5 Reasons Why You Should Use VirtualBox Over VMware Server

Ever since I started using Ubuntu two years back, I have been an avid user of VMware server. It fascinated me to a great extent that I could actually run an OS inside an OS. Recently, I tried out VirtualBox, another virtualization software like VMware server, and I was greatly impressed by it. Even though I love VMware server, I can’t deny the fact that VirtualBox actually runs faster and smoother, with less crashes. Here is my top 5 reasons why VirtualBox is better than VMware server.

1) File size

How long do you need to download a 20MB file with a broadband connection? A snap of finger! Yes, that is how small VirtualBox is: slighly over 20MB where you can download it in a snap. VMware server? About 102MB, well…not too long either, mayber after you have finished your tea session.

2) Installation

Ubuntu users can simply install VirtualBox from the repository. Simply open the Synaptic Package Manager, check the VirtualBox and click Apply to install. For other Linux disro, there is also debian and rpm package available for download. For VMware server, only if you like to compile and build the source code from command line.

3) Speed Boost

The real advantage of VirtualBox over VMware server lies in its performance. VirtualBox apparently runs faster than VMware server. A timed experiment of an installation of Windows XP as the guest OS took 20 mins in VirtualBox and 35 mins on VMware server. A similar test on the booting time of the guest OS also shows favor to VirtualBox with a timing of 45secs compared to 1min 39 secs on VMware server.

4) Remote File Sharing

When I was using VMware server, I have to install and configure Samba on my Ubuntu host so as to access the files in my guest OS. In VirtualBox, the remote file sharing feature is built right in the package. Setting up remote file sharing is easy and you only need to do it once: point the file path to the directory that you want to share.

5) Integration with Host OS

In VirtualBox, there is this mode call ‘seamless mode‘ where you can integrate the guest OS with the host OS. With this mode on, you can access the applications from the guest OS right from the host’s desktop. There is no need for you to traverse between the guest and the host. VMware server does not have this feature, although you can find the ‘unity‘ mode that does the same thing in VMware Workstation.

My Feel…

I have not tested VirtualBox on a server setting, thus I can’t comment on its performance for corporate use. However, for personal use, I would strongly recommend VirtualBox over VMware server because of its faster speed and user-friendliness.

32 comments

  1. You have hit the nail on the head with this one. I run VI3 in production, but for testing/lab and desktop usage, you can’t beat virtualbox. I love the fact that my associates who use windows and mac can have the same user experience that I do in Linux without having a difficult configuration involved. “It just works.”

  2. Hi,
    I also like virtualbox much much more than vmware server but what you did wrong is a comparison of two different products in two different categories because vmware server is meant to be used on server machines where virtualbox is meant to be used on desktop machines…so called workstations.

    If you make a comparison download VMware Workstation and you will feel that even VMWare Workstation is faster than the server…don’t ask me why…I simply don’t know :).

    But yes, I agree that virtualbox is great :).

  3. VMware Server=free (VM workstation=non-free). Using VBox ose in SIDUX; usually to test, compare other distros & use an app at work that will only run on win-xp. Else, do not need win-xp.

  4. There are a few things that aren’t as straightforward on VirtualBox.

    Networking
    1) Creating the NAT rules are cumbersome.
    2) VirtualBox has issues with sending files.
    3) Setting up a bridged connection requires more effort.

    Also if you are switching between Linux and Windows your machines aren’t as portable and will require you to edit the xml configuration file.

  5. p.cole: I know that vmware server is “free” and vmware workstation is not but still you can’t compare virtualbox with vmware server because it’s a different “game”.

    And I agree to Jason. Setting up the NAT rules is really a pita. The same applies to creating a bridged connection (in the linux version).

  6. Well, every software sure got its pros and cons. Hopefully VirtualBox can clear up its networking issue in the next update. Despite that, I still find that VirtualBox is more user-friendly and much easier to use.

    @avarus: I have tried Vmware workstation, it crashes my system every now and then and I don’t really have a good impression of it. I have to reinstall back VMware Server just to get my VM running stably.

  7. Regarding the installation of VMWare on Linux, I’m not sure I understand what you are trying to say.

    In Synaptic, you can simply install VMWare Server by clicking on the vmware-server package and then clicking apply.

    It does it in Ubuntu 7.04 at least and probably newer versions too.

  8. A more appropriate comparison would be between VirtualBox and VMware Player, which is also free and much more similar in terms of architecture and intended use case.

  9. I totally agree I’ve switched from VMware Player to VirtualBox on my desktop for virtualization. And I can’t find a reason to go back to VMware Player. I really love it. Also I agree on the five pros you mentioned. There is only one small thing from VMware I’m missing though is the ability to drag and drop a file from the host to the guest and have it copied.

    Great post Damien thanks.

  10. Hey Damien,

    Thanks for the comparison! Very useful. I was thinking to upgrade to Intrepid in October – will definitely try Virtual Box..

    For now VmWare Sever will do, although it is pretty slow to use it as a desktop..

    Thx,

    — Toly

  11. The only thing that’s against virtualbox is that it doesn’t support DHCP. I know it can be made to work, but it’s a lot of work.

  12. Amen to the post. I just installed virtualbox on my ubuntu x64 server and it is a lot smoother install and set-up than vmware server.

  13. I agree that for personnal use Virtual Box is fantastic. However it is not at all suited to being run as a service for remote access of virtual machines. While it is possible it took me a few days to get going, and is basically a hideous hack.

    VirtualBox also lacks multiple CPU and 64bit guest capabilities, but if you don’t need that then I’d say go with it. It’s much more user friendly.

  14. Seconded Colin’s comments re. remote access of virtual clients. Also, I tried Virtualbox first and liked it but setting up bridged networking was a pain in the arse compared to VMware server, where it was a no-brainer.

  15. Nice article. I still haven’t tried any virtualization at all on my Ubuntu system, but I think VirtualBox looks like the way to go if I’m running Gnome and want a test system to run, say, the latest versions of KDE.

  16. Until they implement drag and drop between host and guest, no VirtualBox switchover for me. Dealbreaker!

  17. I’m a long time user of VMWare technologies, ever since they came arround. As a sysadmin I frequently use VMWare for SO testing and infraestructure lab managing, and in my company we have 3/4 of our server virtualized on ESX.

    I’m using OS X for a couple of weeks now (researching better integration of OS X in our Windows domain for our designers), and decided to go for VirtualBox instead of the VMWare product for OS X (which is paid!).

    VirtualBox is very lightweight, and I agree that it seems to be quicker than VMWare Server (even dough this is a dubious comparion – OS X VirtualBox vs Windows 2003 (x86)/2008 (x64) VMWare Server.

    One negative thing i’ve notice dough, is that networking still need to go a long way from VMWare. The speeds are lower than I expected, and the configuration seems a bit quirkier than VMWare.

    I miss VMWare’s resource swapping, that is really usefull while running labs of 2 and 3 VM’s at the same time in “normal” desktop hardware. I think that VirtualBox doesn’t do it, but I’m yet to test it under a serious load.

    Given some 2008 x64 issues with VMWare, I’ll try to install VirtualBox with some tweaks in my box and see how it goes =)

    Cheers

  18. One important thing to consider is the intended purpose and target audience of the compared software. VirtualBox is more of a generalized virtualization solution, while VMware has some very specific product solutions. To say that VBox is better than VMware server because it has seamless mode and VMW server doesn’t have unity, because unity goes against the intended purpose of the software. Its meant to run server VMs, almost like the host is a rack mount and the VMs running on VMware server are the rack servers, machines that you don’t see most of the time are meant for limited direct access and more often remote access.

    And that’s one of the tings I really like about VMware Server is that design, because that’s what I use that product for. I also like how the VMware teams are for VMware workstation.

    Those are two key features for my need for virtual machines, so I use vmware.

  19. Your 5 reasons, are somewhat mine too I love it for it’s speed and ease of use while I downloaded a 400MB VMware server app only to find out it runs inside a browser and has also the worst speed ( it took ages to just see the login screen of ubuntu )!!

  20. VMWare Server 2.0 is a beautifully engineered virtual rack for servers. it does what is intended to do seamless and smooth. VBox has a completely different target.

    The way i found that VM Server 2.0 works best is installing a minimal host OS that uses minimum CPU/Ram but has SCSI emulation for drives (very important)
    Next, feel confortable to use SCSI PASSTHROUGH instead of virtual USB on guests for any USB/SATA/SAS/IDE even drives connected to the host. the speed difference is incredible.

    from my test host machine i can type these in:
    HOST HW: Pentium 4 HT @ 2.8 (Dell GX280)
    Host OS: generic linux kernel 2.6.24
    w/ VMWare server 2.0 built from sources
    USB Drive – Lacie 1TB ( 35 MB/s read speed on normal environment )
    in a BSD client, with USB passthrough i got 8-10 MB/s speed (RAW) and 28-31 MB/s by SCSI Passthrough.
    The explanation is simple. With USB passthrough you already use SCSI emulation and on top of that USB …

    Cheers.

  21. I wonder if Virtualbox can be used in server environment. I will try to use Ubuntu Desktop with Virtualbox installed and then install Windows 2003 Server as Guest. This guest OS (Windows 2003) will be serving 40 computers. Any idea about this guys?

  22. I guess it depends what kind of applications it will run and on what kind of hardware.

    Using a whole hard drive for the guest instead of a .VDI-contained guest might make the biggest difference as the hard disk access is usually the bottleneck.

  23. you cant simply ssh Virtualbox or access a server as you do with vmware. This keeps me away instantly of it

  24. For common users and common tasks on a common computer,
    comparing Virtualbox with VMware Player,
    which one is of these categories:
    1.Simple software and easy to run yet good enough for common uses;
    2.Requires less resources to setup and to run guests;
    3.No or less additional requirements such as addons once it is setup;
    4.Runs faster in general that the other.

    Thank you for any and all advices!

  25. you do know you can install, create and manage your virtualbox images from ssh? virtualbox also has built in rdp as well…..

  26. do you guys have new conclusions about Vmware Server 2.0 and Virtualbox comparison ?
    What's the best for enterprise environment from both ? I exclude ESX because I don't have budget for it.

  27. Can Virtual box images be used on Vmware Workstation ? I think that may be a problem if I create virtual images with Virtual Box and my company decides to standardize on Vmware.

  28. You can use Virtualbox images on VMware, in a way. You just have to convert the vdi file to vmk.

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