a while without too many problems (and those problems are usually less than in the release version.)

  • Arthur

    Another vote for Vmware Fusion. It Just works ™ for me and I’ve never had a problem with my Guests (currently Gentoo, Archlinux, Ubuntu 8.04 and Windows XP).

    I’ve also been running the latest Fusion Beta (free upgrade for 1.x users), it adds some nice features and runs pretty stable so far (but there are also a lot of users who are complaining about screen flickering in Unity mode).

  • supercooper

    I’ve been using Fusion for almost a year with no problems, running XP and Ubuntu. I’ve heard the customer service at Parallels sucks. Getting VMs from the Fusion site is a piece of cake, and Fusion lets you choose if you want to dedicate multiple processors to the VM or not. I think its the only one out there that can even use multiple processors/cores, but I may be wrong on that one.

  • Scott Lowe

    I’ve been using Fusion since the very earliest “Friends and Family” release in November of 2006. Since that time, I’ve thrown numerous Linux distributions, 32-bit and 64-bit Solaris, and several flavors of Windows at it, and haven’t had even the first problem. As others have mentioned, Fusion is compatible with VMware Workstation, so you can take your VMs to Windows or Linux hosts, and I believe it will be fully compatible with the upcoming VMware Server 2.0 as well. Enterprise users also using VMware Infrastructure 3 can use the free VMware Converter tool to take their Fusion VMs up to ESX/ESXi as well. Finally, Fusion’s “Unity” mode, which mixes guest VM windows with host OS windows in a seamless fashion, is so incredibly useful. It’s not free, but it’s not expensive either, and in my opinion is the most solid option out there.