By Fat Bloke on Dec 08, 2009
(A little late, I know but last week was kinda busy...)
Even though the version number only moved from 3.0 to 3.1, last week's VirtualBox release was a significant one with lots of very cool, but also very useful, new features:
Teleportation is Live Migration++. It is the ability to move currently running virtual machines across different physical machines with no interruption as you do it. And whereas with Live Migration/vMotion the virtualization platforms have to be near identical to work, teleportation is powerful enough to cope with:
- different host operating systems, such as Windows to Linux
- different classes of computer, such as server to laptop; and even
- different CPU architectures, such as Intel to AMD (yes, the manual has a bug here)
This means greater choice of platforms for customers, and interesting solution opportunities for our partners.
VirtualBox exposes the teleportation primitives via APIs which higher level logic can call to direct the teleportation process. For people looking to exercise these APIs you can use the VBoxManage command line tool, such as:
VBoxManage modifyvm <vm name> --teleporter on --teleporterport 1234 \\ --teleporterpassword password --teleporteraddress <dns name/ip address>
VBoxManage controlvm <vm name> teleport --port 1234 \\ --host <dns name/ip address> --password password
(I promise to do a dedicated posting on this real soon now.)
Taking snapshots is a great way of saving the state of a virtual machine at various points in its lifecycle. Until this release, VirtualBox only allowed you to revert to the last snapshot state but with 3.1, the Snapshot feature in VirtualBox has been given an overhaul and you can now:
- Take any number of snapshots of a vm;
- Revert to any arbitrary snapshot state;
- Take further snapshots from that point.
This means that you can create sophisticated multi-generational snapshot trees, ideal for testing your software on previous generations of operating systems or Service Packs for example. Or put another way, you can go backward or forward in time to exactly the state of the snapshot that interests you.
For example, here is a snapshot tree where we can revert to whichever Windows XP Service Pack and IE version we need to:
This time there are improvements in:
- execution speed - paging optimizations which in our tests produced a 30% increase when compiling the Linux kernel;
- network performance - newly introduced support for guests with VirtIO drivers;
- display performance - new 2D video acceleration for Windows guests which uses the host video acceleration hardware.
Dynamic Network Configuration
Say you're using a Host-only network setup with a couple of vm's talking to each other, but then you need to do a Software Update of one of the vm's. This requires that you need Internet access. You can now switch to a networking mode, say NAT, on the fly without needing to close down the vm.
Multiple concurrent CD/DVDs
Storage handling changed in 3.1 with the most obvious benefit now being that you can have multiple CDs attached to a guest. This meant quite some changes in the GUI and command line.
Support for Parallels disks
For people defecting to VirtualBox but wanting to bring all their worldly goods with them, we now support Parallels .hdd virtual disk format files.
Solaris Host USB
Using a Solaris notebook or PC? Then we're now using the later Nevada (124+) build USB features.
Some operating systems (e.g. Fedora) are moving to using the Extensible Firmware Interface (EFI) in place of a more traditional BIOS firmware. VirtualBox 3.1 introduces experimental support for this.
These are just some of the headline features. You can get a fuller list from the ChangeLog, but all-in-all a pretty good crop of features and consistent with the mission to make VirtualBox the best hypervisor out there.