Sunday, June 11, 2006

Product Review: Parallels Workstation - It's a virtual world!

One new technology product that has been very high on my radar recently is this new software from a small company called Parallels Workstation. What this software does, put simply, is to allow you to run multiple OS instances at the same time. This ability is by no means a new idea, as VMware and others have been doing this for quite a while now. What's new about Parallels take on this is how smooth the process has become, and how tightly integrated the support for Intel's latest hardware virtualization (buzzword!) is. The speed is impressive, and my own daily use has resulted in no major compatibility issues. My computer of choice right now is a Apple Macbook Pro and I have very quickly become attached to the Mactel (Intel Macs Only) version of this software. I run Windows XP, Fedora Core 5, and even sometimes Solaris 10, all without breaking a sweat (2gb ram helps a bunch!). I can't say enough good things about this package, and the price is just about awesome at only $39 right now.

For those who want to know more about how virtualization can be used, consider these ideas. Lets say you are a developer, you are coding for a new web application but the system administrators are too busy to setup a new development machine for you to play with. No problem, just fire up Parallels and create a new VM for your project, just install the desired OS, configure things for your application, and off you go. One neat trick I use frequently is to create basic installations of my two main OS flavors, Windows XP, and Fedora Core 5. I save these to an external hard drive so when I need to create a new VM I just make a copy of the one I need, saving hours of configuration time! Another common use for virtualization is to create several virtual worlds for server applications on one large machine (which supports virtualization). Commonly referred to as server consolidation, this allows for more effective use of data center resources. If you were to use my trick mentioned above then you could conceivably deploy whole new "servers" for customers in minutes vs. days due to the reduction in the installation times.

My final word: If you have an Intel Mac get it now! (Newer XP machines might also find it useful)

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