VMware's Workstation 6.5 is a very good system for OS virtualisation, and integrating ACE authoring gives IT managers a lot of control about how virtual machine OSes are deployed to employees. All the OSes we installed on the system worked perfectly and we encountered no problems, even with pre-beta releases like Microsoft Windows Server 2008 R2.
Unity mode lets users integrate guest VM applications onto host system; good guest operating system support.
Slightly involved packaging process when exporting virtual machine operating systems using ACE Management Server.
£ 833 for ACE Management Server starter kit
VMware Workstation 6.5, launched in early October, is a mature package, but significant new features will make it especially appealing to IT managers wishing to roll out manageable virtual machines to out-of-office staff, or in-house guest contractors and partners.
The headline features are enhanced VMware Assured Computing Environment (ACE) authoring, and a so-called Unity mode allowing users to better integrate their favourite guest applications with the host system.
VMware Workstation lets users install and run guest operating systems on desktops and laptops running Windows or Linux as the main or host operating system. There are many advantages to this, principally the ability to run older, unsupported operating systems with legacy applications not supported on newer operating systems.
Better security is also available through VMware's snapshot capability, which allows users quickly to roll back to a previously safe state if a virus or other piece of malware is inadvertently picked up.
VMware's ACE gives IT managers the ability to build a virtual operating system which can be securely locked down and then distributed to end users, subject to particular licence constraints and other IT manager-definable policies. For example, authentication can be set to a simple password, or a custom authentication method executed through a script file.
VMware said that ACE's authoring features are now fully integrated in Workstation 6.5, and that no special ACE Edition is required.
We downloaded and installed a trial version of ACE Management Server 2.5 on a Windows Server 2003 Standard Edition to run alongside our Workstation 6.5 install. This version of ACE uses Apache HTTP Server version 2.0.59, and users are warned to uninstall Internet Information Services before installing ACE, or change the ports it may be using (80, 443 and 8000) so as not to interfere with Apache.
The ACE Management Server was easy to set up and we could start managing our packaged virtual machines quickly and easily.
We installed Workstation 6.5 on a desktop system running Windows Vista Enterprise and a laptop running XP Professional. Version 6.5 is just as easy to use as earlier versions, and we installed Windows 2000, XP and Vista, along with several Linux distributions, including Oracle Enterprise Linux v5.2, Community ENTerprise Operating System 5.2 and openSUSE 11.0 enterprise desktop.
We also installed several new Microsoft Server operating systems, including Windows Essential Business Server 2008 and the R2 version of Microsoft's flagship Windows Server 2008, all with no problems.
Once an operating system is running to the user's satisfaction, an instance of that system could be packaged for deployment after settings and policies have been configured. For instance, we could specify how long the virtual operating system could be used, the usernames and which domain the system can join.
In the policies section IT managers can restrict which removable devices will function, and can restrict network access to specific virtual private networks and IP subnets.