By Fat Bloke on Jul 19, 2011
Another week, another VirtualBox release.
But unlike last week's maintenance release on our stable 4.0.x branch, today's 4.1 release introduces some exciting new cutting edge features:
A clone is a copy of an existing VM. So when would you need to copy a vm?
Well, examples include when you want to give many people their own vm to use (e.g. teachers and students, or employees), or for backing up a vm (instead of snapshots), or for when you want to build a grid for, say, a Hadoop-type application.
A clone is an (almost) exact copy of a vm. We say "almost", because you can ask VirtualBox to assign a different MAC address to it so as not to confuse the network when you start 2 or more of them up.
In VirtualBox 4.1 we've made Cloning super easy. In the VirtualBox Manager simply right click on the vm and choose Clone.
For the more intrepid, we also support Linked Clones, where the existing vm is the parent of the clone. These are faster to create and more space efficient but a little harder to understand. At the moment the ability to create linked clones is only available via the VBoxManage command line interface.
Larger system support
VirtualBox is used in many places and many ways.
One example is that VirtualBox is used in another Oracle product, Oracle VDI to deliver a smarter way of running Enterprise desktops, namely by running them in vm's on the server, where they are more secure, manageable, and available from many devices.
Now some servers are pretty big nowadays, not only in terms of CPU horsepower but also in the amount of RAM they can support. So with 4.1 we've enhanced VirtualBox to work great on all sizes of systems, even up to systems with 1 Terabyte of RAM.
Improved remote access
If your vms are running on another machine, VirtualBox provides a way to access them remotely via a service which is Microsoft RDP compatible. We've enhanced this service in a couple of ways:
- Security: VRDP now supports TLS and server authentication to prevent, for example, Man-in-the-middle attacks.
- Multiple Monitors: VRDP now supports multiple monitors on your client so your vm's can see and display on your multiple monitors.
Windows 7 Aero
We've developed a new WDDM driver for Windows Vista and 7 guests as part of the VirtualBox Guest Additions on these platforms. Using this driver the Windows guests can use transparency and other effects.
Note that this driver is relatively immature and so we've attached the "experimental" tag to it for now.
Here's an example of what it looks like on a Mac host:
Latest platform support
VirtualBox 4.1 is ready for the latest Linux platforms, even when using cutting edge features such as Unity or Gnome 3.
And one of these days we expect Apple to release Lion (the newest Mac OS X) and we're ready for that too.
New Networking Mode
VirtualBox already supports a powerful range of networking options from NAT (vm's IP address is translated in communications) to bridged (the vm is a full network citizen with it's own publicly accessible IP address) to host-only and internal networking (where vm's sit on a virtual network inside the host machine).
This latter model is extremely useful for test setups because you don't need to involve system administrators at all. But the downside is that maybe you can't fit all your running vm's in the same host.
UDP Tunneling is a new feature introduced in 4.1 which allows you to interconnect virtual machines running on different hosts.
And lots more...
There are so many more improvements and fixes throughout VirtualBox 4.1 ranging from :
- features for the mere mortal: an updated Virtual Media Manager, maintaining aspect ratio when in scale-view mode, proxy support for the update checker and an updated USB stack;
- features for specific constituencies: Crossbow and shared folder automount support for Solaris hosts;
- advanced features for the very brave: experimental support for SATA disk hotplugging and PCI passthrough.
So there should be something there for everyone